Monday, September 2, 2013

Everything's Funnier When You're Not Supposed to Laugh

My daughter sent this picture to me on Facebook with this comment:  One word:  PRAYERS. My face broke out into a grin. There is nothing worse than getting the giggles during sacred moments. How does it even happen? WHY does it always happen to ME?

There have been many instances in my life where I have been overcome with body-wracking, silent giggles. Our family shares silent, tear-streaming laughter that makes our stomachs ache when we are overcome in times like this. Certain family members trigger this reaction in me: my parents, my siblings, and my own children. That just about covers everyone of my relatives. All it takes is for something to catch our attention, and the notice of a raised eyebrow, and all of a sudden I find myself trying to prevent a giggle from erupting into a guffaw.

I remember one tender moment, shortly after my grandma's funeral, that quickly unraveled into spontaneous hilarity. The whole family had gathered at mom's and we were kneeling on the floor in family prayer. My mom was overcome with the spirit of the day. Her prayer was full of emotion and much gratitude for her many blessings during the unexpected trial of losing her mother. The prayer may have gone on a little too long to suit some of the younger members of our circle. In fact, I know it did, because my two-year-old Dylan blurted out a hearty, "A-MEN!" in the middle of mom's prayer. Pretty soon, we were all rolling on the floor in laughter.

Natalie was married in the Episcopal church.
Attending the Episcopalian and Anglican churches with my dad and stepmom has been a pleasant experience since they married when I was about 10.  I enjoy the ceremony, the traditions, the padded pews, the stained glass windows, the old organ.  

I can recall certain Sundays when the small congregation was raising their voices in hymns, and hearing someone who was heartily singing off-key and out of tune. I knew I shouldn't look at my little sister; she heard it, too. Don't do it, I told myself. Don't look at Natalie, and whatever you do, don't look at Dad. Too late.  

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Natalie leaning forward to catch my attention. When I turned toward her, I saw Dad's eyes eyebrows were raised in an expression of mock disbelief. I pursed my lips together, fearing laughter would spew forth from them, if I didn't. My shoulders began to shake. Our whole row was doing its best to maintain some semblance of control. It was so futile.

This is one of the looks that can send me
over the edge.  I adore my sister, AND
her irreverent sense of humor.

When Natalie was married in Ascension Episcopal Church, there was an awkward little moment when the minister started to pronounce them husband and wife, before he had performed the actual ceremony. I was standing up front with the other bridesmaids, and I knew Dad's facial expression would be making commentary on the situation. Sure enough, I looked up, and there he was, with his raised eyebrows and his head tipped toward me, ever so slightly, as if to ask, "Did you catch that, too?" Oh, lands.  Just trying to hold it together was more than I could do.

Once, Dylan accompanied me to the Buddhist Temple two hours away in Salt Lake City. This visit had been on my bucket list for awhile, and I didn't want to go alone. My kids are always game to try new experiences, and Dylan seemed happy to attend a service with me. As we entered the temple, we were warmly welcomed and shown to the "chapel." As we found our seats, we noticed the fragrance of sweet incense burning. We enjoyed the sermon, and did our best to follow along with the songbook.  

When it came time for the walking meditation, we participated.  It involved a chant, which we did not know, and following Hirano Sensei around the outer edges of the pews, along the outer perimeter of the expansive room. The Sensei would sound a high-pitched gong at regular intervals during the chant.

Buddhist Temple, Salt Lake City

There is nothing vaguely funny about this ceremony. It builds a feeling of harmony and peace to join in this communal ritual. And yet...and yet...I know my son. He knows me. Both of our minds had traveled to the same place.

One of our family's favorite movies is Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail, and that moment of time was eerily familiar to the scene where the monks are walking, chanting and hitting their heads with their stone tablets at regular intervals.  

The edges of my lips began to turn upward; Dylan started to smile. When it was time to return to our seats, we were stifling our silent chuckles as best we could.  I kept wiping the tears off my cheeks. I only hoped no one else noticed our mirth. It never fails; everything seems funnier when the most inappropriate thing to do would be to laugh.

We can't be the only ones.  I HOPE we're not the only ones. Do you remember a time when you couldn't help it, and you just had to laugh, even though you knew you shouldn't? Please share. Let me know we're not the only irreverent ones out there.


  1. I love irreverent laughter! Not because it's a good thing, but because it's usually the best way to tears and tummy ache level laughter. I'm the worst at family prayers! My mom's stepdad blessed our last house, and said the LONGEST prayer I have ever heard. We were all on our knees in pain and restless, so obviously not keeping our eyes closed. Well the glorious stream of snot dripping from his face as he continued to pray, undaunted, was just enough! I don't know if I have ever laughed so hard!

    1. Your mom TOLD me we were a lot alike...ha ha ha.

  2. Actually, he's given us more than one scenario, as I think about it. He also got up during testimony meeting for my cousin Chet's blessing and simply said, "If I may be so bold," and began to sing acapella! What on earth?! He has one of those really loud, old river-singing type of voices. It was a special moment for all the wrong reasons.

    1. Socially awkward things bring out the worst case of the giggles. I have to bite my lip while teaching many times during the day, just to avoid the inappropriate response of laughter at the wrong time.

  3. I am guilty of the same thing. While waiting for my grandmother's funeral service to begin, music was playing and my mother commented to my brother and I that this particular song was one my grandmother wanted played at her funeral. I whispered to my brother that the song I wanted to be played at my funeral was "Drop kick me Jesus (Through the goalposts of life)" and we both dissolved into tear producing, shoulder shaking laughter than we both hoped every one behind us would perceive as grief.

    1. That is the exact thing I am talking about. You know!!!


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