“You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries, they only asked one question after a man died, ‘Did he have passion?’” – Jeremy Piven, “Serendipity”
To take a childish route, death is like a fart (stay with me). If its across the room, you can see other people’s reaction to it and you feel bad for them but you’re not effected by it. When it’s right next to you, it stinks and you can’t wait until you’re able to breathe again. When it IS you, you wish it wasn’t.
I spent the first 20 years of my life not losing anybody close to me. A Great Grandparent, sure. But I didn’t know them well enough to be too wrapped up in the emotion. I knew what death was. I got it. It just was always somebody else.
The next 20 years, however, have been calling hours and burials for people both close and distant to me. I’ve lost both of my Paternal Grandparents and my Maternal Grandmother. My Godfather passed away a few years ago. I’ve lost a Cousin half my age just six months ago, my Wife’s Paternal Grandmother, friend’s parents, and a few co-workers and their family members.
How people cope with it, is another matter. There is a certain mood that is expected at such a time.
“What’s wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can’t we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity and decency and, God forbid, maybe even humor. Death is not the enemy, gentlemen. If we’re going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.” -Robin Williams, “Patch Adams”
That is my coping mechanism, humor. Right or wrong, that’s how I deal with things. I try to keep in under wraps at the funeral home. But sometimes, the situation just calls for it.
I recall on my Wife’s Grandmother’s deathbed, the rest of her family was telling me she had like 12 kids, 45 Grandkids, 87 Great Grandkids and 3 Great, Great Grandkids and “What do you think of that?” I responded “I think this family needs to find something else to do on a rainy day.” I was told it was the last time they heard Grandma laugh. She died the next morning.
As inappropriate as that comment may have been in some circles, it did bring pause to the overwhelming feeling in the room that this was the last time we were going to see her. I am also proud of the fact that I was able to bring her one last moment of levity in her long, wonderful life.
The point I’m trying to make here is that DEATH HAPPENS. Nobody wants it to be them. Nobody wants it to be a loved one. But when it does happen (at it will), in your moment of sorrow and grieving, remember the deceased’s favorite joke. Maybe a funny story, or an embarrassing story that they would slug you in the shoulder if they were there to hear you tell it. The person you are there for brought you happiness in your life, share with others what a wonderful person they were, maybe they’ll have a story for you as well!
“God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”
— Francois Marie Arouet (Voltaire)