‘Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognise how good things really are.’ Marianne Williamson
My dear friend Judy lost her mother just before Christmas.
Over the years that we have known one another, Judy has taught me a lot about bringing joy into life. But maybe the greatest of those lessons came from observing how she was able to do that for her mother.
For the past decade Judy has been taking care of her mum, Valerie. In a nursing home, with increasingly debilitating Parkinson’s, Valerie’s life could have been pretty unhappy. But Judy took on a role that was way more than that of a dutiful daughter.
She went above and beyond, shaping her own life and her career so that it would allow her time to visit her mum a couple of times each week. She took Valerie her favourite home-cooked meals and they spoke on the phone every night before bed. When her mum couldn’t talk or write, Judy brought her colouring books and a collection of bright pencils and together they did their ‘art’, as Valerie called it. When the nursing home environment became too oppressive, Judy recounted funny family stories and reminded her mum of small slivers of happiness. She was creative and playful and completely committed to bringing joy into her mother’s life.
When Valerie finally left this world, Judy felt all of the grief that you’d imagine she’d feel, but she knew she’d done everything possible to make the last years of her mother’s life as fulfilling as they could be.
Judy and I had coffee not long after her mum died and we talked and cried and she told me about a vision she had of her mother now being free – free from pain and suffering, but also free from the worry of being a burden on her family.
‘I’m so lucky,’ Judy told me, not a month after losing the person whose life her own had centred around for the past decade. ‘I have such a beautiful life – my sunny apartment, my health and the freedom to be out seeing my friends. My mother would have loved this life.’
I am humbled by Judy’s gratitude and courage and her unbending commitment to finding joy in every day. Despite her tears, she is one of those people who doesn’t waste a moment being burdened by ‘first world problems’ – she just gets on with it and she makes her life matter.
‘You can’t succumb to despair,’ she said. ‘You have to get out of bed, shake it off and then find the small things that make you happy.’
Being keen believers in mindfulness, we know that it’s important to sit with grief too but it’s completely ok to find moments of joy even during difficult times.
There are simple things we can all do to make our lives more joyful. You just need to make the choice to do that.
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