You know the feeling. It starts out as a slight snicker. Something funny happened. Somebody said something or did something—intentionally funny or not— and all of a sudden you can’t stop laughing. You replay the scene over and over in your mind and it gets more funny each time. It happens at the most inconvenient times. Usually at church. Usually during a prayer.
You know the people you can’t look at… they’ll just make it worse. You bite your lip. You think of puppies abandoned by the roadside. Something, Anything, to make it stop. As soon as you think it’s gone. It’s not. Your eyes burn hot with tears. You keep laughing that deep, breathless, silent laugh, trying with all your might not to squeak or gasp or snort.
It’s really bad when you get the giggles at church. Trust me, it’s even worse at a funeral.
Fortunately, we funeral personnel are usually tucked away out of sight during a service and don’t often get caught. There have been times when I have had to step outside to regain my composure after seeing an especially amusing outfit or hearing especially amusing conversations. Sometimes funny things happen at funerals and sometimes everyone laughs. Sometimes, however, funny things happen and nobody laughs at all–which typically makes us laugh even more. There are also times when situations are SO somber that one little funny thing can initiate a serious case of the funeral giggles.
One particular incident comes to mind:
It was a stormy day and we had an afternoon funeral. The deceased was relatively young, and we knew to expect a large crowd for the service. The church filled up and as the service started, latecomers gathered in the small narthex. One of my coworkers started to duck out to make a telephone call. He meandered his way through the crowd with ease and quietly slipped out the door. The wind outside, however, caught him off guard. The door closed behind him too quickly and trapped part of his coat tail as it shut. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of his coat tail as he tugged on it from the other side of the door. After a few good pulls, he finally freed it from the grip of the door, but it was too late: I had the funeral giggles. I was cornered in the narthex by the overflowing congregation and did my best to not make eye contact with anyone. As I stared at the floral carpet and bit my lip, all I could think about was my coworker as he stood outside in the storm with his coat tail stuck in the door. It didn’t help that another coworker had seen the same thing and was across the little room fighting my same battle with the giggles. I knew that in any other situation, it would not be as funny, but in that moment, it was so difficult to contain laughter.
Situations like these happen on a weekly basis and I’ll admit it does add a certain amount of emotional relief from otherwise depressing occasions. I’ve always had a healthy sense of humor and am notorious for causing funeral giggles among my coworkers. We love to recount stories and tease each other about things after-the-fact. I am learning the importance of not taking myself too seriously, and when something funny happens at work, we just roll our eyes and smile with knowing eyes. Full blown funeral giggles among the staff, however, make for potentially awkward situations with funeral-goers. We all have our own way of quickly shifting back into ‘funeral mode’ on a dime, but I have a feeling that I’ll have some pretty awesome stories of funeral giggles for years to come.