Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we’d rather be any place else on earth, but for whatever reason, the choice isn’t necessarily ours to make. Like weddings or funerals, or a Saturday afternoon cookout at the boss’ house.
Okay, maybe it’s just me. Women love weddings. They smile, they hug, they spill tears of joy. Besides, weddings are a better source of gossip material than a company party with an open bar. It starts innocently enough. As the bride steps gingerly down the aisle, every woman she passes whispers frantically. “Isn’t she beautiful?” “She looks so happy!” And just when you think she’ll reach the altar with her virtue intact … “She’s wearing white???”
Okay, I’ve been known to find humor where you’d least expect it. But sometimes you don’t have to look very hard. Sometimes it’s right there in front of you, just waiting to tickle your funny bone. All you have to do is watch and listen, process the thought, then bite your tongue to keep from laughing at the wrong moment. Because these things always happen at the wrong moment.
After high school, I spent twelve years in the Navy. For about a year, I was assigned to a funeral detail as a pallbearer. We assisted with funerals for deceased veterans through most of south Florida. Needless to say, we stayed pretty busy.
It was a difficult assignment at times. The stress of sitting through a funeral for somebody you don’t know is intense, and it gets even worse when you step into action and everybody is watching your every move. We were a nervous wreck by the time we got to the gravesite, where we’d methodically fold the flag into a small triangle, praying we’d get it nice and tight so it wouldn’t fall apart before we handed it to the next of kin. You only get one chance to do that right.
On one particular occasion, we were sitting in the back of the funeral parlor, quietly waiting for the service to start. At the appointed time, the funeral director escorted the widow to her seat in the front row. Motioning toward us, he said, “These young men are the military pallbearers you requested. When we get to the cemetery, there are six more with rifles. They’re the … uh … you know … the firing squad.”
Okay, color me insensitive, but the first thought that came to mind was, “It’s a little late for that, isn’t it? He’s already dead!” Apparently I wasn’t alone. I bit my tongue till it almost bled, but the guy sitting next to me was losing it. He started snickering silently, just a little at first. The whole time, I kept whispering, “Don’t you do it! Don’t you DO it!”
Finally he couldn’t control himself any longer. He buried his face in his hands, and pinched his nose as he snorted through clenched teeth. His whole body was heaving as we took him by the arms and escorted him outside. Just as we reached the door, I heard a woman say, “That poor thing … this must be so hard for them!” She’ll never know.
Once we were safely inside the van, we immediately began howling. And it was exactly what we needed. The stress was immediately gone, and after we composed ourselves we were able to go back in and perform our duty to perfection. That funeral director probably never knew how quickly he changed our day for the better.
I’ve often wondered if anybody else in the room picked up on his verbal slip. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones. I just hope a few more people were able to shed their stress as easily as we did. Humor is all around us, and in some of the most unlikely situations. And while we may not be able to laugh right at the moment, you don’t want to hold it in forever.
We can’t avoid stress. It’s there, and it’ll sneak into our lives whether we want it or not. But we can control how we respond to it. And that’s the key to a higher level of health and happiness. So lighten up and laugh a little. It’ll brighten your day. And you never know – somebody else may be waiting for an excuse to join you.
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon