I sometimes imagine poor Death saying, “I can’t be funny for the life of me!” Don’t underestimate death. It can apparently be hilarious.
I’ve been through enough loss in my life to know that it’s not funny, it’s gut-wrenching and horrible. It can weigh so heavily on a person’s heart, to lose someone, that one can feel it’s impossible to breath. However, we still manage to make fun of it. Perhaps we’re a bit like a child taunting a bully. It may not be the wisest thing to do, but what’s the worst that can happen- the inevitable? I’m not sure if it’s our way of coping, but we (especially my coworkers and I in the medical profession) tend to make light of it -while ever having a comprehensive knowledge of its gravity.
In Christianity, though I can’t recall any scripture off-hand that would put death in a humorous light, we have faith that Death no longer has a hold on us. Even Christian songs reflect death in a fashion of being conquered through Christ’s own death and subsequent victorious resurrection. “Oh Death, where is your sting? Oh Hell, where is your victory?” (Matt Maher)
But there are shows, poems, and quotes that make light of death -or Death as a person.
I always found it endearing that in Meet Joe Black (a very pretty and long movie), Death enjoys peanut butter. On Facebook someone posted, “That awkward moment when you are digging a hole to hide a body and you find another body.”
These are things that shouldn’t be funny, that are morbid, yet we -out of stupidity, obstinance, or rejection of fear- have made into a joke. In that light, I have to say I’ve always wished I’d written the story “The Appointment in Samarra” -as retold by W. Somerset Maugham.
It goes as follows:
There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
It’s clever and funny, despite the imminent demise of the protagonist, whom I was happy to think had escaped his doom, when he hadn’t. However, if I’d written it, knowing myself, I’d have let the guy live -and it would have been a lot less funny.