I love to laugh. I always have. There's something freeing about a throw-your-head-back-belly-laugh you just can't create in other activities. Then we lost Harlynn. I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to laugh again.
Those first few weeks were intense. Intense. Everything made me cry. All I could do was cry. I didn't want to talk to anybody, I didn't want to do anything. Especially laugh.
It was during the days that followed and family surrounded us. My sister had told me a long time before about a video she took of my nephew, around 20 months at the time, was singing along to Alicia Keys' "Fire" song. Now that we were together, I asked to see the video. I watched, and I laughed. Hard. I really laughed. It came as naturally as the tears had in the days and minutes leading up to that moment. And it felt good.
Laughter didn't come easily in those days following saying goodbye to Harlynn. Sometimes I wondered, even though I laughed so hard at watching the video of my nephew, if I would ever be able to laugh like I used to. If I would ever be able to find the humor in every day situations and circumstances.
A couple of months ago, I was asked to take part in planning and organizing the women's ministry fall kick-off event at our church. I am not at all a serving body. When I have people over to the house, I can't stand it to have people helping me in the kitchen. I know how I need it done and I just want to do it. In that same vein, I will rarely ask someone if they need help in their kitchen. I expect if they do, they'll tell me what to do, and I'll gladly do it. But I won't ask and feel like I'm in the way. I know it's weird, but it's how I'm wired. Anyway, this characteristic follows me in every aspect of service. So when I was asked to help, I agreed, but not before confessing this isn't my gift. I do what I'm told, and I do it well, but I don't jump at the chance to stack chairs or set tables. Thankfully, God loves me anyway, and so do the women in charge of women's ministry.
In one of the planning meetings, the topic of who would be emcee came up. I caught a knot in my throat. I was the emcee last year, and had a blast. It was my "thing". I loved it. But this year....this year was different. I was different. Sherri, who I believe has come to know me pretty well, spoke the very words that were caught in my throat. "I know that sometimes, after experiencing a tragedy like you have, being up in front of people can bring up some .... emotions." I nodded. That's exactly where I was. I agreed. Yet as I agreed with her, I felt this nudge. This little, inner nudge, that gave me pause. "But maybe," I began, "it would help me." Did I just say that? Did I just basically say being in front of a room of 150+ women, trying to keep the program light and flowing, would help me? Am I insane? The evening's verdict was I would pray about it, and let them know at the next meeting. I went home and told Brent. His response was, "And you'll do it, because you love it."
"No, Brent, this is different. I'm going to pray about this. I don't want to say I'll do it if I'm not supposed to do it."
He looked at me, slightly bewildered, and said, "Well....good, then. But I hope you do it."
It was two weeks. Two weeks of me coming up with more than every excuse why I should not emcee. Why I shouldn't stand before a room of women, some of whom knew what my journey had been. Last year when I was emcee, I was seven weeks pregnant. With Harlynn. What if that's all I could remember; how I was trying not to throw up on stage and give away my "secret" of being with child? And now I was without her. Would I crack under the sentimental flood of memories? If I talked myself out of it once, I talked myself out of it 1,000 times. And each time I did, I felt that same nudge. That same inward flicker. And I felt a peace, a tangible feeling, come over me. I was supposed to do this. I was supposed to emcee.
For someone who isn't a do-er, for someone who doesn't get her kicks from setting up or providing a food spread, the emcee role is about perfect. I show up, I talk, I leave. Or so I thought.
So, one week ago, I showed up at the church. I walked in. We prayed for the event. We prayed for the participants, for the audience, for the evening as a whole. Dinner was served. Then, it was time. I stepped up in front of everyone, seeing a room full of women, staring at me - waiting for the evening to get underway. And I have no idea what came over me. I have no idea what happened. I don't remember 60% of the things I said - but I, rumor has it, nailed it. I made women giggle, I made women belly-laugh, and I'm pretty sure some even peed a little. I was on. I was on. For the first time in almost six months' time, I was the one making others laugh. And I was having a blast. I was enjoying it. I prayed prayers from the very depth of my own soul. They were prayers I needed to pray for myself. I worshipped in a no-holds-barred fashion that I haven't been able to find myself capable of for a long while. And I felt God moving in that building. I felt His power. I felt it.
Afterwards I had women telling me how much they enjoyed my being up there. How much fun I had made their evening. One even asked me if I was a comedian by trade. (I am wondering if these ladies need to get out more.) I know I'm not that funny, so I am convinced the Spirit lowered their expectations a little bit and gave them the giggles. I'm going with that.
I came home and I told Brent how much I needed that. How much I got out of being the emcee. How much I needed to take part in that way. The fact that others enjoyed it was just a bonus. I'm not convinced God led me to emcee for the sake of others so much as I was led to do it for my own renewal. Brent told me, "I'm so glad you went, so you could know you still have this spark. You're still this Val."
And I see how very important laughter is. Yes I am still wracked with grief. Yes I am still fragile. Yes I can still cry with no warning. And I do. But I can laugh. And if Harlynn ever gets a window from heaven, she'll have the chance to see her mommy throwing her head back, cackling like a crazy person, and she'll see, "That's my mama. She seems fun."
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