My dad gave me a lot of advice when I was growing up, advice I still find myself clinging to some days. The earliest piece of advice I remember was to “always laugh at funerals.” Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions like I did when he spoke those words to me, let me explain the reasoning. My dad told me that funerals are supposed to be a happy time because your loved one has met Jesus and that’s pretty cool. Funerals are sad for those of us left on Earth, but they’re a joyful time for your loved one because they have finally met God. He made me promise to not cry when he died, but instead, to laugh and be happy for him.
I remember when my dad died – a memory forever ingrained in my brain. I remember thinking of my promise to him – to laugh instead of cry. I must have cried a million tears since that fateful day my world turned upside down. However, I didn’t cry during his memorial service – partly because I was too exhausted to cry anymore tears and partly because I wanted to uphold my promise to him.
Fast forward a few years and I was recently faced with one of the hardest funerals imaginable – a baby funeral. I went to support the friends who are family. Like so many times before, my dad’s words played in my head.
I didn’t laugh this time. Not that I’ve ever actually laughed at a funeral, but usually my dad’s words help me keep my emotions in check. However, as I sat there looking at that tiny coffin, thinking to myself that I didn’t even know coffins were made so small, tears started to well in my eyes. And when I watched the baby’s father lean over to kiss the coffin, I couldn’t hold back anymore. My heart was absolutely breaking for the pain of this wonderful family who lost their baby way too soon.
I don’t think my dad ever meant that you should actually laugh at funerals – that’s rude – it was his way of trying to help me deal with the numerous funerals we attended when I was a child. He often told me how when he died he wanted to be sitting up in his coffin with a camera so that as people walked up, he could tell them what he thought of them – and I would laugh every time. My dad had a sense of humor about everything – even life altering things like death. He was so firm in his belief in God, that death didn’t scare him – and if it did, he never let it show. Even so, as an adult, his words still ring in my head, and although I know it’s okay to show my emotions, remembering that my dad told me to laugh helps me to stay strong and support those around me when they need it most.