White Knuckle Laughter

It wasn’t clear until the end.

She was a joyful woman who laughed at everything and held the laughter tight. She clutched onto it and didn’t let it go. I appreciated her fierceness in laughter.

I was fitting her for a pair of shoes for cross-fit training. This sixty year old was jumping into a new routine and loved it. The fitting lasted for about 45 minutes and the conversation barely went mute. She laughed at her fatigued body, her sore muscles and grinned at the opportunity to push herself even more.

Just as I was swiping her card, I asked, “So, do you workout with a lot of your friends?” She smiled and said, “Well, I have a lot of friends from the gym I run into there but there’s not a group of us who go…you see my husband died a year ago and….”

Here the conversation trailed into her community, her way of dealing with pain. And although she didn’t use those words and the lingering pain flashed in her eyes, moved down her nose, into her mouth and then vanished. Her voice barely altered and she grinned again.

She wasn’t refusing the pain. She didn’t leave the thing unsaid. And she grinned.

Suddenly her white-knuckle laughter become more clear: hold onto these happy moments (her body had no doubt learned to say). Hold on. Savor them and let the laughter ring through the whole store.

I’m not sure I held back my sign of sorrow as well as she did. There, at the register, my gut was once again hit by the reality of pain in every pocket.

Yet, there is hope. Hope that sustains and hope that gets us up. For the fallen, the ones who feel the turmoil, remember hope.

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