With all due respect, I have to disagree with the great Dante on this one. There are two ways that one could interpret the quote. In the first, Dante could be saying that when one is feeling miserable, it is painful to recall what it feels like to be happy. In the second, Dante could be saying that the presence of happiness in an otherwise miserable time is sorrowful. Both of these are incorrect in my opinion.
Laughter is healing: We all know the adage, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Scientific studies have proven the healing power of laughter time and again. Our society has taught us, though, that in times of death and loss, we should be somber. Laughter is falsely seen as an improper response even though it can be quite healthy. Recently, Jenny Lawson (a.k.a.The Bloggess) wrote about her grandmother-in-law’s death, and on her Facebook page she described, “That amazing moment when … you find yourself in an unexpected room full of people who make you hold new babies, and make you eat too much food, and make you laugh even when you're crying. Nights like these are the ones that get you through mornings like tomorrow.” I’ve also found that laughter in times of grief helps make the whole experience more bearable.
One of my strongest memories of my grandmother’s wake 23 years ago is of going out to dinner with family during the viewing the night before the funeral. My two year old cousin sat at the table eating salsa with a spoon as though it was an entree, leaving us all in tears of laughter. The release was surely good for us during an otherwise stressful time. Likewise, it was my two year old niece-in-law who sent us all into laughter during the funeral mass of her great-grandmother twenty years ago. Someone was speaking of the deceased’s family including her two great-grandchildren, and my niece-in-law piped up quite loudly so that all in the church could hear, “That’s me!” It was a welcome relief in the somber grief of the service.
When it came to the time of my own daughter’s death, a moment of laughter also remains one of my strongest memories. When my ex-husband and I were at the funeral home signing the release papers for cremation, there was a clause verifying that the deceased did not have a pacemaker because pacemakers can explode during cremation. To the outside viewer, including the funeral director who was assisting us, there is absolutely nothing funny about that. However, for some reason, it sent my ex and I into peals of laughter. It became one of the funniest things we’d ever read. The stress simply had tipped us over the edge, and we desperately needed to laugh until we cried.
Oscar Wilde stated, "Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one"; I agree with him. Some of best funerals and memorial services are those that include much laughter as the life of the deceased is truly celebrated. When I die, I hope my memorial service will be filled with much laughter and joy as friends and family remember the good times we spent together.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance