Laughter has to be the best medicine

I try hard to laugh, but...


Laughter has to be the best medicine
by Ghahremani

On a rainy day in Southern California, you can’t help but think sad thoughts. And if it just happens that a good friend has recently passed away, those thoughts may be even sadder. However, it is precisely on such days when you need your laughter the most. I’m trying to remember funny incidents, but all can thin k of are stories that have to do with “death.”

A lot has changed in the way we Iranians grieve. I should know because my first experience of a funeral goes back to Iran and when I was too young to understand tradition.

No sooner had the bad news of my mother’s passing arrived than we found more relatives than we needed. The house was filled with people who seemed to love halva, fresh dates and Turkish coffee. Except for my sister and I, whose dresses had white little flowers on a black background, all women wore black. Men either used black neckties or an armband in that color. Seeing them unshaven and women with no makeup, we did not seem as attractive a nation as presumed.

Without any ready-made clothes in stores, no sooner had someone in the family passed away than big pots of water were filled with boiling water and black dye. In went the shirts, pants and dresses while someone stirred the smelly potion with a big wooden stick. Soon, there would be a clothesline across the garden with black items on it that from a distance resembled giant crows. To this day, I remember the shrunken wool sweaters that were not meant for such heat, cardigans that diminished from adult size to baby clothes made out of thick felt!

I never understood why the furniture had to be moved out of the living room, or why all of a sudden shoes were left outside and women sat in a circle on the rug. As a child, I assumed that was to give them enough backache to cry real tears.

Crying was a must because on top of all the tears that were shed, they invited a clergy to tell stories that made people cry even more. Old ladies sat around, drank tea and Turkish coffee, while alternating their cry and gossip. When they seemed unable to get up and leave, I wasn’t sure if it was because of their cramped legs or the volumes they’d eaten.

Back then sending flowers wasn’t as customary. People just came, cried a little and ate a lot. Sometimes they seemed to forget why they had come because they huddled in groups and I could hear them chatting, giggling even. Maybe that’s why they needed the clergy, to remind them of crying.

Sometimes I’d eaves drop and listen. There were many funny stories to be told. Looking back, I realize that laughter was a benign form of self-defense. Maybe it still is, otherwise why make jokes about Ahmadinejad? Nobody seems to cry over the loss of our nation’s dignity. Indeed laughter has to be the best medicine for such incurable disease.

I try hard to remember funny stories. Years ago, a relative went to someone’s funeral. His wife couldn’t accompany him on that day, but she asked him to tell the family how sorry she was and to promise she’d be there for the ceremonies of the seventh night. Sadly the message was not delivered in the best way. When asked where was the wife, he told the grief-stricken widow, “She’s sorry she couldn’t make it, but promises she’ll be there the next time!”

I try hard to laugh, but the rain is pouring and the sky is just too gray. Maybe I will laugh tomorrow. Maybe there’s a clergy with a funny story somewhere.

Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies, available now on Amazon & most bookstores.


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Sadness and culture

by Ghahremani on

Forty years ago, my first cultural shock came from an American neighbor who, hearing my sad story, asked, "Are you feeling sorry for yourself?"

Her tone was as if she thought I had leprosy! American culture looks down on - and stays away from - depression and self-pity. The opposite is true of Iranians who in general consider sadness  “deep” and see happiness as a shallow state. In our literature, a good poem brings tears, a sad ending is what love is all about and a tragic death is what makes heros.

It’s normal to feel sad once in a while, but there should be a balance. Sometimes all the medicine in the world can’t get rid of one's sorrow, but also there are times when it may be impossible to tolerate the atrocities of life without medical intervention.


A spoonful of sugar...

by TehranSoParvaz on

Laughter is the best medicine.  As a host and personality I often use humor to get my points across (especially the more controversial or critical comments.) 

However I think that the modern world has for some reason made us believe that it is wrong to feel sad.  We feel ashamed to be sad/upset/hurt/grieve.  They make all these drugs to make sure we are ALWAYS happy.  But sadness is just as much a part of life as happiness.  By denying our greif are we not denying our humanity as well?

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks for sharing, Zohreh jan.

by Anahid Hojjati on

Dear Zohreh, I hope you feel better in coming days. I know you have had a lot of rain over there and just as you wrote, all the rain and news of a loved one passing away is a specially sad combination. Thanks for sharing the story of different color clothes being turned to black just in time for funeral. I had not heard or seen that. Your account of funerals in Iran is accurate. Lot of eating and some giggling once in a while. But when a person dies and they are not that old, there is always more sadness. Zohreh jan, with the hope of better days ahead.