“Parris: I don’t know if you can take it, Drake.
Drake: Give it to me.
Parris: Dr. Gordon cut off your legs. I don’t know if it was necessary. He was that kind of butcher, who thought he had a special ordination to punish ‘transgressors’… Heaven knows what else. The caverns of the human mind are full of strange shadows, but none of that matters. The point is he wanted to destroy you. Oh, not literally. He wanted to destroy the Drake McHugh you were. He wanted to see you turn into a life-long cripple, mentally as well as physically. That’s all there is, Drake…
Drake (after a long pause, chuckles): That’s a hot one, isn’t it? Where did Gordon think I lived, in my legs? Did he think those things were Drake McHugh?…”
– Kings Row (1942)
My younger sister and I shared a second floor bedroom as children. We would often stay up past bedtime – watching old movies, talking about what may have happened during the day, telling stories, or sharing our childhood dreams with each other. The two of us would invent silly games or make up jokes, and giggle under the covers.
Saplings in a Hurricane
When our father yelled up the stairs at us for being noisy, however, we trembled. His word was law in the house. That’s how I remember it, anyway.
Like saplings in a hurricane, we were raised in the storm of my father’s ever-present rage. We were not beaten outright. But the threat was always there.
And yet, at times, that threat made our laughter all the harder to contain. We would laugh helplessly, till our sides ached. My sister and I had a name for it: laughing in the face of death.
A Life and Death Struggle
Looking back now, we were not far wrong with that description. There was a life and death struggle going on.
Our laughter was the sound of life, winning out, over death and darkness. Our laughter was the sound of hope and happiness, if only temporary; the sound of faith in a future we hardly dared believe might exist, a future in which we would be free simply to live in peace.
Unknown numbers of children die every year at the hands of the adults who should love them, the adults who should nurture and protect them. I do not make light of that. Nor do I make light of the painful physical and emotional problems abuse has bequeathed many of us.
But I firmly believe that laughter is the antithesis of death. Laughter is life distilled. I think the heavenly halls ring with it.
“Behold, God will not cast away the blameless…He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, And your lips with rejoicing” (Job 8: 20-21).
These scars with which we wrestle are the ghostly fingers of death. We must not give in to them. Death has cast its shadow over too much of our lives already.
Oh, there will come a day when we each go to meet our Maker. Till then, however, this life is ours to live to the very fullest. Death has no right to it. The past has no claim on it.
So laugh, every chance you get. Spit in the face of death. You need no longer tremble in fear, for death has been conquered by Someone far greater than any violent or neglectful parent, greater than any predator or abusive spouse.
He is Jesus Christ, and He offers us life.
“…‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’ ” (John 11: 25).
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