Archive: The Deeper Joy

by Jean Clarkson, Montrose, Michigan

Joy had always been just another word for happiness until Papa came to live with us. Papa had always been the strong one in our family but now he was weak. Illness had put him in the hospital and he needed someone to take care of him when he was discharged.

When we moved Papa’s hospital bed into our son’s bedroom, we rearranged more than the furniture. The very texture of our lives changed. Our active teen-agers still enjoyed traveling and going out to dinner with us, but our spontaneous trips ended when Papa came to live with us. Someone always had to stay with him. Our son took in his elderly roommate with grace. “I don’t want Papa to have to go to a convalescent home,” he told us earnestly.

Our daughter willingly waited on her grandfather and talked with him. When he was stronger, she pushed his wheelchair to the supper table.

We all made adjustments and none of them were easy. There was the night we all decided to go to a movie. One of our son’s friends knew Papa well and he agreed to keep him company. But when we told our patient the plan, he became upset.

“I don’t want to stay with some kid,” he protested.

Papa-sitters were harder to locate than babysitters, but finally my sister-in-law said she and her daughter would come. We all piled into the car, giddy with freedom, and drove off together. After the first show we discovered that the movie we wanted most to see was the third feature. We realized that we could not ask our grandpa-sitters to stay that late, so· reluctantly, we returned home. The four walls seemed to be closing in on us because of grandpa.

Every morning I rolled out of bed, hoping Papa would sleep in. But very often he woke up and precious minutes would be spent waiting on him before I could get myself dressed. I would leave instructions for the lady who came to care for him and then I drove off to work.

The rest of my household duties were crowded into the evening hours. Often there was unexpected company dropping in to see Papa. As his appetite improved, he expected me to fix the special foods he liked best.

I could feel irritation building up gradually in each of us. Every night I fell into bed exhausted, knowing I would be wakened several times by Papa’s call bell. Day and night were alike to him.

When my friend Sally invited me to a bridal shower, I accepted gratefully. It was a pleasure to sit in her lovely home, eating food someone else had prepared. Slowly I began to unwind in the pleasant social noise that swirled around me.

Sally’s aunt saw me and called across the room, “How are you, Jean? You look happy!”


I was stunned. How could I be happy with all the problems I had? And yet, as I began to tell her about our situation, I realized that I was feeling a deep satisfaction in spite of the stress. I certainly was not happy. What I was discovering was the enduring quality of joy.

When we took Papa into our home, we knew it was what God wanted us to do. We had found the daytime help we needed almost before we had asked for it, far more readily than we had ever found babysitters when our children were small.

Papa was getting better. We could see little changes from week to week. And I had a new sense of my own worth. I could see we were being knit together in our labor of love, caring for Papa.

Finally the day came when he was well enough to move back home. On his last evening with us, he asked me for a pen and some paper. He pushed his supper plate away, refusing to eat until he had finished writing.

“You sure have blessed Papa,” he wrote.

But he blessed us more. Through caring for him, we all learned to give. Our children’s lives were enriched. They still recall the stories their grandfather told during his stay with us.

Through this experience, I learned a deeper meaning of joy. In new ways Psalm 63:7 came alive for me: “In the shadow of Thy wings, I sing for joy.”

I am grateful for every sunny day, but more grateful to know joy which can brighten even the dismal ones. It is lit within us by the Holy Spirit; it is not dependent on pleasant circumstances around us. I have learned that true joy is a flame which burns even brighter in the dark.

“There is much that I cannot give you,” wrote Fra Giovanni in the 1600s, “but much that you can take. The gloom of this world is but for a moment. Behind it lies joy. Take joy.”


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