Death and Laughter

Actor Robert Cummings as Parris in

Actor Robert Cummings as Parris in “Kings Row”, Author Stetsonharry (PD)

“Parris:  I don’t know if you can take it, Drake.

Drake:   Give it to me.

Parris:    Dr. Gordon cut off your legs.  I don’t know if it was necessary.  He was that kind of butcher, who thought he had a special ordination to punish ‘transgressors’… Heaven knows what else.  The caverns of the human mind are full of strange shadows, but none of that matters.  The point is he wanted to destroy you.  Oh, not literally.  He wanted to destroy the Drake McHugh you were.  He wanted to see you turn into a life-long cripple, mentally as well as physically.  That’s all there is, Drake…

Drake (after a long pause, chuckles):  That’s a hot one, isn’t it? Where did Gordon think I lived, in my legs?  Did he think those things were Drake McHugh?…”

–        Kings Row (1942)

My younger sister and I shared a second floor bedroom as children. We would often stay up past bedtime –  watching old movies, talking about what may have happened during the day, telling stories, or sharing our childhood dreams with each other.  The two of us would invent silly games or make up jokes, and giggle under the covers.

Saplings in a Hurricane

When our father yelled up the stairs at us for being noisy, however, we trembled.  His word was law in the house.  That’s how I remember it, anyway.

Like saplings in a hurricane, we were raised in the storm of my father’s ever-present rage. We were not beaten outright.  But the threat was always there.

And yet, at times, that threat made our laughter all the harder to contain.  We would laugh helplessly, till our sides ached.  My sister and I had a name for it:  laughing in the face of death.

A Life and Death Struggle

Looking back now, we were not far wrong with that description.  There was a life and death struggle going on.

Our laughter was the sound of life, winning out, over death and darkness.  Our laughter was the sound of hope and happiness, if only temporary; the sound of faith in a future we hardly dared believe might exist, a future in which we would be free simply to live in peace.

Life Distilled

Unknown numbers of children die every year at the hands of the adults who should love them, the adults who should nurture and protect them.  I do not make light of that.  Nor do I make light of the painful physical and emotional problems abuse has bequeathed many of us.

But I firmly believe that laughter is the antithesis of death.  Laughter is life distilled.  I think the heavenly halls ring with it.

Behold, God will not cast away the blameless…He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, And your lips with rejoicing” (Job 8: 20-21).

These scars with which we wrestle are the ghostly fingers of death.  We must not give in to them.  Death has cast its shadow over too much of our lives already.

Oh, there will come a day when we each go to meet our Maker.  Till then, however, this life is ours to live to the very fullest.  Death has no right to it.  The past has no claim on it.

So laugh, every chance you get.  Spit in the face of death.  You need no longer tremble in fear, for death has been conquered by Someone far greater than any violent or neglectful parent, greater than any predator or abusive spouse.

He is Jesus Christ, and He offers us life.

…‘I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’ ” (John 11: 25).



Filed under Child Abuse, Christianity, Emotional Abuse, Neglect, Physical Abuse, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Violence Against Women

21 responses to “Death and Laughter

  1. What an amazingly accurate post in terms of what the legacy of abuse can do to the small innocent child and later the bigger innocent adult. One thing abusive behaviour cannot do is steal the innocence, however much damage it wreaks in other areas of the psyche. I echo your sentiments in not making light of the damage and the resultant scars. However laughter is such a powerful and potent medicine reaching the areas that aspirin, ibrupofen and the like cannot do. Sure they take away pain, but laughter reaches every cell, it can make you double up, fall prostrate, throw back your head, crease up, giggle until you cry tears of laughter and joy. Innocence and laughter are linked – have you observed a small child laughing? I too remember my younger brother and I laughing (laughter tinged with fear) at our violent father’s antics (when we were in a place of safety, of course) and I think it was what saved us. The author as a consequence of her own pain has introduced us to a powerful antidote: something given to act against poison: the poison of abuse.

  2. Monochrome nightmares

    Such an inspiring post Anna.

  3. Oh my, your post moved me to tears, Anna. YES, laughter is vital!! I’m sorry for the fear in your childhood, and glad you had your sister. My mother was my fear, mostly–I remained scared of her till her death a few years ago, as she could slice me to “slivereens” with her words and tone. I’ve started writing a novel…and it seems a lot of that stuff is coming out, so I’m very hopeful of healing (regardless of publishing or not). God bless you always–your presence here is such a comfort and inspiring encouragement. ❤

  4. Anna,

    This was such a breath of LIFE. True ZOE. Thank you beyond words. I needed to read this.

    You brother-


  5. Excellent post, Anna.
    I love that movie, I think it’s one of Ronald Reagan’s best.

  6. Amen!! Laughter is so good for our soul… It can be very healing.

  7. Anna, I grew up in a house where there was a constant threat of punishment and very little laughter. I was an only child for 11 years. What you wrote has helped me understand why my own kids could laugh when I was threatening punishment just as my own father handed it out to me. Of course I saw it as disrespect when they did, but for them it was a method of surviving. Thank you for helping me see things from their perspective. BTW, God has done a lot of healing in our relationship over the years. Praise His name!

    Love you in the Son,
    Michael ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.