My family has had its share of tragedy. I have found, in the midst of tragedy, there are two things that have made me feel better, at least for a few moments.
The first, is having the family’s babies around us. Just looking at them brings a smile to my face. The second is black humor. Sounds strange to think something is funny in the midst of tragedy, so maybe I’m a weirdo, but I do, so there you have it.
About 25 years ago, my father killed himself the day before Christmas, shooting himself in the head.
At the family get together, my sister Elizabeth’s baby brought smiles to my face through the tears.
Now for the black humor. Just prior to the memorial service, they let only family in to see my Dad in his coffin. I had just recently started my own business which I was very proud of, and I knew he would be proud of me, so I gently placed my new business card in his casket.
As I walked away his wife Judy came to the casket. She was sobbing and started stroking and caressing Dad’s head and face. The up-till-then somber and very dignified funeral director came RUNNING in from the back of the room, waving his arms, shouting “DON’T TOUCH HIS HEAD!!! DON’T TOUCH HIS HEAD!!!” I had a sudden vision of the reconstructive putty falling out into Judy’s hand revealing the hole in his head and immediately I wanted to laugh hysterically. I got out of there before embarrassing myself, ran to the parking lot and, once alone, did that laugh-cry thing. It did lighten the mood for me somewhat and lifted my heart a little for some moments. Since that day, whenever I think about it I snort. Not a gleeful chuckle, but sort of an unconscious snort with a hint of hysteria in it.
I know, I’m weird.
LESSON LEARNED: Babies can bring smiles, even (or especially) during a time of stress and trauma.
LESSON LEARNED: Black humor is okay if it releases the tension and doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
LESSON LEARNED: Given the right circumstances, very dignified, somber funeral directors can change right before your eyes into a blithering mess.
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