Friday, June 01, 2012

Why would I stop laughing?

Those of us in the United States missed "Dying Matters Awareness Week" in the United Kingdom (May 14-20).  Of course, here in the US, we would have called it "Death Panels Week" and skewed the entire presidential campaign around it.  But they seem to have a more sensible approach to end-of-life issues on the other side of the Pond.  You can help plan the next DMA Week (May 13-19, 2013) here.

Comedian Alexei Sayle produced this short video, entitled "Last Laugh," to help people confront attitudes about terminal illness.  It brought back some things I learned from my late friend Monique Doyle Spencer.  She noticed that you sometimes had to edit your friendships once you were terminally ill, in that some people just are not able to be helpful and spend their time with you focusing on their problems.  As someone in this video says, "You tend to be drawn to people who make you laugh."

Take a look.  Click here if you cannot see the video.


Leo Monteiro said...

A good topic that this country needs to address proactively. I had no idea that you knew Monique; she was a wonderful person and an inspiration. Ive spent the last 8 years at BI in outpatient Hem/onc and it is a rewarding and challenging job. Ive met the most amazing and courageous folks.

e-Patient Dave said...


Brilliant. I don't know why I haven't heard anything like this, but I'm tellin' EVERYone.

Pamela Ressler said...

Fabulous, thanks for sharing this Paul. There are a range of emotions when dealing with end of life...laughter and joy complete the picture.

Bart Windrum said...

The issue of exactly how vital we remain even when close to death came home so greatly to me during my dad's demise. His was MRSA-oriented and non-heroic (unlike Mom he wasn't intubated in an ICU for weeks on end). So he was very much alive, and our life-force is truly vital in its nature.

Along those lines, living life with vitality when dying, are several related threads. Since "death has been brought into life" (Sharon Kaufman, …And a Time to Die" via medical technology, and since putting oneself on a glidepath for a peaceful demise requires that we respond to the distinction between living with what ails us vs dying from what ails us (paraphrase of Joanne Lynne), the notion of vitality while dying is paramount.

Great stuff for our attention.

Claudia said...

I posted this on my Facebook page. When my mother was diagnoses with cancer of the bile duct she sat in the hospital room and said "I feel like jumping out the window."

I told her you would be dead a lot quicker than you should be. She laughed and said "you're right"

She had a good quality of life for the next three and a half years.

Paul Levy said...

Comments picked up from Cancer Survivors Network at the ACS (

relaxedoutdoors: Laughing makes everything better. We all need to laugh and enjoy life no matter what. Laughing helps all of us. Thanks for the Video.

tootsie1: That was delightful! Not something I'd expect to say about a video on the subject of dying, but it really was lovely. Thanks for sharing!

Varmint5: And I really needed to see this and get away from the doom and gloom on other sites. It made me remember some of the hospice patients I cared for over the years and how most of them did not want to spend all their time actively "dying" until they had no choice but wanted to have normalcy and even fun. And I'm not the type of nurse to sit there and pat them and pity them unless that's what they want/need at that particular time. Thanks for the link which also linked me up with some fond yet bittersweet memories from my years as a nurse.

taraHK: Excellent! Thanks so much for sharing.

I especially liked the comments about 'toxic friends' (well, she phrased it more politely!) and wanting to be around people who make you laugh. Yes, yes, yes!

Anonymous said...

Great site!

True story. When I had been over medicated during chemotherapy, I fell out of bed to the floor. Dazed and half conscious I looked up at the nurse. She asked, Sir, do you know where you are?

I said yes, I'm on the damn floor.