The Lighter Side of Loss

The Lighter Side of Loss

Well, I couldn’t even get through the first month and keep to my ‘every Tuesday blog’ goal. I think I was hesitant to return here again because I know that I need to write what’s weighing on my mind right now, and I’m not sure many of you will want to read it. (Oh it’s one of those Grief and Loss blogs again…ho hum.) I guess I’m hoping that for all of those people who lost somebody during these past few unforgiving years, maybe some of the topics I touch upon will resonate with them. Or for those fortunate not to be facing loss during such a dark period, I think I’m secretly hoping that it might help them understand us a little better or enlighten them.

Since I can remember, comedy and tragedy have gone hand in hand. I’ve watched a lot of dark comedy growing up, and I believe at the root of most comedic moments is something rather sad, disappointing or downright disturbing. Think of your typical outtakes or funniest falls and stupidest stunts clip programs. What makes us laugh the hardest? The 1-year-old who can’t hold his head up well enough without plopping his whole face in the birthday cake. Grandpa getting smacked in the knee by the toddler with the baseball bat. The bride and groom traversing the dance floor until they get caught up in her dress and tumble to the floor like bad slapstick.

I didn’t realize this second time around mourning a loved one that the looming gloom of death would also be accompanied by outright goofy thoughts and comedic moments. Death isn’t supposed to be funny, right?  But when admittedly one of the first thoughts in your head is ‘Oh no, she’s not going to get to find out who won Dancing with the Stars,’ well, there’s something a little bent in your perspective – don’t you think? I really did think that to myself. Oh and the other dumbass thought – “she didn’t get to find out which couples stayed together and who asked for a divorce on Married at First Sight. (Yes, I really did have that thought.)

When I was starting to pack up my dad’s room of too much stuff, I paused when I got to the Boggle and Quiddler word games and thought to myself – ‘I’ve lost my other word game buddy. No more Boggle and Quiddler.’  I think I teared up. At THAT thought. I really did.

Why do we have goofy thoughts about what truly are insignificant matters? I think it’s that slow dawning of the new reality. The peripheral stuff — the games you played, the shows you talked about, favorite dishes, scheduled calls, the sweet notes you received in the mail — they were a big part of your interaction and when the person you loved suddenly goes away, you quickly realize that these shared experiences go with them. and your world feels blander. Sometimes to distract us from the dark and gloomy thoughts, we focus on the silly because it keeps us moving in a forward direction instead of gathering into a ball and sleeping all day. 

A friend started to help me earlier this week, working to pack up the kitchen, and I’m finding myself rediscovering my folks all over again, in maybe the most intimate way: how someone lives. Only they know what that looks like. And the other people who do are the ones who must pack up their belongings after they’ve died. I’ve tried to keep a sense of humor throughout the whole thing. Sometimes it’s hard not to see the ‘funny’ in what is otherwise a daunting, depressing task. I’m finding out just what a recycling warrior my mom really was. If that salad dressing lid could be used again on one of those bottles without the handy center hole to prevent an explosion of Ranch dressing, you can bet she stored it in a baggie for a future need. Always looking ahead to that possible, future usefulness. That was my mom. Oh, and my dad, he never met a sale he didn’t like. ‘Have four of them at home, but they’re on sale again? Let’s get another four. We’ll use them. Eventually.’ Or Salvation Army shoppers will.

I’ve even found opportunities to laugh in some of the more morbid moments. Who knew scattering ashes in the Atlantic could be so funny? Well, maybe at the time it didn’t feel all that funny but once I was sitting on the hotel lounge chair recounting step by step the comedy of errors to my husband of what I know should be an occasion of reverence and dignity, it felt like a full circle moment. 

It’s hard to be thinking about dignity when you’re trying to stay upright as your flip-flop covered feet begin sinking fast into the thick sand and before you know it, you’re like one of those jugglers at the circus – tube in one hand, tube in the other, a balancing act as the waves crash into your body and your feet become cemented to the beach floor… wait, my shoe is stuck – whoa! Almost toppled over there… let me just step out of my shoe and grab it —no wait! Come back here (chasing shoe in the waves with one flip flop still covering my other muddied foot).  But look! I never dropped the tubes. Ta da!  (The crowd applauds at this momentous feat.)

Alright, let’s shake out this dispersing tube —‘ Dad, you’re first, since you had to wait in the closet all this time for someone to do something with you. It’s only fair.’  I say a few parting words to Dad about finding peace and no pain at his favorite place, out in the water… and I shake… and I shake…and then I shake some more. I continue shaking and it just keeps pouring out of this thing. ‘Did she pack the whole urn of ashes in there?!’ Meanwhile, my one flip-flop covered foot sinks faster and deeper into the shore, the other flip flop now being held under my armpit of the hand holding mom’s dispersing tube.  Still. Shaking. Dad’s. Tube. Geez.  The movies always make it look so easy like one breezy toss of the ashes. This is becoming an undertaking of epic proportions and one I’m not sturdy enough to handle because I’m about to topple over for a second time —WHOA!  (pulls self up and steps out of second flip-flop) Get back here! (now chasing second shoe – caught it – put it under the same armpit). 

Did I mention that all of this is taking place in total darkness out on the desolate beach wading more and more out into the water due to it being low tides? Okay, Mom’s turn. 

I say a few words and promise Mom that she’ll finally get that peace she had been seeking since Dad left, and I’m pleasantly surprised that #1 I haven’t completely fallen into the ocean, #2 I still have managed to keep both shoes in my possession and #3 Mom’s tube empties just like in the movies, a few flicks of the wrist and she’s carried out as the wave rolls back into the ocean. 

I limped back to the hotel’s stairs to return to the pool area overlooking the beach. That was far more physically challenging than I had anticipated but it didn’t surprise me that it also had its fair share of bumbling, fumbling and falls. One thing I remember growing up with my folks was that we would always find humor in even the most mundane situations. It was only natural that even in death and the scattering of ashes – our final activity as a family of three –  there would still be funny moments to interrupt such a serious, somber occasion.

No, I’m not suggesting death is funny, though if you’re familiar with a particular Mary Tyler Moore Show episode — a little song, a little dance, a little Seltzer down your pants — well, death actually can be pretty funny —- on TV, at least. But as with any rough patch we’re trudging through, if we can try to find a little light in our dark, maybe we’ll get through in better shape than we anticipate. And you never know? It might even lend itself to be an amusing tale to tell later.

Thanks for reading. ~ chris

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