The laughter will come again

(This column was first published 24 years ago. The second “This Side of 60” column ever written).
I still remember, after all those years away, going back to Daddy’s grave in upstate New York. And how I dreaded it.
How could the fun-loving kind Daddy of my childhood lie beneath the sod? The Daddy who bounced me on his knee when I cried, took me with him on the hayrack, worked long days and into the night, and never spoke a harsh word.
Every Sunday morning, he would fix the egg for my egg cup. Cutting off the tip, salting and peppering, stirring it with a fork, and then cutting slender strips of buttered toast for me to dip in the salty warm yolk.
And every Sunday morning when I finished eating the egg, I would turn the hollowed eggshell upside down in my egg cup and ask him to fix it again.
Each time, he made a great ceremony of cutting the end off the egg—only to discover that I had tricked him with a hollow shell.
That was my jolly, warm, fun-loving Daddy.
And now I would go with Mom to the graveyard where he had lain these 25 years and know in my heart that no matter what came, she could never forget.
We prayed at the grave with Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Naomi. And once again, the tears fell.
But finally, we stepped back, and Mom and Aunt Naomi walked side-by-side across the graveyard—reading the names of their girlhood friends and acquaintances as they went.
I glanced away. And then suddenly heard gales of laughter. The two were young again and laughing. Laughing until they cried.
It was their private joke. But it was something they had read on a gravestone.
I watched and my heart was strangely lightened. The laughter had come again!
Many years later, I went back to the same upstate New York cemetery. This time, Aunt Naomi did not walk with me. She stayed in the car. She knew my grief was too great to be shared.
It must first be held close to my heart alone.
The aloneness was soul-searing as I knelt by her grave and knew I would never see her again. There was no laughter in my soul . . . only huge droplets of grief wanting to sob and weep forever.
Surely, I would never laugh again!
But even as I bowed alone, the memories came flooding back—the sounds . . . the chatter . . . of other visits. And most of all, I heard laughter–laughter that would not be cowed into quietness.
It was Mom and Aunt Naomi, putting their grief aside and choosing life and brightness and laughter.
I could not join them. Not now. But even as I turned to go, I knew that someday Aunt Naomi would walk with me to the grave. And we would first cry.
Then walking away side-by-side, we again would find the humour. It would be different this time. But we would laugh again.
For crying must never be forever—and the laughter will come again if we make room for it.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@cox.net

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