I recently stumbled on a website that had 23 funny tombstones. Unlike the made-up kind, these were things that people had actually carved on tombstones. They were pretty funny. They reminded me of my favorite tombstone, Ruth Graham’s grave: “End of Construction. Thank you for your patience.” I admire people who are so bold. Most of us take death very seriously and would never think of putting something funny on a tombstone.
When I was in college, I had a theater major. In my first theater class, we learned the difference between comedy and tragedy. “If the protagonist succeeds in his or her goal, the story is a comedy, and if the protagonist fails it is a tragedy.” Some people also say that comedy is anything with a happy ending and tragedy is anything where the hero dies in the end. I like the first definition because it allows a little more gray space. There are things I thought were comedies but ended in tragedy and vice versa. Are action movies comedies because they usually have a “happy” ending?
The funny tombstones help us bring this idea of comedy and tragedy to death. “I told you I was sick” makes us laugh even while we might be missing the person who died. Sometimes in an obituary you read “She died after a heroic battle with cancer.” Some people might see that as a tragedy – the heroine died – but others might see the person who died as someone who succeeded in her goals in life. She lived well. She died bravely. She loved and was loved in turn.
As Christians we have a little different perspective on death. No matter how difficult and tragic a person’s life, there is always the possibility for redemption. And, if someone has been redeemed, that person is in heaven with Jesus after their death. No more tears. No more sorrow. The redeemed person’s eternal life is marked by love and, I hope, laughter. Because, to be redeemed, means that we can laugh at the most difficult circumstances, knowing that they are temporary and confined to our short, temporal lives.
I am so thankful for the gift of comedy, of laughter, in our lives. I am thankful for the people who make me laugh and give me joy. And I am thankful for my Savior, who reminds me that we can all have a happy ending with him in heaven.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18