You know how it happens. You go to the funeral home to pay respects and run into people you haven’t seen in ages. Many years have passed but yet y’all begin telling stories — always the funny ones — and, there in the midst of grief, you begin to laugh.
When Debbie’s grandmother, age 93, passed away, I walked into the state room of the funeral home to see three friends that I had not seen since my cheeks were dewy with youth.
It started out as all these conversations do, a bit awkward, us trying to find the common ground in lives now different in scope and experience. Gradually, though, we got there and one said, laughing between words, “Hey, do you remember when?”
And that began it all for us.
There were many “remember whens,” all wrapped in giggles and smiles, for no one ever seems to recall the dreary times or the moments that were, at best, mundane. Slowly, 25 years melted away.
“I was just thinking of y’all the other day,” I said, starting to laugh at the memory I was about to recollect.
My friend, Poet, had been visiting and we had been to dinner. Poet, as I always write, is a gentleman of the highest order so when we started to leave a restaurant, I stepped back and waited for him to open the door. He obliged, of course.
As he pulled the handle, my mind flashed back to that evening when those three friends — two men and a woman — and I had been to dinner. The guys decided that they would play a trick on me.
It was a rustic restaurant and they knew the door knob had a tendency to come off. So, they rigged it and gleefully plotted for the moment that it would come off in my hand and they would laugh uproariously.
Sharon folded her arms and shook her head. “You’re wasting your time. She will never open the door for herself.”
She was right. I stepped back and waited while the guys just stood there and looked at me. I waited some more.
“I told you,” Sharon finally said then told me what they had done.
We were already laughing about that when this mountain of a man came from the dining room, his arms loaded with take-out boxes and before anyone could warn him — if we had wanted to — he grabbed the knob, gave it a tug and when it came off, went stumbling backwards with take-out boxes flying hither and yon.
We scrambled to grab them but got so choked with laughter that we weren’t a lot of help. We were convulsed in laughter, bent over double. Every time we took a break and thought we could stop, we started laughing again.
He was big enough to take on all four of us and, for a minute, it looked like that’s what would happen.
“Boy, we just about got our you-know-whats beat that night,” Tony said, all of us holding our sides as we laughed.
As that laughter died down, I smiled wistfully and said, “Gee, I wish I could laugh like that again.” Wishful small smiles crossed their faces and they nodded silently.
On the drive home that night, I thought about it and realized that we can get too serious about life, scarred by the sadness, marked by the worry. As years pass, if we’re not careful, we’ll lose a lightness of heart and gain a shadow, either pale or heavy, over our souls.
When we are young, the bubbling of happiness escapes our lips almost effortlessly. It reaches for us. When we grow older, it is up to us to reach for it.
That night at the funeral home, I realized that, even in the midst of sorrow, laughter can be found. You just have to look for it.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should).”