Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mortality III: Humor For the Sick

Some less than serious thoughts as I prepare for surgery to have that cyst removed from my pancreas . . . 

Today's gospel reading is the story of Thomas and his questions about the resurrection. On the cover of our bulletin was a painting of modern day disciples looking at Jesus' wounded side with one (presumably a modern day Thomas) touching the scar. It reminded me that a few days ago, my Facebook status was something like: In most pictures of the crucified Christ, the spear wound is pictured on the right side. I will have a scar on my left side. The theological implications trouble me.

I found this much funnier than most of my Facebook friends, as I thought I was making a subtle joke about possibly being the antichrist, but I was merely being obscure. It happens to me a lot.

Still, this is how I generally get through life. I make a joke. Some are better than others. Most are worse than I like to admit. They all make me laugh, because I'm eternally amused by my own self.

Similarly, this afternoon, I posted to Facebook: In today's reading, Jesus invited Thomas to poke his fingers into Jesus' wounded side. I regret to report that I am no the Risen Lord and I shan't be inviting any of you to do likewise later this week. Let the disappointment (and, I presume, un-friending) begin.

I got a "Yuck!" in response to that one.  

Then there was that week or so where all I knew about my condition was that I had a mass on my pancreas and that this was bad news. I hadn't yet had the word that it looks benign, and so I had a few days when I stopped planning too far into the future. Like, my 50th birthday is this year in October. I kind of stopped thinking about that. One day, walking home from my bus stop, I found myself thinking about what might have been my "last" holidays, as in "Maybe last Christmas was my last Christmas."

Now, one of my very least favorite Christmas songs is Wham!'s "Last Christmas." I hate it while admitting that it's catchy. As soon as I thought to myself, "last Christmas," the tune was in my head and for about a block, I was humming a loop of "last Christmas was my last Christmas was my last Christmas was my last Christmas." And then I laughed, knowing that this was much too dark to tell anyone about. (So I post it to the WWW.)

Then there's my friend who wants to do a weeping flash mob, where a large group of people gather together in a public place and just quietly weep together. We think this is hysterically funny. (It's no just me---it's also the people I hang out with.) One night, in Facebook chat, she said she thought the hospital would be a great place for the weeping flash mob."

I immediately lit up and typed back to her, "That would be AWESOME to wake up to!!!"

Because, really, it would. Except I'd laugh and bust a stitch or something. But what they hey, right? I'd already be in the hospital an I'm sure they'd be happy to stitch me right back up.

And now, just a couple of days before the surgery, I'm having an allergy attack (I swear I never had these until a couple of years ago) and they always want to settle into my chest. This morning I woke up sounding like Harvey Fierstein. On Friday, I called my surgeon's nurse and told here that I was having some chest congestion thanks to some angry pollen in the air---would this postpone my surgery or, better yet, did she have any suggestions as to what to take to make it better? She checked with the surgeon and he said that as long as I didn't have a fever or chills, I would be okay for surgery.

Just to be clear, I asked, graphically, "So if I have a coughing fit after surgery, I'm not going to split open and spill my guts all over the place?"

Because I also delight in using hyperbole with medical people. I think they're not quite used to their patients talking like that and it usually takes them aback a second and then they laugh. I like making my medical people laugh, and I don't hold back because I know people in life-or-death situations also tend to have a fairly dark sense of humor. I learned this as a chaplain in seminary.

I share all this to  . . . I don't know, I guess to share how I cope with what I earlier called the strong, brave, weak, scared balancing act. Humor, I believe, is a gift from God, and if no one but me and God are laughing, well that's enough.

I once heard my father say, "You need a little foolishness to get through the day." I don't know that I ever thought of Daddy as having a particularly philosophical bent, but if I ever embraced anything he said, this is it. I do take things seriously---I've also been accused of taking some things too seriously---but, well, to quote the prophet Joni Mitchell, ". . . laughing and crying, you know it's the same release."

I really rather prefer laughing.


  1. Yeah, baby! I am totally on board. Sorry I missed that obscure post. Stupid FB thinks it knows what I want to see or not see. I loved the one that got a "Yuck!" but was kind of rushed so didn't respond.
    When we were planning for Mom's death (glad I didn't drop that "for") I think we kind of freaked our stepMom out a bit-- she's a counselor and hospice administrator and she wanted to help us prepare. We just told jokes and laughed and cried. We even told Mom some of them later. She'd have been in the thick of it.
    I'm glad I don't know that Wham! song.

  2. I have a friend who's husband had a brain tumor causing tumors that had to be removed. It was a Serious condition requiring Serious surgery.
    Prior to surgery the docs asked if they had any questions.
    His was: can you put a photo of Jennifer Aniston in my brain so she's always on my mind?
    Hers was: can you give him a British accent?
    To this day I find both of those responses wildly hilarious.

    Surgery is scary. Incisions are freaky. A sense of humor can carry us through much. I dig your Thomas jokes. And find a weeping flash mob equally darkly humorous.