Over the past few months, I haven’t laughed much. Sure, I have had moments of smiling. I have had moments of joy. I have even had moments of forced laughter. However, for the most part, most of my responses in public setting has been more of act. I have continued to play my part and pretend that everything is fine. Even when asked, I sugar coated how I felt because I have learned that people prefer artificial sugar over the real kind.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t have times of hope. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have times of joy. This doesn’t mean I haven’t laughed. I just felt pressure to pretend. Most of laughing responses were because I knew, or felt, that most people didn’t really care to hear the truth. People didn’t want to see the pain. People just wanted to see Joshua acting okay. So, I did.
Sure, some asked for the truth. For them, I tended to lie. I know I am not supposed to. I know that may discredit me to some people. I just became numb to the rote responses and proverbial antedotes. I got tired of superficial answers. I would also become angry when it was apparent people only asked because they assumed it was their moral, social, or spiritual duty. Recently, I have gotten better. Last week, I laughed, “Greatly.”
Last week I spent a few days with men who do the same thing I do. We are actually a part of a network of connected guys who agree in philosophy and praxis of the church. We meet twice a year and take that time to discuss current issues and encourage one another. I honestly wasn’t excited to go. I haven’t seen these men since my bride was diagnosed, and I feared I would have to relive and retell our whole journey. I expected to talk about my bride. I didn’t expect to sing karaoke.
As we were unpacking our bags in this plush rental home, I suddenly heard blaring music. I came running upstairs to see one of the men holding a mic and singing at the top of his lungs. Instead of joining, I turned to go back downstairs. I made an excuse in my head and just slipped away. A few years ago I would have fought to use the microphone, that day, I just wasn’t in the mood.
Over the next few minutes, there were loud songs being played and bad vocals being projected into the air. In between each song, there was a bellowing call for Broughton to get upstairs. Apparently, everyone was supposed to participate and it was my turn. I resisted as long as I could. Finally, I gave up and sang. I half-heartedly belted out a Nickleback song. By the end, I couldn’t decide if I was more ashamed of how I sang, or the fact that I knew all the words to Rockstar. The answer is still up for debate.
Soon, it was time to leave and I was thankful. I appreciated the guys trying to have a good time and including me, but I just didn’t know how long I could keep up the act. The evening went on in typical fashion. We met up with other guys who were in the area. We ate dinner. We shared stories from the past year. Then we headed back to the house.
As we were driving back I began to get worried. I feared that they would get that dreadful machine out and I would be forced to sing again. A large part of me wanted to just go to bed and call it a night. However, I resisted and stay up with the guys. Then the machine appeared again in the room. This time there was an iPad for people to see the words. I sat by the fireplace and listened. Then they asked me to sing again.
As I walked up to the microphone the guys began to cheer. I smiled as I took the mic and prepared to sing another song. As I began to do my best to imitate the iconic vocals of Matchbox Twenty, I could hear the guys around me begin to sing with me. Before too long we were all belting the song out at the top of our lungs and laughing during instrumental breaks.
We stayed up late singing. We stayed up late laughing. I found myself for the first time in months laughing so hard I doubled over on the floor. I laughed so hard tears ran down my face. I laughed so hard all the pain, anger, frustration, and fear dissipated for a moment between the cool beats of L.L. Cool J and the humorous nonsense of Wierd Al.
By the end of the night, I was dubbed Karaoke King. I am not sure how this happened. To be honest, my competition wasn’t really fierce, but it was a whole lot of fun. It was nice to sincerely laugh again. It was nice to feel pure joy again. It was nice to let down the wall I have built around my heart.
On the last morning as we all packed up the leave and the machine showed up again. This time the soft melody of My Heart Will Go On was echoing throughout the house. I walked into the living room to see two grown men leaning over rails and singing their hearts out. I honestly may like their version better than the original. As I stood there, I smiled and then joined them. In that time and that space, my soul was able to heal a little. Those men gave me a gift. They gave me laughter. Laughter won’t take away the pain of radiation to come. Laughter won’t pay our medical bills. But laughter did give me a moment to feel real joy again. It’s these moments that have gotten us through the battle with Ole Scruffy, and it’s these moments we will share for years to come.
To those men who made me laugh again, Thank You.