This I Believe

Emma - Hockessin, Delaware
Entered on December 20, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

“The Kind of Guy Who Laughs at a Funeral”

I have a history of laughing at funerals. At the age of seven, at my grandfather’s funeral, each minute was increasingly more painful than the last as I attempted, with fierce rigor, to stifle my laughter. My attempts, however well-intended, failed. The garbled Hebrew prayers made me nervous to the point of hysteria and each death stare from my wrinkled family members added fuel to the fire. It seemed as though nothing I could do would help me stop from laughing. Although I’ve matured since then and can now restrain my laughter, a sense of humor has always been there for me during the toughest times. This summer, my great uncle committed suicide which didn’t come as a complete surprise. Prior to his death, he had lived in the back of a bookstore, given my parents an exceedingly large amount of cocaine for their wedding gift, and had always been notorious for his dishonesty. So when the day of his funeral arrived, I was terrified that my habit for nervous laughter would strike again. This time around, however, was different. Old men approached me to offer me their condolences, each one more bizarre than the next. I recall one man who came up to me only to state that he was friends with my great-uncle, Richard, from the years 1992 to 1995 as if he were a high school student who was ashamed of his friendship with the kid who sat at the “burnout’s” table in the cafeteria and felt the need to point out they were merely acquaintances for some time. Although I managed to hold in my laughter as he made this absurd comment, the humor in it made me giggle for the duration of the ride home from the cemetery.

As far back as I can remember, when given news of an arbitrary celebrity, acquaintance, or aging person’s death, my father has reacted by saying, “good thing he died ‘cause they buried him.” Although I’ve witnessed him crying during the final scenes of cheesy “Bollywood” films, and I’ll never forget the air of sadness that loomed over his head after the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, my father’s ability to live through the toughest times with a piercing sense of humor has made me the person I am today. My sense of humor has removed me from the rising intensity of volleyball matches when I take a moment to look at the opposing team’s anticipatory facial expressions which make them look as though they’ve been in disfiguring accidents as they anxiously await the ball to reach their side of the court. This ability to laugh has taken me out of anxious situations and placed me in the box seats, allowing me to understand and interpret, and more importantly, to cope. I believe in the importance of a sense of humor, and as I continue to mature, I hope that I will always be, as the Barenaked Ladies once artfully stated, “the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral.”