This post isn’t for everyone. So trigger warning if morbid humor is not something you want to read.
This post is for those who know in their heart of hearts that we all die. Memento mori and all that. Life comes to an end and sometimes the only thing you can do is smile at the grim reaper. I also thought it’d be an appropriate post for Friday, October 13th, which this just happens to be.
I’d always admired those who could face the most grim earthly realities with either stoicism, humor, or both. Personally, I can cite my early exposure to shows like the original Addams Family, movies like Beetlejuice, and bands like Oingo Boingo, for starting me down the path of combining the morbid and the humorous.
I really lucked out when I found someone who shared that sense of humor and although he wasn’t actually conscious in last hours before he slipped into the great beyond, I’m 100% certain a part of him was laughing.
Imagine if you will a death bed vigil in a hospital room. The air was charged with the gravity of the situation. This was Mario’s final hours and the culmination of his life’s choices that ultimately led to his current situation. His dad was there but couldn’t bear to stay until the end, a human shipwreck lost on a sea of emotions. My mom and dad elected not to come, filing themselves among those who wanted to, “remember him as he was”. Due to this all happing rather quickly and Mario not letting on to any friends how grave his health situation was, no one else was in attendance. So in those last hours, it was just me and my stoic friend who also knew Mario well.
I had Mario’s headphones and his old iPod, which I knew was packed with many of his own tracks and other songs he loved. Music was such a big part of his life I figured he’d appreciate hearing some of it as he coasted out of this reality.
I put the headphones over his ears and pushed play on the iPod. About 30 seconds went by and the damn thing shut off. I pushed the power and it came back, so I tried again, but the same thing happened. I kept trying and it kept happening. The battery had a full charge. It had never acted this way before. I was perplexed and in that emotional moment, exclaimed…
“His iPod died before he did!”
Sometimes, when facing the hardest of things, it might seem “out of place” to crack a joke, but for a moment, it can certainly lighten the overall atmosphere.
I ended up improvising and played some of our mutual favorite tracks that I could find on YouTube with my iPhone. I’m sure the nurses thought there was a rave going on in the room. There was even a bit of morbid humor in the last thing he heard. I’d been playing Future Sound of London’s album called, “ISDN”. The track that was playing was, “Eyes Pop – Skin Explodes – Everybody Dead”, which is not as bad as it sounds. It’s kind of a soothing, swirling, melodic track that even has whale song interspersed in it. The timing and the name though was a bit uncanny.
That evening when I returned home, I had a plastic hospital bag with me with Mario’s things, one of which was the dead iPod. I kid you not, as soon as I pulled it out of the bag, the thing sprang to life—without me hitting the on button (and it’s worked fine ever since even though the thing is officially ancient). I just had to shake my head at the cosmic joke of it all. Mario had to be laughing on the other side.
One thing I really didn’t plan for, and not sure why because it’s kind of an obvious thing, was picking out an urn. It took me a little while but it ended up being one of those “I’d know it when I saw it” type things. It kind of looks like a flying saucer. I call it the UFO and it’s a bit of an inside joke because Mario always said he wanted to ride in one.
Not long after his crossing over, I was rearranging some things in a kitchen cabinet and stumbled on a few holiday decor items, one of which was a little metal sign that read, “Beware! Haunted” that I totally forgot I even had. As soon as I saw it, a smirk crossed my face and it popped into my head to put that on the door of the room that Mario spent so many hours in making music. It’s been there ever since.
These little things that make me smile, the morbid bits of humor, are like fissures in my grief where light shines through. Laughter truly is a great medicine for me.