I was having a coffee with a friend the other day and we laughed so hard and so often that if you saw us, you would probably assume we must have been talking about something very happy, or funny, or a bit of both.
But in reality, the things we discussed were really quite sad. We talked about her relative, who is suffering from a very bad form of cancer, and is probably not going to last long. We talked about my dog getting put down. We talked about the concept of death and children, and how they cope with it. Nothing to laugh about, surely, unless you are utterly mad?
It started when I was telling this friend that, because we don’t believe in heaven, we had to explain to our daughter where the dogs actually go when they die. Since the pet crematorium is up in Cambridge, that was what Husband told my little girl. So, as far as my poor child is concerned, dead pets don’t go to heaven, but end up in this sad place called Cambridge. She took it well, but I do wonder if the fear of Cambridge will emerge in some form at some point in the future; should any of us need to go there for any reason. So, we laughed at that.
We then discussed whether there was any point in keeping the ashes. Last time I visited this friend’s house, she showed me two jars with ashes of her pets, which she, somewhat unexpectedly for me, produced from the kitchen cupboard. I was not quite sure why the pets’ ashes would be stored next to the other, more usual kitchen items, such as coffee. She laughed and said that they did not believe in heaven either, but being quite into the nature and the circle of life concept, (blah-blah) they wanted to return the ashes to the ground, and bury them in the garden. Thus the storing of the jars in the kitchen, as a reminder of the job to be done. I said that, once in Cambridge, the ashes most probably end up in the ground anyway, as I doubt they have an immense storage facility to accommodate all the dead pets from the UK. We thought that was funny, too.
We then moved on to the cancer suffering relative, and my friend said that sadly, the old lady was not going to last. But I told her the story of K.
K was a family friend of my in-laws, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer a very, very long time ago. When the doctors discovered it, they advised that he, sadly, was probably not going to live much longer. Maybe six months to a year, they said.
Since then, every Christmas, K would approach me at the end of the party, stare into my eyes, hold my hand, and tell me that that was probably the last Christmas we would see him. The first time I heard him say that, I got quite emotional. For the next few Christmas parties, however, the imminent dying effect started to wear out. Nobody could believe how well and how long K lasted, including himself.
And we laughed at this story, too.
Does this mean that my friend is not upset about her older relative suffering in pain with such a horrible disease? To me, it does not. Maybe we just need to be able to laugh at these depressing aspects of life, because that is what keeps us sane and helps us cope.