Last week I attended the funeral of my best friend’s father. I hadn’t seen John’s parents in several decades, and while John and his family had moved out of state some years ago, we still keep in touch by email. His father was 84 and had been in poor health for some years, but he died suddenly and without warning. I don’t know which kind of death is best, short or long. I guess it depends on a lot of factors. My dad died over a period of six years from liver failure that was mostly pain-free, so there was plenty of time to say goodbye. Yet with six years notice, it was still hard when the last day came.
As a teenager, I spent more time at John’s house than my own, and by extension around his parents. I remember them as nice people, but my relationships weren’t really with them so I was shocked by something said in the eulogy.
John had spent some time with his mom and brother that week preparing for the day of the funeral, and it was decided that he would give the eulogy and speak about many of the good memories they had of his departed father. Towards the end, John said to everyone in the church, “We’ve remembered many of the good things about my father, but there was some scandal too. The family discussed whether I should say anything about this. All of the family didn’t want this mentioned except my mom and I. So here goes…my father had an affair with a much younger woman for nearly 40 years.”
When I heard this I was stunned. There was complete silence in the church.
John continued, “Some of you may know her. Her name is Little Debbie”. He had a 40-year love affair with snack cakes. You could just feel the tension in the room breaking as people realized the joke.
John went on to talk about how much humor was a part of his dad’s life, and how the family shared that humor. One of the things John and I shared as kids was a sense of humor. We would often get out his dad’s Hudson and Landry comedy records and listen to them. He got his sense of humor from his father, and I got mine from my dad. I first learned of Monty Python from my dad. One of the gifts a father can pass on to his children is a sense of humor.
Humor can help you endure the drudgery of everyday life; to survive the pains and losses in life that come from time to time and often unexpectedly. Humor helps you to not take others or yourself too seriously. Humor can defuse minefields in relationships. If you don’t have one, then cultivate one. John’s dad was a quiet laid back accountant, a church goer, and deacon. When he retired he took a class on comedy at a local college. The last assignment was to attend a comedy club and perform a 5 minute bit on stage. If he can do it, you can do it.