This morning was my last day on the beach (for a while anyway) and I had some quiet time to reflect on life, sea shells, sand, that funny bump on my shin, how waves work, why I didn’t buy that other T-shirt at the outlet mall yesterday, what I was going to have for breakfast… I guess I’m not really a good ‘reflecter’ – I get too easily distracted.

Anyway, during my walk I was thinking about joy and happiness and how they are related but not necessarily dependent on one another. I’ve had happiness in my life that I wouldn’t consider joyful. I’ve been “happy” to see a rival fail at something or other but that  didn’t really bring lasting joy – just moment of “ha-ha, sucker” usually followed by guilt – thanks to an overdeveloped conscience AND a Catholic upbringing! But joy is transcendent. Joy is lasting. And joy can sustain us even through despair and sorrow.

This week I’ve been abundantly happy – vacation on the beach with my wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. We’ve shared love and laughter and made memories. It has been the kind of happiness that creates joy.

But this week has brought some sadness, too. 

Deb’s dear cousin Lareca passed away on Monday – Lareca was fun and funny; she was loved and loving. She left us too soon.

One of my colleagues and best friends at work was forced to “retire” early because of serious health issues this week. I will miss her desperately. We’ve worked together for over 10 years and even though I technically was her boss; she was my mentor. I have this huge void in my life to fill now both personally and professionally.

A few weeks ago a young woman that worked for me named Joy (oh, the irony) left to “pursue a better opportunity”. Joy was like a daughter to me; in fact I used to call her ‘tall Bess’ because her sense of humor and kindness reminded of my own sweet girl. I miss her at the office – even though I’m happy for her, I wish she was still with us.

My Aunt Gene’s Alzheimer’s is taking its toll on her (and our family). We’ve become friendly visitors in her increasingly murky world. It’s heartbreaking to see her quietly slip away.

Where’s the joy?

There is joy in knowing that Lareca’s husband and children and grandchildren can rest assured that she has joined her sisters and mother in heaven. And that now they have an angel smiling down on them.

There is the joy that I hold in my heart of 10 years with Betty and in knowing that her family will surround her with love and support.

There is the joy that is Joy. We will continue to stay in touch and someday when I’m in need of a job I’ll bet that I can call on a friend who just might take pity on an old man who will still have a few ‘good years’ left in him.

There is joy in knowing that Aunt Gene is in tender, caring hands. The nursing staff and the Sisters in her religious community will continue to lift her up in prayer even after she forgets the words herself. She has served God’s children for over 70 years as a Sister of  the Most Precious Blood and her life is an example of loving surrender and service to others. If that’s not joyful – well then, what is?

So yes – happiness can bring joy. I certainly found joy amidst my happiness this week. But we can find joy even in our despair. Because I have found it there,too.



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