Have you ever listened to a baby laugh? It warms you from the inside and only takes a few seconds before you begin laughing yourself. You can’t help it – it’s contagious.
I remember Austin as a baby. He had the best laugh and shared it with us daily. Funny thing, as he grew he continued to bless us daily with these wonderful laughs. They were easy and natural and you found you just had to join him. This is one of the things I miss so very much – the laughter and joy he brought whenever he was around. (OK, he did drive me crazy at times – but that’s what made me love him even more. And then we’d laugh about how crazy he drove me…sometimes I think he did it on purpose...or maybe how crazy I drove him.)
Being Blessed by Laughter
“The person who can bring the spirit of laughter into a room is indeed blessed.” – Bennett Cerf
This past Memorial Day, we were visiting family and friends in New York. The morning we were leaving we were enjoying breakfast with our family, including Austin, and a couple of good friends. Every time I walked by the table where Austin, Jon, and Chad sat I couldn’t help but smile and be warmed from the laughter that came from all three of them. This was a common occurrence when they were together, just sitting around the table laughing at themselves and life in general. As I passed by I thought, “I love watching Austin, laughing and enjoying life! I miss that when we’re back in Massachusetts and he’s here in New York.” Soon after, I hugged Austin goodbye and said we’d see him this summer. That was the last time I got to see and hug Austin. That was one of the last physical and visual memories I have of him and am thankful for it.
“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” – Bill Cosby
So many have commented, on how strong I have been during this awful time, that I think it’s time to let you in on my secret. You see, besides my faith and the strong personality God gave me, I have laughter. (I have also learned not to take life too, too seriously – it’s too short for that.) At times, life is going to be difficult. I wish it wasn’t, but it is. I tell my boys, if we didn’t feel pain and sadness then we couldn’t experience happiness. You can’t feel one, and not the other. If you can’t feel pain, then you can’t feel happiness. If you can’t cry, then you can’t truly laugh. They go hand-in-hand. Remember…”I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance!” (Garth Brooks, “The Dance”)
Laughter Keeps You Going
“Laughter, and the broader category of humor, are key elements in helping us go on with our life after a loss.” – Allen Klein
On the day of Austin’s accident friends and family stopped by and I remember thinking, “People don’t know what to do. They’re wondering… Is it ok to laugh? Do I need to be serious? What do I say?” Inside I was screaming – “Please, talk. Please, laugh as we remember Austin. Please break this silence – if Austin was here right now and it was someone else we were mourning, Austin would be making a comment and it would make me laugh, even if it was me swatting him telling him to stop it, but inside chuckling and smirking.” Mind you, Austin would not be being disrespectful; he would just be doing life. This is how I felt the days after Austin’s death and all the days since. Yes, I am sadder than I have ever been. Yes, I miss him every day and think of him every day. But yes, it’s ok to laugh. Even more importantly, it’s good to laugh, every day. It’s healing to the soul.
“I always knew looking back on my tears would bring me laughter, but I never knew looking back on my laughter would make me cry.” – Cat Stevens
An ironic thing happened when I was starting to write this blog. For the past few days there have not been as many tears when I think of Austin. I thought, “Hmm, I wonder if I’ve turned a corner in my grieving. If the memories I have of Austin smiling and laughing will make me smile now, rather than cry.” Woops – that didn’t last long. All of a sudden the tears came back and it seemed like every corner I turned or window I looked in reminded me of Austin. I was in TJ Maxx walking by the winter apparel, and immediately thought about last year when I went shopping with Austin for a winter coat – he was so excited when he found one he loved – and he looked so cute in it.
When I took my car in for an oil change and tune-up I saw the automotive store across the street, which reminded me of the weekend Austin came to visit. He spent most of his time wokring on his car brakes and after we made three trips to the automotive store it was ready for a test drive. Cruising along, chatting away, we heard “clunk”. “Oh no, that didn’t sound good.” We stopped and Austin took a look. Something hadn’t been tightened down tight on part of one of the brakes (I don’t know the specifics; just know it had to do with the brakes). Austin had had Weston help tighten everything up and I’m thinking something didn’t get tightened quite tight enough. We laughed – what else could you do? We ate lunch, drove back to the house, laughing nervously, thankful when we pulled in the driveway safely and Austin could make the minor “adjustments”.
So much for “turning the corner”. Tears, not smiles, accompanied those thoughts, all day, with me thinking the entire time, “I really need a good laugh. It’s ok to be sad, but if I could just lighten it with a little laughter, it will be so much better.” Then, voila! I open the mailbox and there’s the Brian Regan cd (a very funny comedian) I’d ordered. I popped it in my computer and started laughing. Even though I’d heard some of the routine before, I laughed, all while thinking, “I can just hear Austin laughing. Because he would be, if he was here!” The laughter warmed my heart and dried my eyes, some. I am so thankful for the gift of laughter…
“Laughter need not be cut out of anything, since it improves everything.” – James Thurber
On the day of Austin’s accident, while we were driving to NY, I was chatting with my brother. He said something, to which I replied, “OK, thanks a lot, now I’m mad!” (I was just kidding. I really wasn’t mad at what he’d said.) He laughed and proudly stated, “Good, now you won’t be as sad. You know, you can’t feel two emotions at one time.” Hmmm... Someday, I will let him know that he is wrong. You can feel two emotions at one time – one just takes the backseat to the other for a while. When I’m having a rough day, I like to let Laughter take the front seat for a bit. I know the sadness will still be there, because I am so very sad that Austin is not here, but it’s ok to have happiness too. It’s ok to laugh. You need to laugh.
As I was thinking about the gift of laughter and how Austin was so blessed with it, and in turn blessed us, I decided to Google “laughter”. According to “The Benefit of Laughter – How Laughter Can Reduce Stress and Increase Health” website (http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a /laughter.htm ):
…Reduces the level of stress hormones and increases the number of antibody – producing cells which allows us to have fewer effects of stress – no wonder Austin was so laid back, even when stressed!
…Provides a physical and emotional release – further proof of Austin’s easy-going nature.
…Exercises the diaphragm, abs, shoulders, and heart – so that’s Austin’s secret for a flat stomach…
…Distracts us. It takes the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions – Thus the reason why laughter was so welcomed while we were grieving – and still is today.
…Gives us a more lighthearted perspective and helps us view evens as “challenges”, thereby making them less threatening and more positive – no wonder Austin let so many things role off his shoulders. His famous words, “Don’t worry about it…”
…Connects us with others. It’s contagious. By elevating the mood around you, you can reduce others’ stress level, and your own. – No wonder people liked to be around Austin.
So you see, whether it's a light chuckle or a hold your stomach laugh., laughter is good for you. So go ahead...
Laugh Until You Cry
Laugh Until You Cry
A couple weeks ago, a few of us went out to dinner. The women in the group got chatting, and we seemed to move from one thing to the next that made us laugh. The more we laughed, the more we laughed. There was one point when I had tears in my eyes (from laughing) and my stomach literally hurt. The more I laughed, the more it hurt.
While laughing, did I still miss Austin? Absolutely! Was there still a sadness in me? Absolutely! Was laughing refreshing to the soul? Absolutely! Would Austin have been laughing with us, if he had been there? Absolutely!
“Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
Funny thing, every time I remember Austin, he’s either smiling or laughing. He definitely knew how to laugh…why don’t we all follow his footsteps…because, laughter, after all, is good for the soul!