Laughter in the Midst of Grief

My son missed his own funeral.

Yes. You read that correctly.

My son missed his own funeral.

I can laugh at it.  It is one of the aspects of Aidan’s life that brings me a lot of laughter. It is where I can clearly remember laughter in the midst of grief.

Aidan only lived for 4 1/2 hours.  He was born, lived and died in the hospital.

I don’t remember much of the funeral planning.  While I was physically recovering from having a baby and some complications I had in those last days of pregnancy, my husband took care of all the details.

At the time we had only lived in Pennsylvania for about 2 years.  My husband’s family lives in Virginia.  My family in Minnesota.  We decided to bury Aidan in Virginia.

He is buried in a little country church cemetery.  It is a peaceful place with winds blowing across open fields.

Keith’s grandfather is now buried next to Aidan.  Their plots are on the end of the row approximately three or four rows in from the black garbage can at the end of the cemetery. Aidan’s grave marker sits crooked in the ground.  We never noticed that detail before.  Each time we say, “oh we need to have someone check into getting that fixed.”  Funny things to remember about your son’s grave site.

Back to the story…

Since Aidan’s body was going to be crossing state lines, the funeral director in Pennsylvania made arrangements for Aidan’s body to be flown to Virginia. Of course, it required a layover in Texas.

The day of the funeral, I was getting ready upstairs in the bathroom at my in-law’s house.   The phone rang.  I thought nothing of it.  Keith came upstairs to find me. He sat down on the closed toilet.  He said, “Um, there is a bit of a problem. Aidan’s body is stuck in Houston. He missed the connecting flight. He won’t be here for the funeral.”

And that is when it happened. The laughter.  Not a little chuckle. A deep rolling laughter.

My son. The one who defied odds. The one who shouldn’t have been born alive. The one I should have miscarried. The one who shouldn’t have squeaked at us for a few short hours.  He was having an adventure.  He was flying all over.  He was missing flights. He was traveling to a place I had never been.

He was missing his own funeral.

I remember my mother-in-law peeked around the corner as Keith and I laughed, hugged and then shed a few tears.  Yes. We were laughing.

It ended up being a beautiful funeral for our son. Instead of his casket being in place, we had a little display.  The few pictures we had of him. The baby blanket my sister had made for him. A few flowers.

And the next day, the immediate family gathered once again.  Just family.  Family that was saying hello to Aidan for the first time.  Family that was saying goodbye to Aidan.  Family that was shedding tears of not getting to hold this precious little boy.  Family that was grateful for the few hours they got with Aidan when he was alive.

I can still picture my mom and dad lovingly stand over Aidan’s open casket and gently touching his skin.   I can still see the image of Aidan’s uncles carrying the small casket to his grave site. The stillness. The quiet.  The reflection. The wondering. The questions.

And yes, the laughter.

Laughter in the Midst of Grief.

I’m attempting to take part in the “The Fifth Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge” through the month of March. The challenge is run by Two Writing Teachers.

16 thoughts on “Laughter in the Midst of Grief

  1. Jessica thank you for this piece. It made me cry and laugh. Death does some strange things to us. I am so sorry for your loss and I completely understand your laughter. This took some courage to write and share so publicly. Thank you for doing it.

  2. says:

    Oh, the tears are running freely down my face. This is such a beautiful and sad and genuine piece of writing, Jessica. There is laughter in the midst of grief and neither takes anything away from the other. I can relate to your words as a mom, as a woman who has miscarried twice, as a fellow slicer, as a human being. I am so sorry for your loss.

  3. Katherine says:

    Jessica, what a beautifully written piece. I’m so glad you were able to find laughter at that time. And I love your thoughts on Aidan having his own adventure. I am, at the heart of it, so sorry for your loss.

  4. says:

    I smiled and had tears in my eyes. Your writing and your story moved me. Thank you for sharing such a personal story in such a beautiful manner.

  5. Kat says:

    This was such a touching story–I needed a tissue and then to end with a smile, was an amazing thing. It sounds like you are an amazing person. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. pamelahodges says:

    Yes, tears. Yes, laughter for Aidan’s adventure on the airplane. And such a haunting image of the silence on the open fields and the uncles carrying the little casket. A strong repetition with the title and the last line of the story. Deep emotions, thank you for sharing.

  7. says:

    What a beautiful story. You painted a picture of that time and made me feel as if I was right there with you. I could feel the difficulty for you and your family as everyone said hello and goodbye at the same time. Those had to be hard times. “Laughter in the midst of grief,” is sometimes all that helps us get through difficult times — laughter in the midst of grief and family.

  8. says:

    The first time I read this, I read so fast to get to the end. To find out “what happened.” The second time I read this, I slowed down and took my time with the words, and I, too, ended up bursting out laughing after your husband’s announcement. The absurdity of it. How wonderful to think of Aidan traveling all over, having “adventures.” I know and have been so surprised by how the Universe will bring us laughter, even at the most painful moments! I wrote a blog post a few days ago about one of my own responses to a pregnancy loss (late-term stillbirth)… I’d be so interested in your response… Either way, thanks so much for sharing this beautiful small moment that held so much power.

  9. Chris says:

    Thank you, Jessica, for sharing Aiden’s story with us. I’m so glad that you and your husband found a bit of lightheartedness at such a deeply emotional time.

  10. says:

    A beautiful piece of writing. It so captures the “ying and yang” of life. Deep sadness and a little silliness, too. I’ll bet Aidan was laughing from heaven! Thank you for sharing this very special slice…

  11. says:

    It’s the rare piece of writing that can capture such a vast range of emotions with such fluidity. I guess that’s because life presented it to you just that way, as it often has a way of pressing us into crazy paradoxes. Beautiful, raw and honest, and very moving. Great thanks for putting such a close piece of you out there for us to feel along with you.

  12. says:

    Woah, this is such a powerful and beautifully written piece. What a deep reflection on an event that must have been so difficult, but in the midst there is laughter. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  13. Jill says:

    Oh Jess….I remember this. But do you know what I remember most about this story?? I remember you telling your parents and your dad sitting on the couch saying “Houston, we have a problem.” Thanks for sharing this moment with us.

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