I still remember feeling it break. The pain shot through my chest as though at once all my ribs had cracked. It was the last 30 seconds of the video, a clip of my dad taking my brother’s hand, and laughing about some now lost but undoubtedly sarcastic remark as he said, “Goodbye, son.” Donny Hathaway’s “I Can See Clearly Now” played as the clip slowed and faded into the last image in the video. I felt it break a little more. He was finally in a place where laughing was all he’d ever do, and while I was sure that only my ribs kept my heart from coming apart, I found peace knowing that humor would save me.
My father loved to laugh. In fact, he is the only grown man I’ve known that could watch cartoons all day. And he was funny. His entire face participated when he told his family stories, especially those involving his cousin Steve. They were two boys who should never have been left unsupervised. For the last half of my father’s life, he suffered through numerous health problems and a lot of pain, but he laughed at whatever he could. And he taught us that humor heals.
So, in the days that followed his passing, and even now, seven years later, we laugh with him, retelling his stories. My sister and brother are so very much like him in their ability to shake off life’s challenges and find mirth in everything. I’ve spent years trying to emulate them, and I think I’ve finally gotten close.
The old song says, “Laugh, when your heart is aching.” It is a prescription I highly recommend.
Daddy, this one’s for you.