There is nothing quite as sweet as the sound of a baby laughing.  The joyfulness of it bubbles out and all around.  The delight is infectious. Is there anyone who can resist smiling in response – even when the baby is a complete stranger?  And everyone has heard the adage “laughter is the best medicine” – which turns out to be an actual scientific fact. 

When we laugh our heart rate increases and we take deep breaths. This translates into increased circulation of oxygenated blood throughout our body, which improves vascular function. Laughing decreases our blood pressure and leads to a release of tension and ultimate calm. All of this happiness can help to prevent heart disease. Joy builds resilience and increases creative thinking.  Laughter actually releases endorphins – a natural chemical within our body that makes us feel happy and can even relieve pain or stress.

I love to laugh. And a really good laugh, the kind that takes your breath away, well, one of those laughs are as cleansing as a good cry – only you feel way better afterwards. Fortunately, for me I have lots of friends who love to laugh, too. And there is absolutely nothing better than spending time with friends and laughing with them – especially those times when you laugh so hard your cheeks hurt and your tummy is sore. 

I grew up with a gang of girlfriends who had sleepovers and occasional slumber parties – which sounds like sleep, right?  But actually it usually turned into a contest to see who could stay up the whole night without sleeping.  And Boy! Did we do some laughing.  I have no clear recollection of exactly what we laughed about.  All I know is that we did – everything from giggles to belly laughs. It makes me smile even now to think of those girlhood days.  And better yet this group of girls have continued to get together as adults and we have even managed an occasional slumber party  – just not as often as any of us would like. We live miles from one another and have our own lives and families so it’s more difficult to arrange these days. And we no longer compete to see who stays up the longest.

Once a group of us – all grown up – were visiting together at our friend Susan’s parent’s home.  We were sitting around the table like old times, drinking coffee, enjoying each other’s company, and, of course, laughing.  Susan’s mom, Selma, was in the kitchen. At length Selma came into the room and said, “You have no idea how it makes me feel to hear you all talking and laughing together. It’s such a happy sound.”  What a testament to the effect of laughter!

Laughter creates bonds and increases intimacy with other humans. It is the glue that has held those early friendships strong for all these years.  And it has been the magnet that has pulled me toward other relationships.  I have been friends with a group of women that I have known well since our children were babies.  My husband often refers to them as the “Ya-Yas”.  We have complained and cried together, yes, but mostly we have laughed – over everything from bodily functions to bodily failures and from the best of times to the worst of times. The tears and the laughter have forged our lasting friendship like nothing else could. 

Laughter has the marvelous ability to lift and carry us through difficult times.  Sometimes those difficult times are not funny while we are experiencing them but being able to laugh about them later can rescue us from falling into depression.

That said, there are times when laughter can be painful. We have all known moments when someone has laughed at us – a mistake, a misstep – the flush of embarrassment we feel – that instant when we hope for a hole to swallow us up, to be removed from being laughed at and feeling foolish. It is in that moment when we are feeling foolish that bullies, should they be present, can be given power or be thwarted.  If embarrassment takes over and takes us down, we are vulnerable and the bully can take control.  However, if we can pull ourselves out of that moment of misery and laugh at ourselves the bully has lost the upper hand. This was a lesson I saw play out in my school years and my heart always went out to the person being laughed at but often I was powerless to help them – at least I thought I was.  As an adult I realize that my speaking out would have had more power than I knew.

