In The Stuff of Life
Karen Karbo tells the story
of being the caregiver
for her dying father.
His home is in Nevada,
while she lives in Oregon
with her husband and children.
She must fly back and forth a lot,
and flying makes her anxious.
These trips also create a financial hardship.
As her father worsens and the anxiety builds,
another stress is added:
their beloved pet, a dog named Nubie,
becomes ill and must be euthenized.
To get their minds off all the sadness,
their family decides to go to a movie,
a comedy.
“We laugh so hard,” Karen writes,
“we can’t hear half of it.”
When the movie is over,
she asks the usher, an older man,
if they might watch it again.
“We’ve just put our family dog to sleep,”
she says in hopes of persuading him.
Kindly, he gives them permission.
Karen writes,
“He knew what I was just figuring out:
that you could have a dying father and a dead dog,
you could pretty much have misery all around you,
but it was still possible
to shriek with laughter.”

Not all caregiving is a heavy experience, by any means.
But many of us are faced occasionally
with the miseries of caregiving,
and some of us face these regularly.
What Karen Karbo learned,
what any of us may be learning,
is that even in the midst of sadness,
laughter can still be possible.
Sometimes the gift of our humor comes
as a welcome diversion from all
that our caregiving is requiring of us.
Sometimes our laughter serves as emotional release—
deeply buried tears come pushing up
through howls of hilarity.
Sometimes we come upon something
so purely, radiantly funny,
that we laugh involuntarily,
whatever else is happening around us.
Life can be like that—
comedy and tragedy in close proximity.
When our laughter erupts in our caregiving,
that doesn’t mean we’re avoiding or denying
the seriousness of what is happening.
Healthy laughter is simply a grace
by which we open to the moment,
and to one another,
and to shared feelings,
and to that whole wide range
of incredible life experiences.

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