There I was—standing beside the hospital bed where my dear mother laid unresponsive for the past 24 hours. My sister and I tried everything to wake her: We sang to her (that should have jolted her awake!); we read Bible passages. We held her hand, prayed for her and filled the room with over 25 grandchildren, but no response. The atmosphere in that room was so heavy and intense. We all wanted so badly for this lovely woman to open her eyes and smile her beautiful smile.
Then after hours of a somber vigil, I suddenly saw my mom moving her lips. I immediately bent down hoping to hear what her last words to us might be. Her lips moved again. I tried to fill in the blanks. “Do you want the minister to come?” “Is there someone you want to see or talk to?” “Shall I read to you from the Bible?”
Then she made an audible sound . . . I strained to hear, asking, “Did you say, ‘Cough?’ Do you need to cough?”
Suddenly, my mom’s eyes popped open and with great gusto she said, “Coffee! I want coffee!”
My sister and I started laughing and we couldn’t stop. We hurriedly got my mom a cup of coffee and told her the story of “Mom’s Last Word — Coffee.” The three of us laughed and hugged and suddenly that dark, dreary room was filled with joy, laughter, life and happiness.
That experience taught me the value of humor even in an intense situation. In the book Between Heaven and Mirth Reverend James Martin writes, “Humor helps us to endure suffering by giving us something of a break. Is there anything more welcome than finally, after a period of trial, being able to laugh again?”
May we remember the words of a wise person in the Book of Ecclesiastes who says, “There is a time to mourn and there is a time to laugh.” And sometimes laughter can be healthy even amid sadness—as a way of lightening a heavy situation.