Happiness in the Most Unexpected Places: The Secret to Transcending Tragedy

How I’ve found joy despite dad’s cancer, emergency surgery, and a whole slew of other misfortunes

Benjamin Sledge
7 min readJan 11


Photo of author in the hospital

“I begin to suspect that the world is divided not only into the happy and the unhappy, but into those who like happiness and those who, odd as it seems, really don’t.”
— C.S. Lewis

The leaves had turned a golden hue the day my dad told me had cancer. I stared at the yellows and reds of different trees while idling at a stoplight. Across the street, a new brewery had opened, and I wondered whether I should stop in for a pint. The light turned green, and I drove through the intersection instead.

Not a few weeks earlier, my mom had a “myocardial infraction” (read: minor heart attack) around the same time our air conditioning went out, costly us a cool $2,000. Once I pulled into the driveway of my home, I remarked to no one is particular, “Well… probably can’t get any worse.”

Famous last words.

Within the week, I’d be rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Post surgery, work became difficult, and when you’re self-employed, making ends meet can be hard without paid time off. Because of the pain medication, I’d randomly fall asleep at odd times throughout the day, so work slowed to a crawl. My one respite was that I woke before sunrise — as I normally have a habit of doing — and would hobble to the couch, where I would read, think, meditate, and pray.

Leaning forward to pick up a mug that reads, “War, but first coffee,” I glanced out the window to catch the sunrise paint the mountains and bask the changing trees in a subtle glow. I chuckled at the irony of drinking out a mug that reminded me of a time where I saw only blood, sand, and sweat instead of beauty. But that’s also when the strangest sensation hit — gratitude and happiness. It crept over me like the moment you step into a warm shower to ease a chill in your bones.

On paper, nothing had been easy, and life had been hard. Inflation had been kicking our ass. My wife and I hit a rough patch given the repeated craziness, and parenting? Well, parenting is always hard. Yet, here I sat, content for the moment, enjoying a…



Benjamin Sledge

Multi-award winning author | Combat wounded veteran | Mental health specialist | Former geopolitical intel | Graphic designer | https://benjaminsledge.com