I can’t tell you how many times I ‘ve heard that over the course of my life and I’m pretty sure you’ve probably heard it more than a few times, too. Laughing has never been a problem for me, I’m blessed with a pretty good sense of humour and it’s stood me in good stead over the years.
Being able to laugh, especially at myself, has helped me get through the ups and downs that are part and parcel of all of our lives and I’m grateful for that. But it was when my mother passed away that I learned that it’s okay to smile and even chuckle during the most solemn of occasions.
After my mother’s funeral, the Rabbi came to the shiva to lead the evening prayer. When he was done, not long before he left, he shared a joke. It was funny and I did laugh, as did everyone else who had come to pay their respects, but my aunt and I were a bit startled and looked at each other sideways. I was a surprised, to be honest, that a Rabbi would have chosen that time to be funny.
He must have noticed, because he beckoned me over to his side and then he explained: I’m paraphrasing, but essentially he told me that as sad as I was at losing my mother, and as much as I would grieve her loss for the rest of my life, it was very important for me — for all of us — to realize that life goes on, that it’s important to enjoy life, to laugh, to have good times — and not to feel any guilt about it — that it would take nothing away from the love and respect I had for my mother and will always have.
It’s an important lesson and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s particularly important to remember it now, when chaos reigns supreme and the world is in such turmoil, when it feels like the values and beliefs we all hold dear are in jeopardy and when evil seems to be trampling all over good.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting we make light of a serious situation. I am only suggesting that if we are going to survive these times and stay healthy — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually — we cannot only dwell on the negative. We must also look for the positive, keep the faith and allow ourselves to smile and to laugh whenever we can.
Humour contributes to happiness — which is good for us for many reasons, not the least of which is, when we shift our attention to happiness we become much less stressed — and healthier — in the process. Don’t believe me? Read this, from the Mayo Clinic.