“Smile at each other. Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other- it doesn’t matter who it is- and that will help to grow up in greater love for each other.” Mother Teresa
March is here. And today I found myself announcing sarcastically to my family that March is my favorite month of the year. It is difficult trodding through this month because I’ve forever dubbed it the “hospice” month. Two years ago, my father spent twenty-two days in hospice at home before he passed away. There were so many different lows in March 2009 that articulating them here in this space would be reliving them again. I am uninclined to do that even if it might be potentially cathartic.
When I made my announcement at the start of March, my husband said, “Why don’t you think of March differently? It is the month that your father became free of all the pain that he was feeling.” Of course, I’ve often had passing thoughts about the idea that my father might be in a better place with peace, although I have no way to confirm that this is true. My husband’s comment, though, prompted a thought about that time period that I’ve never mentioned, that it is possible to smile as you live in the depths of ultimate sadness.
My mom, my sister nor I wanted to smile during those twenty-two days. But we did. For my father. For ourselves. I recall bringing tea into my father’s hospice room, smiling and telling him, how lucky he was to get breakfast in bed. In one instant, I remember wheeling my father down our short hallway from his room to the living room and watching the nightly news with him. Some story caught his attention and we both smiled. The hospice doctor who visited him, was upbeat and even though she knew and we knew what would eventually come, smiled and conversed with my father during her examination. During long periods where my father would sleep, a half-smile would crawl onto his face. That created a chain reaction. I smiled too.
It might be a little startling to know that there was smiling going on during that month, but it did happen. I’ve talked so much about the pain of those last few days, but there were moments that we all smiled.
That simple act of smiling channeled us to our past of happier moments – Where we would joke around the dinner table, bust out in raucous laughter in our living room while my father tried some strange dance move.
It carried us to a time where we didn’t smile because we had to.
Is smiling something that you take for granted? Do your children remind you to smile more? Have you smiled to help you get through particularly sad times?
I’m glad you’re reconnecting with this happier memories of that month, and connecting them to the man your father was during his life.
My family is one that jokes and laughs the hardest in times of sadness and loss. It’s our only coping skill. When my aunt died late last year, I thought my heart would break open from the pain of losing her (as she was the only grandmother I’ve ever known), but then we sat in her house with the rest of the family and laughed until our sides burst. It was the best way of loving her, and one that suited us. After that night, I couldn’t think of her without smiling. What a legacy to leave!
Rudri, this post resonated so much with me. It really is important, in times of hardship, to smile–even if you’re doing it with a heavy heart. Mama and I tend to go even a step further–we share the same black humor, so we crack inappropriate jokes when she’s at the doctor/getting treatments. Then we burst into cackles and other people look at us like we’re nuts.
Hope you get through March. xo
What a wonderful post to start your day with. Brought a smile to my face. Thank you.
Wonderful thoughts about the simple act of smiling allowing us to reconnect to past happiness and experiences. My sister has a very sick child and when he was born, smiling through the tears and many months fighting for his life was our hope “in the moment” and our reminder to each other that we are on this journey together. And that even sickness still celebrates the beauty of living. Thanks for sharing your feelings. Off to grab some tissues…
Loved the reminder to smile. Something I have done for quite some time now is to make it a habit when in public to smile at the person I have just made eye contact with. It is so satisfying to see their whole body language change. Sometimes a frown turns to a bright smile in return. I am particularly sensitive to women of any age, but particularly those who are appear overwhelmed and the elderly who seem lonely. (Phyllis)
I’m smiling…and I feel like I haven’t smiled in a while.
Wow. Smiling through the pain. *Shudder.*
Hi Rudri, Firstly, wishing you a healing March—I’m with Kitchen Witch on the value of dark humor as a good way of dealing with life’s absurd and often hard edges. I was also thinking about my younger son’s arrival into the world with the widest eyes and a faint, Buddha smile; he doesn’t smile like that much lately as a fourteen-year-old, but I know it’s in there, like the smile on your sleeping father’s lips. Finally, smiling makes good neurological sense in that it releases good things into the brain, it evokes the emotion of smiling and good feelings seem to follow and also it evokes smiling in others, due to mirror neurons. Perhaps this is why we smile and the world smiles with us, but our sour-pusses leave us rather alone (but for that loving mom who might see, and accurately understand, the pained face—and for that we would have her to thank for our basic trust). Namaste
Tackle March with a smile! Smiles are contagious. They lift everyone up. I love smiling and seeing others smile. A single smile can shift the attitude of an entire room. Yes, we should all smile more often.
I understand this. I have a few dates every year that are hard, and my first tendency is to think, “I hate this day (or week, month, etc.).” Your post is a good reminder that laughter heals.
I love this quote, and I admire your heart Rudri. It takes strength and courage to change your approach, to try to see March differently – and in a way that honors your father and your value of family.
It’s true, a smile can be so powerful. At the end of the day lately, I’ve tried to always greet my husband by looking up and smiling at him, then a peck on the cheek. It’s much nicer than an offhand “Hi Honey” while I’m reading a magazine. I want him to know that I’m really, truly happy he is home.
Difficult memories I know. But you honour them here and I think that’s important. But even more important is the message you send about perspective. Last night I was trying a new guided meditation, as we sank deeper into our meditation we are told to send to open our heart and send love and connection to people out there we love. Then to fill the whole universe with that feeling. It might sound hokey, but it was a powerful feeling. Just like smiling!
what a lovely way to think about it. i hope the comment made you look differently and in turn made you a little happier.
I’ll be another reader to say ‘hear hear’ to Kitch’s response. Smiling is so important; it’s nice when it comes naturally, but good even when it’s deliberate. It reminds me a little about what you’ve written about attitude before. Cheers to reflecting on the happier moments.
I definitely think smiling helps, Rudri. I am currently grappling with the fact that a dear old friend is not doing well mentally and I am trying to cope by remembering her when she was well and believing that she can get better. And yes, I smile when I recall happy memories of her.
I was just thinking about this today when I was walking into work. The casual smile as you pass someone on the the street is lifting. And I find I unconsciously reciprocate, and the act of smiling can lift your spirits.
I hope you have a healing month of March full of smiles and happy memories. Your post, as usual, was beautiful and well put. Recently when I had a very difficult personal situation, smiling at work made the day so much better. I could have moped and brought the dark cloud to work with me, but instead I chose to smile and joke around with people even though I wasn’t entirely feeling it. It’s like the saying, fake it till you make it. It worked and I felt so much better for doing it.