|“Chuckles the clown bites the dust” courtesy of Google
There are few things in life more uncomfortable than being in a place where you know you shouldn’t laugh but you cave in under the excruciating pressure due to circumstances beyond your control. You feel it building inside you like a dam ready to burst forth, and worse, you are with someone whom you know beyond a shadow of a doubt feels the exact same way you do. You are both losing an impossible battle.
Under most circumstances laughing at a funeral would be totally inappropriate. However, certain events I have heard about would render it almost impossible not to. Those who remember the Mary Tyler Moore episode where Chuckles the Clown expires portray perfectly that particular kind of agony. Throughout the show Mary is astounded and disgusted with her co-worker’s insensitivity for making all kinds of jokes at Chuckles’ expense, however, when the priest starts the eulogy describing all of Chuckles the Clown’s characters, she loses it. The resulting show was one of the most highly rated, most famous and in my view most hysterical episodes ever.
There are a few moments I have heard about in my family and among friends where I can only thank God that I was not there. I’m sure I would not have been able to handle the pressure. In both cases, each were wonderful people who no doubt would have seen the humor in it.
“It was a dark and stormy night…..” sounds like something straight out of a Hitchcock movie, but it describes my Great-grandmother’s funeral. My Mom and Dad went to the funeral home to meet with the director who was right out of Central Casting, complete with ill-fitting black suit and dandruff like snow-drifts on his shoulders, and whiskey breath. They were led down catacombs of hallway to a stuffy back room where they sat and went over the service with Mr.Dandruff and his assistant. As lightning flickered the already dim lights, and thunder crashed outside, all they kept hearing was, “Don’t worry, everything is paid for!” They should have worried.
The funeral was held in a very old building on Pine Street that could have been a stand-in for the Bates Motel or a sanitarium. Flower arrangements were plastic, and very faded. The only saving grace was that a very nice minister showed up and did a wonderful eulogy. If he hadn’t they would have had Mr.Whiskey breath. By then, however, it was too late, the damage had already been done by a trio of singers. They lost control when the warm up started, which everyone in the service could hear. No amount of warming-up could have helped them. Now, my Dad had specified “no singers” but some well wishers no doubt wanted to make a contribution to honor my Great-grandmother. Whoever told them they could sing was badly mistaken.
After the very nice Pastor was done, they gave a huge sigh of relief, thinking it was all over, however, the singers were not done and they proceeded to start warming up again. Mom and Dad were front and center and in full view of everyone. The bench was shaking so hard from them trying to stifle their laughter that the faded pot of flowers threatened to topple over, and my Mom bit the side of her mouth until it bled. She says it was excruciating.
I also knew someone pulling a casket with a team of horses, when they hit a bump and the casket slid out of the wagon and the body came out. They were so mortified they kept right on driving! Tragic, no doubt, for the horrified onlookers and family members who hopefully were waiting somewhere out of sight of the carriage.
The last instance was a couple days ago. My Mom had an elderly friend who had survived the death of a husband and two grown sons before she passed on herself. She was known for telling jokes to anyone and everyone who would listen. She loved God and was a blessing to all who knew her. Even lying in the stretcher on the way to the hospital she told a joke to the paramedic. That was just how she was. My Mom attended the service with a friend of ours who also has a very healthy if slightly bent sense of humor. Everything was going along fine, again, until the singing started. They handed out the words to every song which made it worse, they knew just how many excruciating verses were left to be mangled. They were trying to harmonize, but as my friend said, “They should have stuck to the melody and gotten that right.”
Bless their hearts, I am sure they meant well.
As for Doris, she is now telling her jokes to the Angels in Heaven, finally home with her loved ones once more……
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13
Disclaimer: I know there are certain instances where laughter is never appropriate, but I think that life is tough and we need to find humor in situations whenever possible. It is how I have gotten through my own grief. I sincerely hope I didn’t offend anyone with the subject matter. Lori