What a Christmas Funeral Taught Me About Grief and Good Memories

Years ago, I attended the wake and funeral services of a friend, a fellow comedian, who was killed in a car crash. I have been to many wakes, viewings, funerals and memorials throughout the course of my life, but there was something special about this one in particular. Perhaps it was because it was during the holiday season, just a few days before Christmas Eve. An awareness came over me that caused me to view the losses in my life from a different perspective.

When the service was over, a group of family members and close friends met at a relative’s house. As I scanned the room, I noticed people wiping away tears and consoling one another. Some were understandably having a difficult time accepting the unfair twist of fate that had fallen upon someone who had so much talent and so much to offer.

From across the room, I overheard a few of my comedy friends telling a funny story that I was familiar with. So I decided to join in on the conversation and offered an anecdote about my friend’s affinity for football. Before long everyone in the room joined in and was laughing and reminiscing about the good times we shared with him. That’s when it happened. In the midst of all the laughter, a strange, uplifting feeling come over me. I was no longer grieving over my friend.

My energy immediately shifted as I was temporarily delivered from my pain. I also witnessed that everyone else felt the same sensation. In fact my friend’s wife said, “You know this was his favorite time of the year. It always brought the little kid out of him. I miss him and always will, but right now, I feel as if a part of him is with us and always will be.” Then she paused and said, “It’s as if he’s saying to all of us, “It’s OK. I’m OK. Everything is as it should be and I will always be with you.”

At that moment his death was not the point of focus. The only thing that mattered was the powerful feeling we were all experiencing. For the remainder of the evening we honored our friend by allowing ourselves celebrate the spirit of Christmas. It was our ability to laugh and reminisce about the good times that ignited that spirit.

That day the simple ability to laugh took us from a place of pain and uncertainty to a place of inner peace and hope. Yes indeed, laughter made us all realize that, throughout our journey there really are no goodbyes, only good memories. The spirit moves on, and we all move on, in turn, in life.

We all experienced something very special that day. I believe laughter and the holiday spirt are synonymous. They both have a magical way of breaking down barriers and reminding us that somehow we are all connected and never alone, even in times of grief.

Grieving may not be unavoidable. In fact it’s necessary in order for us to heal, but just plain grieving can be avoided. Finding the laughter in between the tough times is essential to living a happier life. It’s a higher part of yourself, urging you and reminding you that life still goes on, regardless of whether you like the way it goes or not. There will be good times and bad times, but in the end, all you’ll really leave behind are memories. So you might as well attempt to enjoy them all!

Steve Rizzo

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