Can there be humor after hurt? Can laughter flow from a person with a broken heart? Or does trauma extinguish a sense of humor? Trauma like the movie massacre in Aurora, Colorado.
A year ago, we watched the horror on TV. Our hearts broke for the innocent victims. We knew those who lost loved ones would endure the worst possible grief—the loss of life snatched away through a senseless act of violence. The survivors would forever have gruesome images seared in their memories. Could they ever laugh again?
It’s still hard to imagine the horror those movie goers experienced. Have twelve months healed their hurt?
Inspirational stories are being told about how the victims are moving on with their lives. Most are recovering. But many still have to deal with physical injuries. And endure emotional scars. One girl said she’d never eat popcorn again.
Television aired reports of how friends, families, and survivors marked the anniversary of the carnage. I joined Americans as they reflected back.
Last year as I watched the news of the shooting in Colorado I struggled with flashbacks. It brought back memories of Chris threatening to kill me if I gave him medicine.
Hearts broke for the innocent victims. Mine included. I also felt for the shooter’s mom. I could identify with her—the mother of a son with serious mental illness (MI).
I subjected myself to hours of watching the disturbing news in hopes of hearing a compassionate word for the mother. But any references to the parents were spoken in judgmental tones.
“What kind of parents could raise such a monster?”
The daily dose of the news began to wear on me.
Vicki, you’ve got to stop watching the news.
Attending my Christian writer’s critique group would give me a break. Keep my mind off the nightmare that awakened my nightmare.
The shooting was on the minds and hearts of all the ladies in the group. As they described the events, emotions swirled in me. I suppressed them like holding back vomit. My flashbacks were sabotaging the serenity I sought.
Their comments switched to descriptions of the shooter.
“Such a depraved mind.”
“What a monster!”
“Evil. Pure evil.”
Suddenly, I burst into tears.
“I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time dealing with this. It’s brought back memories. I’m having flashbacks. It could have been my son. I know what it’s like to have a son with serious MI. There are MILLIONS of other moms raising children with MI. Who feel helpless and hopeless. They need to know they’re not alone. To know the hope, peace, and protection God can provide.”
In one voice the ladies came to my emotional rescue. Their compassion soothed me. They compelled me to write about it.
“You need to write an article for CBN.com.” (an online Christian newspaper). I sure didn’t embrace that idea.
Who would willingly open old wounds? Freely reflect on their worst painful memories? Soon realized I had a story to share. One of hope.
Writing the article proved to be a labor of love. The project involved reliving my own dark trial. Memories I tried to suppress.
A week later, I presented an article to CBN.com’s editor at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference.
“In order to publish this article, Vicki, we’ll need a press release from your son.”
On the way home from the conference, I prayed.
Dear Father, if You’ve called me to share Your story of faithfulness and love to millions of other moms raising kids with MI, have Chris agree to sign a press release. Help him to be in a happy and agreeable mood when I get home.
When I arrived home, I found Chris in a good mood. I explained the article and the need for him to sign a press release.
“Sure, Mom. I’ll sign it.”
“First you better read the article, Chris.”
I dreaded asking him to read it. Any mom would do anything to spare her child undue sorrow. I didn’t want Chris to relive the experience, but he had to know what I wrote.
Chris read the article and still agreed.
“We might need it notarized, Chris.”
“Okay. I can go with you tonight. They might still be open. I’ll go change”
I went to my computer to print out the press release I’d drafted. Chris stood quietly at the door. In a casual tone of voice he said, “Mom, I didn’t threaten to kill you.”
I matched his casual tone and replied, “Yeah, Chris. You did.”
In a more serious tone Chris said, “I don’t remember saying that.”
In a more serious tone I replied, “Well Chris, you did.”
In a very pointed and direct manner Chris said, “I would NEVER do that.”
I knew the very thought of him threatening my life was too painful for Chris to bear. He couldn’t imagine doing such a thing because it was so unlike him—so unlike the sweet young man he was before MI struck. I believed he didn’t remember it. Mercifully, his MI hid such a horrible memory.
Now I needed him to understand that he threatened me. He had to know I wasn’t writing lies in the article. So, I had to tell him the details.
“Every time I tried to give you your medicine, you told me you’d kill me. You thought the medicine caused your mental instability. You held a screw driver inches from my face and threaten me.”
Looking at the floor Chris answered in a soft and sad tone. “I’m sorry, Mom.” Then he walked away.
Chris has to know I understood it was his MI.I knew he was ill. I forgave him.
I tried to call out and console him, but choked back tears. From his room he yelled, this time in a playful tone. “Okay, Mom…cry later. We gotta go.”
What an amazing man! Just after learning such horrible news about his behavior during a psychotic episode, he still kept his sense of humor.
Hurt and humor. An unlikely pair. When things are terribly sad and tears no longer help, sometimes humor refreshes a weary soul. Guess that’s why in Proverbs 17:22 we read, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Can’t summon a sense of humor? Borrow a smile from kids…Their voices in worship just might put a bounce back in your step.