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Peter Rosenberger: Coronavirus — As a caregiver for 30 years, I know healing power of this one thing

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“…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4

“Are your caregiving duties different as you now care for your wife, Gracie, with the COVID-19 virus?” A reporter asked me that in a video interview recently.

“Well …she won’t keep her hands off me, and that’s a problem!”  I replied with one eyebrow raised.

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She was truly speechless at my response.

“How can you laugh given what you all live through!?”

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We often hear that question when people learn of our 30-plus years through a medical nightmare. From Gracie’s 80 surgeries (including both legs amputated) to multiple emboli, bouts with MRSA, severe chronic pain, and now the COVID-19, Gracie and I are no stranger to brutal realities. Yet, we’ve discovered joy, strength, and even humor in often dire challenges.

If laughter is the best medicine, then comedians need to step up production as much Mike Lindell’s pillow factory.

Humor heals, and laughter is permitted — even in pain, loss and sorrow. If you doubt it, watch John Cleese eulogize Graham Chapman. Ask Jay Leno to tell you the story of standing at Rodney Dangerfield’s deathbed. Or ask my wife.

Once while getting a manicure, the busy manicurist said to Gracie, “You’re a pretty lady, you should a get a pedicure!”

When you exchange your misery for just a few minutes of laughter per day, watch how your life changes.

Gracie looked her incredulously and blurted out, “I don’t have any feet!”

Without missing a beat, the distracted manicurist said, “OK, maybe next time!"

Gracie herself howls with laughter when she tells that story.

While we may never feel better about the heartache of this virus or any of the challenges we face, we’re going to get through this. In doing so, we’ll discover “feeling better” can’t be our highest goal. The goal is to BE better.

Part of being better, is to offload the stress, heartbreak and pain with a sense of humor. The tears flowing down our cheeks often dry with the smile of a lighter heart.

A sense of humor can detach from heartache without detaching from the person. Like most caregivers, I possess a painfully serious side. Yet intense situations and somberness often need a release. Humor helps.

But humor doesn’t have to be a defense mechanism, nor belittling at someone else’s expense. Rather than living in the punchline, the healing power of humor is that it’s a lifeline to a bright blue sky above the dark clouds of heartache.

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When Gracie’s COVID-19 symptoms appeared, the nurse and physician asked us to meet them in the hospital and asked, “Do you have a mask to wear?”

“We do … it’s a Darth Vader mask, but that’s kind of personal.”

Hearing the nurse laugh on the phone, Gracie also chuckled at that one — even with a fever and feeling sick.

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Take time to watch a funny movie, listen to standup comedians, read a funny book. When you exchange your misery for just a few minutes of laughter per day, watch how your life changes.

Every caregiver will admit the tears are never in short supply. But the inventory of laughter remains scarcer than a roll of Charmin at Walmart. Humor can not only help the healing process with the patient but also for the caregiver — as well as the country.

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