When my own children came along I did not want them to suffer the callous laughter of others.  My daughter was in third grade when she came home with her feelings hurt because a boy in her class was teasing her.  I suggested that even if what he said hurt her feelings or made her angry not to show it.  Rather she should laugh along with him.  At first she resisted my advice. She couldn’t believe that response would have any effect on her tormentor but I convinced her to try my method – just once.  The first time she employed this tactic, she came home exclaiming how quickly the teasing stopped.  It was a skill that she dropped into her tool bag and in the end she learned to laugh at herself.  Unfortunately, I was not able to teach this skill to my son with autism and he suffered terribly at the hands of bullies.  A sense of humor and the laughter that can follow depend on our ability to understand and manage interpersonal relationships.  We need to be able to recognize the incongruity of a situation and appreciate the surprise.  People with autism see the world very differently and are often unable to take the perspective of others.  That was sadly the case for my son and he was often a perfect target for bullies and their cruel laughter.  As a mom, I was left feeling helpless, angry, and heartbroken for him.  Fortunately, over time my son has developed a great sense of humor and nothing makes me happier than to see him laugh.  And I like it even better when he makes ME laugh.

I am grateful that I had parents who taught me to laugh – what a gift! I learned through funny stories, funny faces, silly songs, games, teasing, and tickles that laughter feels good, that everyone does goofy things now and then, that the world is full of silliness, and that you might as well laugh as to cry – which I know is an old maxim.  But maxims become maxims because they hold true.  I saw it borne out in their own lives time and again.  When my mother lost her hair because of chemotherapy treatment I never once saw her cry about it – and she had beautiful auburn curls that my father loved. But rather than being sad they made jokes about her bald head and soon we were all rubbing her shiny noggin “for luck”, we all said. 

The evening my daddy passed from this earth he was lying in a hospital bed in my parent’s living room while the rest of the family sat around the kitchen table supporting one another, talking and, of course, laughing. I slipped out of the kitchen unnoticed and went to stand by Daddy’s bed.  His eyes were closed, his face peaceful but his breaths were shallow and uneven. I knew he was slipping away.  I was able to rest in the stillness of that moment.  I could see he was not in pain, he was not struggling. He, too, was resting in the moment.  It is often said that the last sensation we lose is our hearing and I thought of that just then and opened my own ears to the sounds he might be hearing – the clink of silverware and glasses, familiar voices in conversation, and occasional laughter.  Three of the grandchildren left the table and came into the room, planting soft kisses on his cheek before they went off to play, giggling as they opened and closed the front door.  I know he felt blessed and very rich in those moments.  I like to think that laughter carried him right to the gates of heaven.

14 Comments

  1. Eileen Clark says:

    Hi, thank you for posting your story and experience with us. It touched my heart and reminds me how blessed I am, best regards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. This is music to my ears!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan Gordon says:

    Amen. Some of your best work ever.
    Was a joy to read and so true to life.
    You have a gift. It is wonderful that you share it with all.
    Looking forward to the next Articulation

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You’re absolutely right. Little is better than a good communal laugh. My wife and I were at dinner with another couple last week. One of them said something funny, and we all laughed our heads off for a couple of minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good friends, good food, good times, and a good laugh should keep you in good health for many years! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. heimdalco says:

    I love those laughs that make not only our sides hurt, but make our face hurt.

    It takes a while to be able to laugh at ourselves. While helping pull a stretcher to the Recovery Room following a surgical procedure I fell down as we were going around a corner almost at the RR. Professionally I was mortified but I got up & asked all those staring colleagues, “Did you catch my act?” Reassured that I was OK & that I was laughing, they all laughed & we got our patient to the RR. Difficult but later I was certain I’d handled it the right way.

    Love the post … love the laughing photo of your grandbaby … & love to laugh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for relating your spill and then your response – it was perfect! A good recovery for the RR. 🙂 I can tell that you love to laugh! Yep, we are sisters in spirit! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a beautiful post! I could really relate to the slumber parties. My group of friends did the same thing, staying up all night and laughing until our sides hurt. What marvelous memories we have!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Aren’t we most fortunate?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Judy says:

    I’m crying & smiling at your words. The contentment & peace & anticipation he must have experienced as he slipped from this life into the Eternal. Your daddy was a good man in this life that we know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was indeed, my friend.

      Like

  7. Celia Hales says:

    What a lovely, concluding, tribute to your dad! And I enjoyed hearing about Selma’s response to you and Susan and the others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Celia. I appreciate your reading and responding so kindly.

      Like

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