THE BLOG
09/05/2011 04:50 pm ET | Updated Nov 05, 2011

Laughter: A Part of Our Living and Our Dying

Several blog postings ago, I wrote about dealing with my parents who were transitioning from living in their own home to an independent living facility and all of the questions that we need to be sure to know the answers to about our parents and their "personal business." That posting was read by Terri Benincasa, who hosts "Boomer Nation", a broadcast radio show with a following of over 55,000. She invited me to be on her show to talk about end of life issues, how we are afraid to deal with dying and death, and how we can prepare ourselves and our loved ones for this inevitable part of our being human.

Being on Terri's show reminded me about how much dying has to do with living. Terri did some very funny things on that show -- including a very funny segment called "Boomer Trivia" that is geared towards the topic of the day. So for my segment, it was about dying and death and heaven (e.g., Blood, Sweat and Tears "I'm Not Scared of Dying" and a question about The Ghost and Mrs. Muir among other questions ... which, by the way, I aced!) Additionally, they also found some really off-the-wall humor about dying and death -- including a great obscure clip from the late George Carlin. Terri has amassed excellent resources and information from her show on the website for those of us who are Boomers and are dealing with all the various issues that arise for us as we age. And, she does it with humor!

Believe it or not, being with families of people who are dying can also provide opportunities for humor. Very funny situations happen to people in their lives and recounting them when someone is dying is healthy. One of the things I do with families is help them to begin their goodbye process and grieving process by asking the family to tell me about the person who is dying (When possible, I do this in the room with the person so that the person can hear what their family has to say about them). I will ask the spouse about how they met and who chased who and what it was that attracted them to their spouse, what their wedding and honeymoon were like, etc. When there are children present, I ask them to tell me who is more like the parent who is dying. Normally the child who is most like their parent will say, "I'm nothing like dad." And the other siblings will look astonished and begin to list the ways that that particular sibling is like their father. This leads to laughter and to tears, both of which are good. Talking about the good times, the places the family went on vacation, the odd stories that will be remembered through the generations, is healthy. It is a remembrance of a life that has been lived and the love that has grown as a result of two people falling in love.

I believe that tears and laughter are gifts from God. Both enable us to feel and to draw closer to those that we love. Remembering the good times as well as the challenging times can be healing as death approaches. When one is dying, it is just as it is important to be able to say "I'm sorry" and "I love you" and "Thank you" to the one who is dying as it is to remember the good times that have been shared. Laughter is a part of living, it is also a part of dying.