Irish Wake in the 2007 film No Regrets, No Remorse
Laughter and tears are both natural and neccesary parts of grieving. If we deny ourselves or others of the opportunity to do either, we are hindering, rather than helping the grieving process. Laughter does not mean that we are not in pain, that we do not wish our loved one back, or that we don't understand the gravity of death. Rather, it is an acknowlegement of the gift that our loved one's life was. Laughter cannot change the situation, but it can make the situation easier to bear.
Many of us tell our families that we don't want them to be sad when we die. This doesn't help anymore than telling them not to laugh. We need to do both, and one way to facilitate this is to hold a wake, or visitation and funeral or memorial service where we can share the sadness as well as the laughter in a safe and appropriate time and place.
Jackie Gleason and the cast of The Honeymooners
Here is an excerpt from a post from blogger and humorist Linda Lou, recalling her father, and the healing laughter at his funeral service.
Today would have been my father's 75th birthday. He died in 1999 at the age of 65. He and his girlfriend, Pat, were on vacation--every year they went down to Florida to watch the Yankees in spring training--and Daddy had a massive heart attack one night in their hotel room. When Pat returned to Albany, everyone along the way commented that she sure had a lot of luggage for just one person. "My companion died on the trip," she explained. I'm sure they didn't expect that one. Daddy was a colorful character, a bus driver who absolutely loved his job. “I don’t work,” he’d brag, “I drive other people to work.”
I remember when I was in labor for my first child, I called my parents to say I was heading to the hospital. My father offered a tender bit of advice, words that remain with me to this day: “Good luck,” he said, “and don’t go home empty-handed.”
His sudden death was both a shock and a blessing. Soon before he died, Daddy had been diagnosed with throat cancer. The heart attack spared him what have would undoubtedly been a much more painful and trying way to go. We gave him an awesome wake and funeral; he was laid out next to a billboard of himself that had been part of the bus company's promotional campaign a few years earlier. (Daddy prided himself in being a "male model.") The funeral began with a bugle playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and my aunt, who's a pastor (!), performed the service. Afterward the funeral director said he never heard so much laughter coming out of that room. Daddy would have loved it. When I think of my father's sense of humor and how several years after his death I began to perform stand-up comedy, I'm reminded of a passage in Natalie Goldberg's book, Long Quiet Highway."Whether we know it or not, we transmit the presence of everyone we have ever known, as though by being in each other's presence we exchange our cells, pass on some of our life force, and then we go carrying that other person in our body, not unlike springtime when certain plants in fields we walk through attach their seeds in the form of small burrs to our socks, our pants, our caps, as it to say, 'Go on, take us with you, carry us to root in another place.' This is how we survive long after we are dead. This is why it's important who we become, because we pass it on."Thanks, Dad, for everything you passed on to me. Except for the crappy hair gene--that's something you really could have kept. for the full text and more Linda Lou, visit http://vegaslindalou.blogspot.com/2008/12/reflections-on-my-fathers-birthday.html