Courtesy of Chicago Tribune  | By Bruce Horovitz | Originally Published 02.14.2017 | Posted 02.12.2019

Just weeks before Christmas some years ago, Shirley Rapp and her family faced the devastating news that she had what appeared to be a terminal illness.

But that didn’t stop Rapp from wanting to do one last round of Christmas shopping for her kids. Her daughter, Karyn Buxman, a self-described neurohumorist and RN, went along. When the mother-daughter duo stepped into a St. Louis-area stationery store, Rapp picked up a day planner that she admired, turned to her daughter and quipped: “If I make it past Jan. 1, will you buy this one for me?”

That’s when Mom and daughter burst into laughter that attracted every eye in the store.

For some folks, the process of dying comes with less stress when it’s something of a laughing matter. Not a yuk-yuk laughing matter. But, at its simplest, a willingness to occasionally make light of the peculiarities — if not absurdities — that often go hand-in-hand with end-of-life situations.

An aging generation of boomers, the oldest of whom are now 70, grew up to the background sounds of TV laugh tracks and are accustomed to laughing at things that might not always seem so funny. There’s even a non-profit organization funded by donors, conference revenue and membership dues, whose mission is simply reminding people that laughter is a core ingredient of all facets of life — even end of life.

“Laughter is the best medicine,” said Mary Kay Morrison, president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, “unless you have diarrhea.”

Humor is particularly important when folks near end-of-life situations, says Morrison. Turning 70 hasn’t stopped her from engaging in activities specifically to make her laugh — like hopping on her pogo stick.

“While death cannot be cured, your frame of mind is something that you can change,” she said.


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