Should I Laugh Or Cry?

One of my most profound childhood memories happened the night before my Grandpa’s funeral when I was twelve years old.

A large collection of family and friends gathered in Grandma’s small apartment. There were enormous quantities of food and an endless supply of adult beverages. Elmer was a colorful character who lived a big, full, over-the-top life. As the evening progressed, Grandpa’s twelve brothers took center stage and told story after hilarious story. I remember the walls shaking as laughter rattled the windows.

I also remember feeling confused. At one point I asked my mom why everyone seemed so happy. “Grandpa just died. Shouldn’t we be sad?”

“Of course everybody’s sad,” she said. “But what do you remember most about your Grandpa?”

I thought a minute. “His laugh.” He had this deep, full voice, and I think he loved to laugh more than anything.

“Don’t you think that’s how he’d want us to spend time remembering him? Can you imagine him wanting us to sit around quietly?”

I shook my head. I couldn’t ever remember him sitting around quietly. That’s not what he would have wanted.

I recalled that evening as I listened to a man explain something he’d learned traveling around the world.

“In many countries people can be fully present in their sadness and their joy at the same time. In America we seem to believe it’s an either/or deal. We can be sad or we can be happy, but not both.”

That’s exactly the dilemma I faced at Grandpa’s funeral. The stories reminded me of a special relationship with a special man and that made me smile with joy. But Elmer was gone, and that made me cry with sadness.

I thought I had to choose and I didn’t know the right answer. I think I carried around some guilt about that for a while.

I wonder if that false choice sometimes gets in the way of understanding Jesus. I don’t have an answer, but I suspect He embraced joy and sorrow, gain and loss, happiness and sadness as spectrums rather than distinct choices.

I just wanted to toss it out there. Have you ever gotten trapped, as I did at my Grandpa’s funeral, by the notion that apparently opposed feelings can’t coexist?

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Copyright 2008-2013 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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