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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Death and Laughter

Word for the Day

Today’s Word:  Death.

WARNING:  If you are easily offended, stop reading now.  Really.

            I don’t remember very much from the very first funeral at which I officiated.  The lady was elderly and I was only a pulpit fill preacher.  I hadn’t been to any schooling or training.  Truth is, I really didn’t know what to do.  So … I was nervous.
            The lady was in her 80s and her main relative was an 87 year old brother.  Before the service was to begin at the funeral home I gathered with the small family in a side room for prayer.  When it was about time to start I said to the brother, “Are you ready to go?”  Just like he had been waiting for the chance, he smiled and said, “What, are you already looking for your next funeral?”  He told everyone, “The pastor wants to know if I’m ready to go too!”
            I don’t remember much more, though I know it threw me off for a while.  Death is serious business and as a young guy I thought we should approach it that way.  I wasn’t wrong.  I just wasn’t fully right.
            The best and most healing funerals give us a chance to smile and remember, very often an opportunity to laugh about funny things.  These days I look for the chance to bring a chuckle, appropriately – not with a silly joke, but with the foibles of life shown in a person we love, but have lost.
I recently attended a Broadway musical titled, “The Addams Family” based on the TV show.  If you remember the show, you know it had plenty of humor about death, dying, killing and torture.  In the musical, Morticia, the mother of the family had a fight with her husband and is distraught.  But she remembers the one thing which can help and sings a song “Just Around the Corner.”  What’s around the corner?  Death, and that makes her happy.  She even quips to the audience, “No, you don’t get it – just around the coroner.”  It was funny.  I laughed.
One basic way we handle difficult things in life is to laugh.  One way to cut the big troubles of life down to size is to make fun of them.  I can imagine there are those who would be offended when we laugh at death or make fun of it.  And we certainly have to have some wisdom about when and how. 
Did you hear about the little boy who crawled up on his grandpa’s lap and asked, “Grandpa, when’s the game?”
“What game?” asked grandpa.
“The football game, the one you are playing in,” explained the boy.
“What makes you think I play football?” queried the grandfather.
“Well,” said the boy, “I heard mom and dad talking.  They said when you kick off we’ll be on easy street.”
Funny?  Maybe.  Dumb.  For sure. 
We need to laugh.  We need to make fun of our mortality, even while we face it.  And death, well, there is a time to make light and a time to be serious.  We need both.
One of my earliest experiences was the horrible and tragic death of two-year-old Ryan in a tractor accident.  Nothing funny.  But a few days later when all the farmers came over to put in the family’s crop, there was laughter in the house at something, who knows what?  And mom said, “We haven’t heard laughter here for a while.  It’s good.”
Laughing is good.  Cutting death down to a size we can handle with faith or the funnies or both – well, that’s good too. 

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