Suddenly realizing what had happened, a burst of laughter sprang forth.
“She was happy!” I exclaimed. “Truly and sincerely happy!"
The night before—mere hours before the tragic news—I was alarmed to receive a phone call from my mother. She never called at that hour. It was late. Or was it early? It was a phone call during the in-between hours when most people would normally be sound asleep.
But I was still wide awake, dreaming of happy memories and what dreams may come. Just the day before, I had returned home from a weekend away with Stephanie—a mini celebration in honor of our engagement. How could I sleep? Happy thoughts were dancing merrily through my mind—for life had become a dream.
But this phone call gave me pause. Only bad news comes at this hour. Answering the phone, I braced myself for the worst.
But rather than bad news, I instead heard my worried mother’s voice who was simply calling to check in on me. Mothers tend to have a “sixth sense" and my mother is especially one to be ethereally sensitive loved ones. On that night, those feelings moved her to make a connection.
I should have taken this as a hint—a foreshadow of things to come—but instead I simply put my mother’s worried heart at ease and told her of all the wonderful things that had transpired that week: the engagement, the trip, and the euphoria of sincere life-giving happiness.
The concept of happiness originates from words meaning chance, fortune, and luck, and is often used to communicate feelings of pleasure, gladness, and contentment—qualities that surely pointed to how I was feeling that September night in 2007.
My mother could hear it in my voice. "I'm so happy for you, my son!" she exclaimed. She had never known me to be happier.
The next morning (while standing on the porch where Stephanie and I had our last kiss goodbye) her mother told me of the pure happiness she saw in her eyes, when just the night before Stephanie recounted her own rendition of the week we had together.
"She was happy," she consoled, holding me tight, unable to hold back the tears. "Truly happy. You made her happy, Jonas."
My constant prayer for Stephanie was her happiness—that she would be happy for the rest of her life. I should have been more specific, because while this prayer was answered swiftly, it turns out her life was to be incredibly short—for the night before (during the in-between hours between late and early) quietly, in her sleep, Stephanie died.
It is not despite the contrast between the highs and lows that we are able to experience joy, but rather it is precisely because of this contrast.
When the Whos down in Whoville woke up Christmas morning, despite the absence of packages and bags—and despite not having their Who pudding, roast beast, and even the very last can of Who hash—they looked around and realized they still had what neither rust nor moth could destroy: faith, hope, and Love. Ah! but the greatest of these is Love.
These highs and lows provide opportunities to renew our commitment to what truly matters most—because without happiness, life can become arid, empty, and meaningless. All the more so when we deprive ourselves of happiness with words like "I’ll be happy if…” or “I’ll be happy when…”
These are dangerous words, because ifs and whens won’t always come to pass, and making happiness conditional to variables outside of our control will deprive us of experiencing the fullness of life. Better, then, to source our happiness where neither moth nor rust can destroy.
All of these thoughts sat in my mind like a simmering stew when Stephanie's mother released her grieving embrace. Life had become a dream where all sincere poems, prayers, and promises can be realized—and realizing what had happened, a burst of laughter sprang forth.
“She was happy!” I exclaimed. “Truly and sincerely happy!”
It brought a smile to my face, just knowing Stephanie was happy for the rest of her life.
Even when chance, fortune, and luck don't smile upon us—when all pleasure, gladness, and contentment are gone—it is still possible to laugh and smile in the face of despair. Even through the tears, joy is possible because of how sweet it is to love someone and how right it is to care.
The experience of happiness and the memories they lend can provide the fuel to get through tough times—so long as we store our happiness where neither moth nor rust can destroy: in faith, hope, and Love. Ah! but the greatest of these is Love.
Up until now, how often have you delayed happiness with ifs and whens? What might you do to remove artificial conditional barriers so you may experience sincere life-giving happiness
I'm a mirror (and so are you).