35: Happy Today

35: Happy Today

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Happy Today

If you don’t think every day is a good day, just try missing one.

~Cavett Robert

My profession as a hospice chaplain is usually a conversation stopper, especially at parties. After all, who wants to talk about death and dying when deciding which dessert to eat? Nope, hospice talk just doesn’t seem to go hand in hand with happiness and party talk.

But in fact, some of the happiest folks I have ever known are those I serve as a hospice chaplain. But they are dying, you say; how can they be happy?

Death, or rather the knowledge that your death is imminent, does many things to folks. It causes great denial, grief, agony, heartbreak, and reflection. And rightly so. But after a while, it can provide great motivation to enjoy the last days of your life to the fullest. You don’t have a day to waste, a day to complain, a day to hate, a day to not be happy.

You eat the best foods, visit your favorite places, and receive calls and visits from your favorite people. You stop worrying about hair and make-up. Your grudges and resentments are abandoned. There’s no more keeping up with the Joneses. Letting the “child within” come out to play becomes a priority. You laugh as you recall old stories. You let go of the bad and embrace the good when you know life is indeed very, very, short.

Often my patients tell me how happy they are relinquishing their worries, their prejudices, their anger, their fears and really enjoying today, one minute at a time, with its beauty, its simplicity, its love. How much happier would we all be if we recognized these truths: that joy is found in people, not things? That fear of tomorrow reduces the pleasures of today? That grudges burden us and prevent us from embracing grace and forgiveness? That each day is a gift to be given and received with open hands and loving hearts?

Why should the grim reaper have to knock on our door before we open the door to happiness?

On the day before she died, one of my patients asked me to send cards to ten people who she had hated or who she knew had hated her. She wrote these words inside each card:

I have held a grudge against you for many years. Forgive me.
I have wished bad things to happen to you. Understand me.

I have wanted to harm you as you harmed me. Accept me.
I am dying soon. Don’t cry for me.

I want you to be happy when you think of me.
Smile for me. Be happy now, for one day you too will die.

Learn to love and then you will be happy.
It is a lesson I wish I had learned long ago.
I love you.

She sent the cards, laughing as we addressed each one, telling me about each person and the now insignificant reasons why she had disliked them so much or they had disliked her.

As I left, this woman looked at me and said, “It’s never too late to be happy, is it?”

Nope, it’s not. Start today.

~Malinda Dunlap Fillingim

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