Laughter is holy. All good things laugh. – Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra
I am writing this in memory of my cousin Lydia, who died in April of 2009 at only 43 years young, which is my current age. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of her death, and I’ve had a couple of dreams about her in recent weeks. She had been one of the clowns of the family: whenever she walked into a room, she would light it up, and had this gift that allowed her to see the funny side of things. She easily produced a parody of every event, not demeaning people but using exaggeration and laughter to lighten everyone’s mood. Even after she got sick, she told jokes about the hospital waiting room and how patients nervously looked at each other because no one wanted to go next.
This does not mean that she did not experience pain: I once texted her late at night to wish her well, and she called me back crying from physical pain and mental anguish. She had a tumor the size of a grapefruit, and wasn’t sure if it was cancerous. We talked for a few hours late that night. She just needed someone to talk to. The gift of laughter won’t make us invulnerable, but it will help us cope. In fact, laughter therapy is used in hospitals and has been shown to help reduce the pain and stress of terminal cancer patients. Laughter separates the object from the subject, and helps us to feel power over what we are laughing at.
At the very last moment of her funeral, just before her body was returned to the Earth, her sister gave a final speech and closed by asking everyone to offer an applause for a life well lived. A thunderous applause was heard in the cemetery that lasted for more than a minute.