Yesterday, while making funeral arrangements with a wife and her three adult children, it came time to pay. The wife goes to pull out her credit card and the children all start telling her to put it away as they start putting their cards on the table. As the third son puts down his card he and I simultaneously say, “You can make it a three way” “So it’s a three way” …
There was a silent pause that hung in the air as we all looked around the table at each other.
Then, at the same time, they all started laughing. They were laughing so hard they were crying. The wife got mascara all over her face mask.
I said, “Oh Lord, that did not come out as I intended.” This of course caused them to laugh even louder and harder. I mean, they were doubled over in their chairs laughing.
Laughter is a helpful coping mechanism. Especially in today’s society where sometimes it feels we are walking on a thin line, we don’t want to offend anyone, or we don’t feel like we’re grieving “properly.” Laughing at unintended dirty jokes is okay. Laughing at embarrassed funeral directors who just want to crawl under the table and die is okay. There’s no right way about this. Allowing yourself to laugh can be incredibly healing. It was like a dam had burst for this family and they were finally able to breathe.
I had an arrangement conference with a woman who brought her very young daughter. I’m bad with ages but let’s say 5? As we are walking into the selection room to look at caskets, the little girl runs over to one of the purple caskets on display. She just stares at it in awe with her mouth wide open. As the mother and I are talking about caskets and options, I am noticing that this little girl is not moving and the look of amazement it not coming off her face. As we are finishing up I walk over to the little girl and ask what she sees. She pulls my sleeve down to her level and whispers in her little girl voice, “This is where butterflies come from.”
“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time – the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes – when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever – there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” ~John Irving