Monday, July 7, 2014

Why We Laugh at Funerals

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Why do we always laugh when it seems inappropriate? Is this a Southern thing? In our family, we cry and we grieve, but when the lights dim and everyone leaves except for the few who are willing to stay late into night, someone always finds a way to make everyone laugh, no matter how impossible it may seem at the time.

Although it is becoming less common, most of the wakes in my family have been all night affairs.  When Daddy died I did not want him to be alone for as long as possible.  I know it may sound silly to some, but I adored my father and was not ready to let him go.  I think some of our close family members stayed for a while so Moma and I could rest and change, but not before we had a hell a a scare.

I don't even remember much of Daddy's funeral because his death was so unexpected and so unnecessary that I had to be given medication to get through most

of the wake.   However, there is something that I definitely DO remember; Daddy made me laugh.

If anyone knew how big a chicken I was it was my father.  He used to like to tease me about it, so it was no big surprise when all of the lights in the funeral parlor went out at one in the morning.  There were about nine or ten of us still in the room.   All cried out, we began telling stories about funny things Daddy had done to each of us.  All of a sudden, darkness filled the room.  There was no storm, but half the town was suddenly without electricity.  I think I tried to scream, but nothing came out.  Instead, the generator kicked on within a few seconds and I could see me Uncle D's shoulders shaking with muffled laughter. Suddenly what was PROBABLY a coincidence turned into the comic relief we all desperately needed.  My uncle chuckled and said, "Boy, your Daddy sure had the last laugh."  We all felt his presence, and not in a spooky way.  We suddenly knew that even though we would still miss him desperately, the memories that he left us with would bind us to him and to each other for life.

When my Mawmaw died a few years later, someone else provided the amusement.  We were all kneeling down in the funeral parlor as we said the rosary in unison.  For anyone who has never heard it, it is beautiful but (sorry Mawmaw) extremely boring.  Mawmaw's rosary was not boring because we laughed so much through the whole thing that I think the priest thought that we were either high, crazy or possessed.

My mother's cousin, Cousin M., is loved by everyone.  She is a generous, loving, woman.  She is also one of the loudest people this side of the Mississippi.  On that particular day, I realized that she was also hard of hearing.  As the rest of us would finish the "Our Father" and wait for the priest to begin the next prayer, she would come in a line behind and ten times as loud as everyone with, "And deliver us from evil, AMEN!"  I looked at my Moma who had been crying for days, and she gave me "the look" that told me not to laugh.  Then she put her head down and I saw her lips curl up.  Well, that's all it took.  I started to giggle.  Then Uncle D stated to giggle.  Pretty soon the two front rows were unable to complete one, "Amen."  Ironically, my Mawmaw would have been the one to tell us to shut up and stop laughing in the funeral home.  However, on that day, I think she understood that those few minutes of laughter helped us to get through the unbearable pain of letting her go.

Yesterday my Uncle D. passed away.  I'm realizing now that he was the one who usually made us laugh when we couldn't stop crying.  I know there will be plenty of amusing stories told about him at that funeral home, but no funeral will ever be the same without his infectious sense of humor.  However, if Cousin M. is there for the rosary, and God knows she will be, I know that he will be chuckling up in heaven with every loud, offbeat, "AMEN!"  I think I'll tell everyone that story tomorrow.

Thank you for your humor in times of darkness.  Rest in peace, Pan Dew.

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