One of the many bad things that can happen to a brain is the rupture of an AVM. AVMs are nasty business -- it stands for arterio-venous malformation, which basically means a tangle of blood vessels in the brain that are naturally structurally weaker because they are a tangle vs. the nice smooth highways that our brains are supposed to contain. They give out sometimes and dump blood into places in the brain where blood is most definitely not supposed to be, and there's not much room in there for extra, so the rest of the brain can get sort of smooshed around. AVMs just are - we could all be walking around with them right now, versus a stroke that's caused by high blood pressure, diabetes, or the like which are easily measured and monitored. As an aside -- famous AVMs include those of Senator Tim Johnson and Nate Fisher, a character from the amazingly good show Six Feet Under.
I've met a lot of people with this problem and one particular guy comes to mind. He was living a typical, happy existence -- working hard at his job, spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball with his boys on the weekend. He was, unfortunately, doing all of this with an AVM that ruptured and left him unable to make sounds on purpose, use one of his arms, walk, read, parent his child, send an email, go the bathroom on his own, follow a tv show, etc. etc. He's my age - in another life I can see being really good friends with him and his wife -- actually, that's not true, they are both way too cool for me. He got measurably better every day -- I knew what his favorite movie was and where he was born because he drew me pictures until I figured it out, he could call to his wife from another room, and ask his son if he needed to go potty. But he was a realist-- he knew he was in the proverbial hurt locker and it was going to be a long tough road out.
The amazing thing was you could hear him laugh all over the building. It sounded like a guy who just cracked a joke to his buddy while watching the big game at a local bar - it was loud, genuine, and absolutely devilish.
My boyfriend my senior year in high school was the oldest of three brothers. His father died of a heart attack in their home by the front door when he was very young, and his brothers even younger. Several years later, his middle brother was cleaning a hunting rifle in their house when it discharged, shooting and killing his youngest brother, who was no more than 10, in their home by the front door. His mother, a woman of tremendous faith and the picture of servant leadership, is still the single biggest influence on my own faith story even though I haven't seen her in more than 10 years, simply because she not only found a way to put shoes on every day and comb her hair, but a year or so after I'd seen her at her son's funeral, I passed her in the car and she was laughing. Out loud. Like something was really, really funny. I was amazed -- it just didn't occur to me that any moment wouldn't be filled with such grief that it was paralyzing.
I am prone to fits of giggles, mostly at inappropriate times (like this Sunday in church when one of the ushers bobbled just a bit when walking the offering plates up the aisle -- she didn't fall but just idea of it set me off). I hope that wherever that lives in my brain and my soul would survive whatever disasters may be in my future.
Make someone laugh today.
Here's the source for the picture: http://www.nowgasm.com/Maitreya_Laughing_Buddha.htm