Laughter, small miracles, and gratitude: a personal story

You’ve heard the saying that miracles happen everyday, or that we should give thanks for the little things we see as miracles. Each of us expresses that gratitude in different ways, and we each see the size of our daily miracles in a variety of ways as well. For me, this small miracle came at an odd moment of clarity, and all thanks to a frail, but opinionated, little old lady whom I affectionately call “Gram.”

Over the last week and a half, my family and I had been a little on edge. Approximately two weeks ago, my only living grandmother suddenly became seriously ill and required hospitalization. This would be the woman “Gram.” According to my aunt, when my grandmother was given a bath by her in-home hospice care nurse she began coughing. After the bath the coughing apparently got worse to the point where Gram was seeing stars and had difficulty breathing. Fortunately, this happened right around the time my aunt was arriving home from work. Upon the nurse’s recommendation, my aunt took my grandmother to the Emergency Room to be checked. It was on this trip to the ER that we all discovered that Gram had congestive heart failure.

The first few days were a nightmare for my aunt since she was the one handling all of Gram’s medical insurance and doctor appointments, and now the hospital stay. At one point in the night, the Intensive Care Unit doctor told my aunt that Gram was most likely not going to survive through the weekend, and that we should start “preparing” her things for her. Gram must have sensed that something was wrong and her own spirits were a little down. She began talking as if she wasn’t going to make it and asked my aunt to prepare her clothes for her “departure.” Gram also asked for all the grandchildren (including myself) and the great grandchildren to pay her a visit.

The first night she was transferred into an ICU transition room, three of my cousins and I, along with my aunt and uncle, paid my grandmother a visit. One of my cousins, Ryan, is a clown and all around silly guy. He’s half my age, but undoubtedly keeps us all entertained because he manages to somehow always irritate one or all of us with his “I’m not touching you” act. Each of us around Gram’s hospital bed kissed her cheek and let her know that we were there with her and that we wanted her to stay a little longer. Ryan was the last to kiss her, and as expected, he not only kissed Gram on the cheek quite audibly, he also kept his face so close to her that she was forced to look at him. He then proceeded to repeatedly call her name until she finally became so fed up by his antics that she put her shaking, frail hand to his face and PUSHED him away. I’d even venture to say she tried to cover his mouth AND nose just so he would stop breathing on her.

What should have been a serious moment turned into fits of laughter in the hospital room, and elicited a smile from Gram. This 94-year old woman who thought she was going to die a few hours ago was almost back to her old self. We stayed another hour or so after Ryan’s last attempts at humor therapy, but Gram surprised us again by kicking all of us, including my aunt, out of her hospital room. Her words were simply, “Don’t you people have families to go home to? I need to sleep!” On that note, we each left for our homes with a prayer of gratitude that this ornery old woman was going to be okay after all.

My cousin had the right idea, even though his delivery may have gone awry. Laughter is not only good medicine, it also proved to bring about a small miracle for our Gram. Had Gram’s thinking continued on in a negative direction, she may have willed for herself to die. By bringing laughter and happy memories to Gram’s mind instead, my cousin turned it into a small miracle of healing. Gram’s mind, spirits, and even her body seemed healthier than before we started laughing all together. My aunt called two days after that visit with the cousins, and informed me that the doctor’s anticipated Gram being home BY the weekend. I got another call two days after that letting me know that Gram was now comfortably back at home, but still on medication for her heart and for her coughing. My aunt, and yes, even my cousin were happy that Gram would be joining us for another Christmas.

This year, we will all be celebrating what we are thankful for during our annual family Christmas gathering. We are thankful for laughter, and I’m sure Ryan will continue to supply us with plenty of fuel for that fire. We are also thankful for small miracles and healing, which I’m also sure Gram will attest to. Most of all, we are thankful for a family that bonds together even stronger in a time when one of us needs love the most.

Have you laughed enough this week? Have you experienced a small miracle recently? What are you thankful for today? Comment in the space provided.

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