Today’s musical pairing is Saint-Saëns’ The Swan performed by Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott. Note that all the songs for this series have been gathered into a Spotify playlist here.
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 30:5 (ESV)
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Day 12. 1,056,777 confirmed cases, 55,781 deaths globally.
At first it felt like a cramp. Like a long hand had reached into my chest, wrapped its fingers around my heart, and squeezed. I wondered if my body was dehydrated and the muscles in my chest were clamping down. Surely I could not be suffering a heart attack? I was only 38 years old, and I had just finished exercising at the gym. But the pain was not on the left side or the right side. It was in the middle.
I laid down in the hope it would pass. Slowly it became harder to breathe, harder to speak. We called an ambulance. My children were in the childcare room 30 yards away. Should I say goodbye, just in case? By the time my wife arrived, my face was ashen.
At the first hospital, tests showed “irregularities.” I should be moved to a different hospital. On the way, I heard the ambulance driver say the words “heart attack.” I sent text messages to the family of my birth. Apparently I’m having a heart attack, I said. When I arrived at the next hospital and entered the procedure room for a stent, I told the doctor, “I have a wife and young daughters,” in the hope it might inspire a little extra determination to keep me alive.
That’s what it felt like to have a heart attack. Then it felt like flashes of fear in the night as you wonder whether your heartbeat feels normal; a staggered coming-to-grips with the trauma of what occurred; concern your spouse should be provided for; grieving at the thought of your children standing over an early grave; taking more pictures than normal so they will have something to look back on.
Then it felt like—joy. Joy to be alive. Joy at the simple pleasure of drawing breath and feeling the sweet stillness of a moment. Joy at the way the sunlight feels when it lifts the water off your skin. Joy at the warmth of your beloved’s breath upon your cheek. Joy at how the glowing light dances across the embers of a fire, and the sparks tumble skyward.
Sometimes we need to view our lives through a mirror. In our sorrow we learn to appreciate joy. In loss we discover how much we have gained. Death reflects the sacredness and fragility of life.
One thing I have heard amid the pandemic is this: Is it okay to feel joy? Is it acceptable, when so many are suffering, that I am finding joy in additional time for stillness or for family? Is it wrong for me to discover that I am oddly joyful amid the isolation?
C. S. Lewis was right. Joy often comes as a surprise. It invades the most sorrowful spaces. It reminds us that beauty and goodness and life can grow even in the most unpromising soil.
Jesus cared about joy. He wished for our joy to “be complete.” Joyful mornings may be the best way to survive a long series of tearful nights.
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