It had been two days since Charles’ death and my kitchen was packed with people. I was so grateful that all our friends and neighbors knew to come over. From 11am-5pm every day for seven days, our house was filled.
The three hours I spent the day after with just my husband and myself after Charles’ suicide in what seemed like a cavernous house was unbearable. I needed others in the room to absorb some of the overwhelming grief–grief that took me to my knees multiple times per day.
On that second day, standing in the kitchen with friends and family, someone said something funny about Charles and I laughed and abruptly stopped. I couldn’t laugh could I? My son had suffered so much he had ended his life in a brutal and desperate way. My stomach lurched, my breath left me and my mouth went dry.
The people around me were still talking and my brain and I went somewhere else. I remember Charles loved to make me laugh. You could read it on his face. So it was OK, right? Why did I feel so guilty?
That was the day my laugh took a sabbatical
It would appear in my life sporadically in short, ugly, pathetic bursts but no complete loss of control like before.
I would see funny things but it was like my sense of humor wasn’t in the room at the same time, like I had forgotten how to laugh, the mechanics of which were far too complex to put the steps together. That spontaneous, complete loss-of-control type laughter had evaporated. I would remember back to the time Martha and I threw peach peelings all over her mom’s kitchen and we’d laughed so hard we sank to the floor in tears unable to breathe.
Where was that girl? What happened to her?
It would be at least a year and a half later before I would find real funny again. It was slow and awkward like a first kiss. Randy and I sat on the sofa watching a comedy. I wish I could remember which one. Once I got started, it was like dry brush catching fire on a hot day. I couldn’t stop.
The comedian had moved on but I kept repeating the part that set me off triggering fits of hilarity so relentless, I gripped my sides to keep from having spasms, those muscles having atrophied they’d been out of work for so long.
My funny had been buried in grief, the weight of which had kept it smothered. I would like to say that it came back full force after that. That’s not what happened. They were and still are rare events.
Then one day I got an email from a speaking gig I applied to
The response would make many irate. But it was in such blatantly poor taste, I burst out laughing. I posted it on the blog as a matter of fact. Or on social media somewhere. It’s in my “notes to keep” folder.
“Dear Mrs. Rogers. We do want a motivational speaker but I hardly think a presentation that includes the subject of suicide is suitable for our steak and wine fundraiser.”
Like there is a perfect time for the subject? That’s the problem right? No one thinks it’s ever the right time. I immediately wrote outlandish responses to this email, the first of which I didn’t send (thank God) but penned for my own entertainment.
Then I decided to reply like this:
“Of course it’s inappropriate. What was I thinking? The topic of suicide is a much more suitable brunch topic. It goes better with omelets and muffins.”
I hesitated for about a half a second. Then I sent it. As soon as I did, my smile turned into uncontrollable giggles. Charles would have so loved that response. I could just picture the recipient tilting her head to the side, wondering what it meant, thinking that I might be crazy enough to think it was a far better “brunch topic.” Anyone who was as socially inept as she was unlikely to see that my response was a put down right back at her.
The funny is still not back to pre-suicide levels. But it has limped in half @$$ed. And maybe that’s because the person who could trigger it is no longer here. Or that I just need more time since having to make ashes out of my precious boy’s body.