It seems that whenever I write something for Sunday Assembly, I latch on to a quotable guru on the theme. I’ve quoted Star Trek, Dr Who, and used Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the prime example of friendship. Looks like this weekend I’m quoting Sandman comics.
So a friend said she wasn’t sure she wanted to come out to Sunday Assembly this time around because death is such a downer. That hurt. I find death pretty nice. But, of course, likely because most of my dealings are with this Death:
But I get it. Death scares me. I have no idea how to face death. I usually feel too uncomfortable to reasonably interact with people mourning a loss. Because of my dread and sorrow around life’s end, I am of no comfort for anyone, including myself. But I know there must be a funny side to death. Not just the gallows humor of the medical examiner and crime writer, but true laughter. Maybe even a joy dwells within the dark chasm of death. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m squirming just writing this.
So being the exquisite researcher that I am, I Googled “The funny thing about death.” And guess what the first thing that popped up on the search? Of course, algorithms being what they are, it was a Sandman comic quote.
“Death’s a funny thing. I used to think it was a big, sudden thing, like a huge owl that would swoop down out of the night and carry you off. I don’t anymore. I think it’s a slow thing. Like a thief who comes to your house day after day, taking a little thing here and a little thing there, and one day you walk round your house and there’s nothing there to keep you, nothing to make you want to stay. And then you lie down and shut up forever. Lots of little deaths until the last big one.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 10: The Wake
Well, that certainly isn’t ha ha funny. Thanks Gaiman.
I had to dig deeper, so I asked all of my Facebook and Twitter friends. I got some pretty solid….er….something.
“Three dead guys walk into a bar. Bartender looks at them and says ‘yeah, people are just dying to be here!'”
“Funny story about death?? Ummmm the guy that invents the segway, Segwayed off a cliff. That made me laugh lol”
“My old aunts used to come up to me at weddings, poking me in the ribs and cackling, ‘You’re next!’ After a while, I figured out how to stop them. I started doing the same thing to them at funerals!”
Okay. So I still haven’t found the real funny in death.
When Henning was first diagnosed with lymphoma, John said he and the cat were going to watch The Walking Dead. I’m a bitter ex-fan of the show and I rolled my eyes, “Just what a cancer cat wants, to watch humans die with a bunch of zombies.” And canned food. Maybe if I added canned food to the joke, it’d land better. Either way, I did not hear a chuckle from my husband nor the cat.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there’s nothing funny about dying. And I most definitely shouldn’t be the go-to for the funny. Hm. I can find more. There must be more. I’m going to keep looking. I’ll be right back.
Who do I trust to bring the funny?
And if I could just quote a whole youtube video for Sunday Assembly….
That’s pretty funny. But it’s still not the funny I’m wanting to find. I want to understand this:
“Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”
– George Bernard Shaw
I remember a friend in high school. Not a very close friend, but we shared a few classes and had lunch together sometimes. Jen was a funny girl. She was the kind of person who was willing to take the kind of risks it took to be funny. She was willing to be the butt of the joke and also adventurous in where she took her humor. I always assumed she’d grow up to be a comedienne. She died in a car accident our sophomore year. Teenagers are horrible with death. It completely disrupts the ride of immortality in which we so desperately believe we are strapped. There were many quiet classroom moments as teachers tried to be our sherpas through this first true loss. But our teachers were also at a loss. None of us understood why this would happen. Why would it happen to her? And no one made a joke. Even those who didn’t like her. Even her bullies. Especially her bullies. No one laughed.
One day, I was alone and thinking about Jen. And I started remembering a moment. A very simple moment with her. I don’t remember it now. I only remember the remembering. And alone, walking my bike up the driveway of my parents’ house, I laughed. I laughed and shook my head and smiled from ear to ear.
Joy in the dark chasm is laughter with a memory. Some say that is actually what we call heaven. What we truly have as our eternity. And maybe it is so. Maybe our best moments of life is the final act of the comedy of death.