Do you ever find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning? Are there some mornings this cold time of yearwhen you would like to just pull the covers over your head and stay in your bed, nice and warm and comfortable? To not wish to get out of bed in the morning is not limited to just elderly people; it happens to young people as well.
I remember in high school how there were some mornings when it was almost impossible to get out of bed. Even though I slept up on the third floor of our home, my mother’s voice could still be heard. “Time to get out of bed – time to go to school – get up – get up right now!”
My brother Billy was probably the most difficult one for my mother to get off to school on time. Bill hated school so he detested getting up in the morning. My mother would call, “Bill, are you up?” My brother would be tucked way down under the covers of his bed, and he would lift the covers and call back. “I’m up, Mom, I’m up.”
As I shared the bedroom with Bill, I would ask him,” How can you lie that way to mom?”
“I’m not lying,” he would reply. “I am up – I’m up on top of my bed.” Now how could you not smile at Bill’s wit? Bill, in spite of all the difficulty he gave my parents, was one very funny brother. So many times Bill could make all nine of us in the family break up into laughter.
He would misbehave at the supper table, or he had acted up in school and a teacher’s note had been sent home,and my father would tell him he was going to be spanked. That was the way it was in that day. If you misbehaved, you were given a spanking. So my father would say to Bill, “ You go down cellar right now to my wood shop. You pick out a spanking stick and come up here to be punished.” My brother would bring up a heavy log, or a splinter, and my dad would start to laugh. When my dad began to laugh, we all laughed. Billy’s sense of humor saved him time after time just like, I believe, a sense of humor and laughter can save us all in troubled times.
Some mornings when I awaken, I feel totally miserable. There is a pain in my arm, or my neck is stiff, or my fingers are numb, or my legs are aching, and I just want to stay in bed. The alarm has gone off, and I have shut off the alarm on my phone. Half asleep, I turn on the television in our bedroom, and I do not want to enter the world. The television screen turns white, and then there is Lucille Ball in an “I Love Lucy” episode. My pain is not going to last very long for I am going to begin to laugh. Who can ever watch the episode where Lucy works in the chocolate factory and ends up stuffing chocolates into her mouth and not be in gales of laughter? In my opinion, an episode funnier than the chocolate factory is the one of Lucy making wine out of grapes by dancing in a huge wooden vat. The minute I picture her dancing around and the Italian woman with her getting so angry, laughter shakes my body. In the worst of times if you can laugh, much of your mental or physical pain disappears.
There is a part of a pastor’s life that is filled with sadness. That is of course when someone in a family has died, or as we say, “passed away”. The minister is called to a home where everyone is devastated; but even there in such a difficult time, laughter can help.
One afternoon, I received a call from a person in the church who called and told me that his mother-in-law was having a grief stricken day. The family was together, and nothing could seem to calm down the grief stricken widow. This pastor could understand that for this woman’s husband was a wonderful, friendly, loving man. All who knew this man cared for him with respect and joy at calling him a friend.
Would I please come to the house and see if I could help comfort the woman so filled with grief. I went to my auto and drove to the home. It was as bad as I had imagined. Nothing seemed to help calm down the beloved man’s wife. Nothing was working, she just continued to weep and weep, sometimes hysterically.
One of the family members mentioned how the man who had passed away had purchased a cemetery lot on his own. He felt it needed to be purchased, and he had a stone placed upon that cemetery plot. He actually took some of his young grandchildren there and said that the headstone was just the right height for them to sit on it and pretend they were riding a pony. All of us listened intently at this story of buying a lot in the cemetery when his wife spokeup and said, “And do you know what he did to me? Do you know the terrible thing he did to me one day?” I think it was me who asked between her moans and tears, “ What did he do to you.”
“Well,” she said, “ One really sunny beautiful day, he took me to the cemetery, and we got out of the car and suddenly,” (Many tears were flowing now.) “do you know what he did? Do you know what he did?” He laid down on the grass his head toward the gravestone and asked, “ How do I look, dear?”
At that point, we all began to laugh and laugh and laugh. We could just picture that wonderful man, sun shining on his face, asking his loved one how he looked.
Suddenly, the sadness disappeared. Suddenly, the room was filled with laughter and smiles. The crying stopped. As I remember it, sandwiches and coffee were served, and the family gathered together in love and remembered the wonderful times they had experienced with the one they had lost. He came alive again to them –his face, his hair, his eyes, his laughter, his spirit and his love. Laughter can do that for us in times of trial; laughter can help us face the worst of times.
In the New Testament, we do not find the word laughter. The writers, inspired by God, failed to record any times of the disciples sharing a time laughter. I believe there must have been at least one of the disciples who had a good sense of humor. That would probably have been Peter, for Peter was so impulsive, he must have laughed at himself.
Gathered in the upper room after the death of Jesus,those gathered must have done what we do when we grieve over the loss of a loved one. Like the family whose mother was so devastated by the death of her husband until they recalled the life of their loved one, the disciples must have done the same thing. “Remember when Jesus did this; do you remember the joy of the lepers when our Lord made them well?” Then would come the story about when Peter jumped out of the boat and began to sink into the waves. Now there are smiles, and then other stories are shared that help to rebuild a stronger spirit through the gift of laughter. In the most tragic of times, laughter can make us face the future.
Since moving to New Hampshire, I have belonged to a book club at First Church here in Hopkinton. We read about the teachings of Elie Wiesel, the young boy imprisoned in Buchenwald, the man who had seen his father die, and others tortured and tormented. When he was asked how he survived all that horror and death of men and women and children– the horrors of the holocaust, he replied, “We survived it with laughter.” Laughter kept us alive.
I get up out of that bed some mornings when I’m aching and feeling very old because there is laughter in the world. I just need to look in the mirror sometimes and laugh at the man I see. As the day progresses, I will probably listen for a time to Old Time Radio. Sometimes, I hear an old Jack Benny program of the Great Gildersleeve,and I will remember Sunday evenings as a young boy. As a family, we would gather upstairs in my parent’s bedroom, the largest room in the house, and we would listen to those two programs. My dad would sometimes make popcorn,and we would have some root beer. On special occasions, we might have a root beer with ice cream known as a float. If we had ginger ale and vanilla ice cream, it was called a “Horse’s Neck.” Don’t ask me why. That is just what my dad called that drink with ice cream.And how, when something was funny, my mother could laugh like no one I have ever heard since. When my mom laughed, her whole body laughed; then my dad and we seven children would start join in. Sometimes, we would laugh so hard you had to excuse yourself so you could go to another room, guess where and why? So many times, our home was filled with laughter because of my mom; when she laughed you laughed too until your sides ached.
Some day I’m going to hear that laughter again. I hear it in my heart when life is difficult – laughter drives the dark clouds away. I recommend it!
Maybe next week we’ll talk about boats. If you know me well, you will know boats are not my favorite thing. We will talk about that on our walk next week.
“ And now may the Lord watch between me and thee, while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”