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Death and Laughter
Old 02-08-2008, 11:15 AM   #1
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Death and Laughter

Scenario this morning: 81 year old woman seen with advanced ovarian cancer, soon to have noncurative but major surgery ("debulking" of the tumor). Lots of medical complications, surgery dangerous but necessary for symptom control. She came down from "The Villages" which is an extraordinarily well-run and successful community a couple of hours north of here. It's know for middle class friendliness, golf, old-people jokes.

After exchanging greetings we started chatting. Her daughter drove her down but was not initally present. Lightheartedly I asked her how she got to Tampa this morning, and wondered out loud if she took her golf cart down the interstate. She started chuckling, then laughing, leading to a monolog that would have done Robin Williams proud. She had me in stitches; her daughter joined us mid-monolog and soon the three of us were having a party.

I know about nervous laughter, defensive laughter, social laughter, and laughter simultaneous with tears of sadness. I know how laughter sometimes is an outlet for fear and grief. This probably had all the above about it, but mostly it felt like just good old, genuine, shared humor for all of us.

After we composed ourselves and accomplished the goals of the appointment we all had smiles on our faces. Daughter offers that this is the first time she has heard her mother laugh in a year. Mother gave me a bear hug, and her neckace caught on my stethoscope, starting a new round of more subdued laughter all the way out the door.

Just thought I'd tell you how my morning went. It's a good day.
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Old 02-08-2008, 11:44 AM   #2
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Can laughter be the best medicine? I'd like to think so....

Glad your day was a good day, Rich.
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Old 02-08-2008, 11:57 AM   #3
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Thanks for sharing Rich. I needed that.
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Old 02-08-2008, 02:00 PM   #4
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Shoot, when I get 81, I'll be laughing too -- just because I got there.
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Old 02-08-2008, 02:07 PM   #5
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Good story!
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Old 02-08-2008, 02:47 PM   #6
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I wonder if I can put something like this in my living will: "do not take any extraordinary measures to keep me alive, but get me to a comedy show STAT!"
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Old 02-09-2008, 07:59 AM   #7
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Good story, good doctor.
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Old 02-09-2008, 08:25 AM   #8
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I have been to my share of funerals. The best were those that were filled with laughter with all of the shared funny moments. I think American culture and the funeral industry has it all wrong with all of the solemnity and sadness..it should be fun time..a party in honor of the deceased. The problem is folks don't feel they "have permission" to have a good time. I plan to leave a video with my thanks for all the good times we have shared and instructing everyone to use the moment as another good time...also to enjoy a few of my favorite things..such as dark chocolate, great coffee, perhaps a good wine...and have some dixieland music playing to set the mood. Maybe tell folks ahead of time to wear hawaiian style clothes..those are always festive.
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Old 02-09-2008, 08:46 AM   #9
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The New Orleans funeral would suit me just fine. Slow, first-line dirge music on a reluctant march to the cemetary, and once that's done, "2nd line" dixieland Saints Go Marching In all the way home.
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Old 02-09-2008, 08:53 AM   #10
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Admit it Rich, moments like this are why you're finding it difficult to FIRE!
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Old 02-09-2008, 10:07 AM   #11
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Admit it Rich, moments like this are why you're finding it difficult to FIRE!


Well. maybe a little.

You?
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Old 02-09-2008, 10:33 AM   #12
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Thanks for asking Rich. Not ready to FIRE yet. I'm 9 years younger than you are. Having lots of fun (not all patient related) and want to consolidate my financial position before RE at ~55.
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Old 02-09-2008, 10:49 AM   #13
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Rich, Thanks for sharing a part of your day. I'll bet you wish you could write prescriptions for laughter.
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Old 02-09-2008, 11:10 AM   #14
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Rich, Thanks for sharing a part of your day. I'll bet you wish you could write prescriptions for laughter.
Well, actually.....

Laughter Medicine : Corporate Stress Management Training & Laughter Therapy

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Old 02-09-2008, 11:48 AM   #15
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Great links, thanks. On the video the Dr says that tests show that forced, fake laughter produces the same chemicals that real laughter produces.

I was in Mumbai on business last April - should have gotten in a couple of classes with Dr Madan.

I wonder if Blue Cross would honor such a prescription ? Some hope
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Old 02-09-2008, 12:31 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa View Post
The New Orleans funeral would suit me just fine. Slow, first-line dirge music on a reluctant march to the cemetary, and once that's done, "2nd line" dixieland Saints Go Marching In all the way home.
So, you're saying the celebration and the party only start after you've been dropped off? Yikes.

No funerals or memorial services for me... I don't want to lay the obligation on anyone, either.
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Old 02-09-2008, 12:32 PM   #17
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Shoot, when I get 81, I'll be laughing too -- just because I got there.
Hours before she died of old age, nurses reported my nearly 98 year old mother (who with age had become blind, deaf, and a double amputee and had many other physical failures as her body deteriorated) had a happy smile on her face. She was refusing food and medicine, but smiling.

I like to think that was because she had such a wonderful life. She did everything she wanted to do, and went everyplace she wanted to go. Knowing her, I would imagine that she felt a sense of completion that made her feel happy even in her last moments.

Maybe I am reading too much into a smile, but that's what I like to think caused her to smile.
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Old 02-09-2008, 02:46 PM   #18
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I was talking with a friend at work on Friday and she was telling me the story of her 84 year old aunt who, last year, started having chest pains. She had never had any health issues in her whole life and was an incredibly vibrant, funny person still actively involved in all sorts of activities. She called 911 and told them she thought she was having a heart attack, then called her daughter who met her at the hospital. Apparently she was in a wheelchair laughing and joking with the nurses as if it was their spirits that needed lifting when she froze mid-sentence and simply slumped in the chair. Apparently a heart valve had blown and that was that.

My friend said that although the family is very saddened she is gone they all had a great time remembering her at her funeral and celebrating her life. (They live in New Orleans - or very close to it - Desterahan).
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Old 02-10-2008, 05:15 PM   #19
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DI has a pretty great article on why we laugh: Damn Interesting » Humoring the Gelotologists
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Old 02-10-2008, 06:30 PM   #20
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haha great story.. I think weall need to laugh a bit more..

awesome links everyone!
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