Deep joy to the fullest. Maybe there’s a word for that concept somewhere. It’s probably German.
That’s what this past October has been for me.
It was autumn in New England; we drove through Maine. We stopped in Boston for the day and Portsmouth for a “quick dinner,” which was more time consuming than it sounds. We ate lobsters along the coast and we ate New England clam chowder in a building built in the 1700s. The Queen stood near there. Centuries ago, I’m sure. In 2015, though, it was magician untying himself from a straight jacket while being hoisted in the air. The crowd cheered. Pictures were taken. We followed white boxes with blue letters tied in string to a bakery with a line so long you couldn’t help but talk to the people near you. “Have you been here before?” “Only once, it’s worth it.” We order a cannolis and a bride and groom walk in, forcing wide eyes and giggles among the staff. We don’t know who they were but we do know that their limo had champaign on the hood.
Joy comes in adventure and in eating cannolis next to the church that Paul Revere hung those two lanterns.
Joy comes in celebration and in watching your life long friend commit to something hard and beautiful.
My friend tried on her wedding dress for the first time. It was made by a friend and we had just eaten breakfast and talked about her coming day, a day when my husband and I would be back in the Philippines. We ran upstairs so she could show me her dress and quickly it was on. I cried then too. She’s so beautiful and the dress has pieces of her mom’s dress. Another friend is getting married next year and we’ll be in Manila then too. We got to sit on the couch, drink coffee mixed with cinnamon (it’s autumn, after all), and let our hearts ache together for memories that will not be.
Joy comes in taking full advantage of the moment and cherishing each second spent.
Stage four cancer and it was almost a full year. We had two afternoons together that I know are a miracle in themselves. Lunch barely eaten, smiles as full as the body and heart allow. A mentor, a beauty, a friend. She sat in the corner of the couch, sunshine pouring through the window and carrying with it peace and the view of colorful leaves. The news of stopped treatments came the day before we left. My heart ached with grief and gratitude that we could be there to offer tears and hugs.
Joy comes in grief and in spots on the couch that are covered in sunshine.
Joy comes in watching your Mamma be brave in the face of uncertainty. In catching up with close friends over coffee, in hugging a pen-pal, in playing with friends’ children, in laughter, in stepping foot inside your friend’s home and delighting in her life there. Joy comes in family game nights, in pork roll, in engagement breakfasts, in recreating dates with my husband in New Haven. And joy comes the long ride to the airport, in the tension of goodbye stinging the air, in the final hug and in weeping while waiting to go through security. After all, joy doesn’t come only in smiles, but in life poured out.