I grew up in a family of comedians, my mom being the chief. She loved hearing jokes, she loved telling jokes, and she loved to laugh. She was the kind of person who could laugh long, hard and deep. One day she was telling a joke, got tickled in the middle of it and started laughing. This was par for the course, as she almost never got through a joke without laughing. Most of the time, her laughter was funnier than the joke. But this time, she laughed so hard that she shot her false teeth out of her mouth, caught them in mid-air and shoved them back into place, which (of course) made her laugh even more.
One of Mom’s dreams was to have a joke published in Reader’s Digest. She would write out jokes and send them to the editors, but she never heard back. This went on for years. Each month, when she got her magazine, she would scour the pages, looking to see if her joke or story was there. Later, she gave me a subscription to the same magazine, hoping we would both see one of her jokes or humorous stories published. But she went to her grave without having achieved this goal.
Still, Mom saw humor in just about everything. One day, she had spent hours assembling and putting up the family Christmas tree. We heard a loud crash and then laughter, so we ran into the living room to see what had happened. There was Mom, standing in the middle of the room, laughing at the Christmas tree, which was lying on its side with many of the ornaments splayed across the floor. When she caught her breath, she told us it was easier to put the star on top of the tree this way. We laughed right along with her. She passed her laughter, love and zest for life on to her four sons and (I hope) her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too.
What might surprise you is that I am the least funny person in my family. Yes, I am the boring son. When I’m in a room with all three of my brothers, it’s hard for me to get a word in. My brother Gary has done a number of comedy shows and is in demand for his teaching. (As a retired Missouri State Highway Patrol officer, he has developed a humorous program for school safety in the United States as well as Canada.) For years, my brother Ronnie has had a weekly article published about the lighter side of being a professional truck driver. And my brother Scott is a lot like our mom, with a laugh always on his heart. While I was writing this article, I couldn’t remember which veteran’s cemetery he works for in our home state of Missouri. I texted him to ask, and got back this response: “The one where everybody’s dead.” You can’t get a straight answer out of anyone in our family. And as funny as we boys are, my mom was the queen.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Life is a balance of these things. No one is exempt from weeping and mourning; they are going to come your way. But the things that will balance them and help you through the dark days are the laughing and dancing. My mom had plenty of heartaches; she lost a child at birth, the only girl out of four boys. This was a season of weeping and morning for our family, and it affected her deeply. But after her time of sadness, she chose not to dwell on the loss but to look at it through the eyes of eternity.
Even though Mom never made it into her favorite magazine, one day while I was in college, I received a letter with Reader’s Digest printed in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope. My first thought was, “Mom got published!” but then I thought, “Why would they send a notice to me?”
I opened the envelope, and inside was a letter saying the magazine was honoring me with a scholarship. Attached was a check for $1,000.
I called Mom to tell her Reader’s Digest had sent me a thousand-dollar check, and I hadn’t sent anything in. And of course, you know what my mom did: She laughed and laughed.
If your home is filled with laughter, your heart will be, too. This year, maybe I’ll take time to write up some of my mom’s jokes and send them in to my old friend Reader’s Digest.