Laughter is contagious.
The mind and body work together to create a cacophony of joy that spills out of us and makes the world a little bit brighter and lighter no matter what is happening. Once one person starts laughing, it spreads like a light bringing joy wherever it goes. In my lifetime laughter has been healing, restorative, necessary and vital for my self and my family. It has been a balm to my soul even on the darkest day of my life.
When Jerry and I went to the funeral home to “inspect” our daughter’s body before the wake, we were shown to a private room where our sweet girl was laid out in casket. Wearing her beautiful blue dress and sparkly high tops, she was ready for the viewing later that evening. The funeral director left Jerry and I alone to spend our last private moments with our daughter’s body before taking her over to the church for the wake.
As I bent over to kiss my daughters cheek, I noticed that her hair had been blown straight. Her famous cork screw curls were gone! I stood straight up and told Jerry “What have they done to her hair? Where are her curls?” He stood there with me trying to calm me down. There was no time for any changes to be made. We had maybe five minutes left before the funeral director came back in to begin the process of transfer.
Jerry kept telling me to quit worrying about Courtney’s curls, but dammit, this was a crisis situation and I knew action was needed. There was no way, my angel was going to heaven with her hair blown straight. Seriously, y’all that would just not do.
What did I do?
I sent Jerry to watch the door and I began Operation Corkscrew. Yes, that’s right people, I leaned into the coffin and licked my fingers, desperate to get her hair to curl. Wrapping each blonde tendril around my finger, I pressed and pressed trying to get Courtney’s curls back. I worked feverishly for the next few minutes until I heard Jerry whisper, “Quick, he’s coming back. Get out of the casket.”
We were totally like Mission Impossible, determined to finish our task. I stepped back with my hands in the air. Jerry just chuckled and told me to put my hand down. No one was going to arrest us for trying to curl our daughters hair
Now, normal people would have asked the funeral home to fix it. But, of course, we are not normal people and have never claimed to be so. Chalk the insanity up to grief and lack of sleep. I quickly stopped trying to curl her hair and we followed the funeral director out of the room.
Now mind you, I was still determined to correct the horrible miscarriage of hair styling. When we arrived at the church some time later, they opened the casket again for the viewing, I heard a gasp next to me. My niece J had a horrified look on her face. “Aunt Mary, where are her curls?”
I looked at her and said, “J, what do you want me to do about it? I tried fixing it at the funeral home.” I was almost ready to give up and give in to the hair faux pas.
My niece would have no part of it. “We have to do something. People will be here soon. They won’t recognize her.” I chuckled and told her it would be fine but she insisted that we do something. So she gathered a few more nieces, and an aunt or two to brainstorm how we could fix the “no curl” situation.
Before I knew it there were four people, two on either side of the casket, licking their fingers and wrapping Courtney’s tendrils around them trying to reset the curl. It was quite the scene. They were chatting with Courtney telling her what was happening. It was like they were all at a slumber party and were trying to fix their cousin’s bad hair style. At one point J said “Aunt Mary, I know what we can do. I’ll got to the car, get my curling iron, plug it in over there (pointing to the choir loft) and then once it’s warmed up, we can unplug it and curl her hair.” She looked down at her watch and said “We’ve got fifteen minutes. We can do it!”
She was dead serious.
I started to laugh. Just the thought of what she wanted to so, running back and forth, in a church, leaping over the pew with a single bound, with a hot curling iron at the ready, so her cousin could have her curls back was suddenly hysterical to me. I looked over at her cousins still working on Court’s hair and just busted out. One of my petite nieces was leaning in to the casket so far that she looked like she was tying to climb in. Her feet were off the floor and dangling in the air. I realized that she was actually stuck and didn’t want to alarm anyone.
It was comical. Before I knew it we were all laughing. We got my niece down and managed to get two curls on either side of Courtney’s face and left it at that. For the rest of the evening when people asked what happened to her hair, we regaled them with the tale of the “spit brigade” and continued to laugh.
Now the average human would probably suggest that we might require a psychiatric evaluation after such insanity. But, the reality was, we needed that moment of absurdity and laughter to be able to face the next 36 hours of laying our daughter to rest.
We needed the levity. We needed to be reminded in that moment that we were still capable of finding something funny. We needed the light that laughter brings. Courtney knew that and once again she was the vehicle through which we found our smiles again.
This story now lives on family lore anytime we get nostalgic or start sharing Courtney stories. There is always a niece that starts telling the great curling in the casket story and before you know it we are all laughing again.
Laughter is good for the soul my friends. It can get you through the darkness and remind you of the joy. Laugh every day. It changes your perspective every single time.
Return to The Catholic Conspiracy