Exit Laughing: Finding Humor at End of Life
“There’s nothing funny about dying. Or is there? My mother, who had been fiercely independent and active for the first eighty-seven years of her life, fell ill in 2009 and became fragile. There were moments at a time when I was with her from early morning until bedtime, and spent considerable time urging her to eat, take meds, and go for a little walk. When I pushed, she accused me of acting more like a nursing supervisor than an attentive daughter. I recall her being annoyed by something I’d done (or said, thought, worn, eaten, who remembers?) and I gave her one of those looks. She told me, “You’ll miss me when I’m dead, “and I replied, “Die first, and then I’ll know.” Despite our complicated relationship – or perhaps because of it – we laughed and moved on to another subject, relieved to not have fallen into one of those deep conversations that neither one of us wanted to have.” –Exit Laughing: How Humor Takes The Sting Out of Death
Laughter at end-of-life really does make the journey to death’s door more bearable. As a hospice bereavement coordinator who regularly holds the hands of the dying, I can tell you that those who have learned to laugh at the sometimes idiosyncratic happenings that occur, often find more peace in the process than those who remain intense and hyped as they approach their final season on earth.
How to Exit Laughing or Help Someone Else to Exit Laughing
There was nothing funny about my 80-year-old mother-in-law becoming bowel and bladder incontinent. But there were several humorous moments between us as she sank deeper into Alzheimer’s. One such moment, is an exchange we had in the bathroom as I tried in vain to get her to sit down on the toilet, and let me take off her old diaper and put on another one. She simply could not understand why I would want her underwear. She kept looking at my husband and saying, “This aint right, this just aint right,” and then she finally looked at me in exasperation as if she had been bartering with someone at a garage sale and said, “Well if you want them that badly just take them.”
You would have to know my mother-in-law’s sweet and salty personality to fully appreciate our fight over her underwear, but the above scene is a poignant memory for me because the essence of personality was still there. At that time, she no longer knew her own reflection in a mirror, but she hadn’t lost her firecracker way of saying things.
Have you experienced humorous moments in dealing with the passing of a loved one? Join the conversation and tell us about it.