There is a song that fits my actions perfectly. “I’m the kind of guy who laughs at funerals. Don’t understand what I mean but you soon will.” Before we departed for the funeral, I warned my friend of my embarrassingly immature habit of laughing at funerals. She looked at me in doubt. Oh yes, I tried to explain. I don’t ever cry, ever. So when I get to emotional situations, I do the next best thing-I laugh.
As deaths go, one doesn’t plan in advance and so it was when a friend and I decided to attend the funeral service of a man whom we didn’t know. We did know quite well, the man’s sister, so we thought it appropriate to attend to show our support of her.
On a hot July evening, we traveled to rural Morrow County with no address in mind; just on the look out for the only church we thought might be hosting a funeral. We found seats near the back of the cinder block built room, filled quite to capacity. Several Army veterans were on hand to lay to rest a fellow soldier in the customary military fashion.
We just had time to take our seats, right next to a school family whom I’d seen but didn’t know by name. As the solemn organ music preclude, I heard a female voice speaking near the front of the room. It sounded quite like a eulogy, but I could see no human form. Dear God, where was the voice coming from? Was the casket speaking? Why can’t I see the person speaking? Why is no one else curious? I looked around to see if anyone else was alarmed at the bodiless voice stemming from the gardenia arrangement. I’m sure I must have had a quizzical look on my face as I craned my neck around to scan the front of the room without trying to appear morbid.
I caught the eye of my friend, who through years of friendship precisely read my demented mind. This caused a snicker. This was detrimental to maintaining decorum.
Finally, I saw a little women rise, dressed in a poofy black dress that looked like an opened umbrella. Her head perched and lolled on the umbrella dress where the point of the umbrella should be. Someone brought her a stool. As I watched her scamper up the stool, I felt relived that I hadn’t accidentally walked into a séance, but also delightfully mesmerized by the munchkin type person who commanded the word of the Lord with authority, yet didn’t seem able to see past the third row. I don’t know what came over me, but I was illuminated with comic genius. Everything I whispered seemed hilarious. I was on a roll and couldn’t stop.
To make a long story longer, that’s when the giggles began. The problem with laughter prohibition is the more you try not to laugh, the worse it becomes. I began to shake with silent laughter, feigning mild sobbing action.
This, of course, was contagious. My friend, trying not to laugh, tried the biting of the lip routine, which only served to make the inside of her mouth bleed.
There were several different events throughout the funeral which caused the laughing fits to wax and wane but the pinnacle of my outlandish outburst occurred at the end of the funeral. I knew it was a military funeral. I knew they were doing a 21 gun salute. However, there was such an awkward delay awaiting the guns to fire, I had nearly forgotten they were coming. They should really warn someone when there are going to be loud, very loud, guns being fired quite near the back of one’s head.
I had made the unfortunate choice to wear a long skirt with a slit up the middle. This detail is only significant because of what happened next. With a dull murmur of conversation beginning to creep over the congregation, those old soldiers fired those ol’ guns. It sounded like someone had misfired and shot directly into the church.
The burst of fire power so startled me that I flew back in my metal folding chair, legs all akimbo, feet flying in a most unlady like manner, all while yelping a most inappropriate “whoa!”
Thankfully, the chair did not fall completely backward, but that action was enough to start the laughing. Then the trying-not-to-laugh stifles which turned into snorts. And more shaking. I tried painfully pinching myself to keep from bursting. It hurt but it didn’t help.
After the service, my friend and I spoke briefly with our mourning friend, declined the invitation to stay for ham sandwiches and potato salad, and got out of that building as fast as we could. We waited a good three blocks from the church to really burst with obnoxious laughter. We didn’t want anyone to see us all upbeat so close to the funeral (how inappropriate). We laughed so long that my stomach hurt the whole next day.
Yep. I’m the kind of person who laughs at funerals. She didn’t understand what I meant, but now she does.