Comedian Steve Martin used to do a routine in which he envisioned his post-death conversation with God.
“Mr. Martin,” the Lord began. “Do you know how many times you took my name in vain?”
Of course, Martin indicated no.
Martin paused, titled his head, and replied, “Jesus Christ.”
To this day, I still laugh at Martin’s routine because it makes me appreciate the humor in death. Last week I told two other employees about my tumor surgery and other assorted medical issues. It was in a three-way conversation that one began discussing various medical problems he was experiencing. After listening, I matter-of-factly stated, “… back in 2019; doctors gave me a two-year useable life window. Eighteen months ago, they pulled a large tumor from my neck. So, to be here talking with you both is a privilege in a lot of ways.” In essence, what I hinted at for a year, I finally said aloud. What I was saying was, “Yeah, life is a bitch, and by the way, I have cancer. I am dying. Hey, what’s on the cafeteria menu for lunch? I’m hungry.” And this is what I’ve done for a year-and-a-half: I found humor in dying.
A few weeks back, Human Resources requested every employee to update Personal Development Plan. Human Resources knows I am dying. Yet, they require the dying man to complete a personal development plan. So I opened our company’s Workday Software, began with a mission statement.
“I’ve never died before and decided ‘death’ would be this year’s principal goal. Goal: Peaceful Death. Completion Date: 12/31/2021, but maybe sooner.”
I told my former boss in California what I had done and thought he’d require medical assistance from laughter.
Somewhere in the world walks the world’s worst Chief Information Risk Officer. Unfortunately, like a lost puppy, Lou landed on our doorstep. And we were gullible enough to adopt him. Lou always required a one-page ‘Bottom Line Up Front‘ (BLUF) report for any project impacting the operation, personal development plans included. As a result, he forever paced the hallways demanding a BLUF. If satisfied with the answer, Lou finished his request with ‘Awesome.’ “Joe, gimme the BLUF. Awesome.” Or, “Anne, what’s the BLUF? Awesome.” Once completed, the BLUF’s requestor was forced to defend it during the Information Technology Steering Committee (SteerCo).
After pressing ‘Submit,’ I momentarily imagined Lou’s response.
“Nah, we can’t approve your personal development plan. Can you do a POC (proof of concept) for us and submit your results?”
“Sure, Lou. Awesome.”
It turns out, instead of rapid decline, I am on an ‘incremental path’ (for now) to the great beyond. Of course, that could change, but I am learning to take things positively and live better. When you’re dying, work doesn’t present the same stress level. So instead, You’re allowed a baseline ability to laugh. Human Resources experienced my new ‘baseline.’
Some poor intern recently sent an email requesting a list of employees requiring a 2022 planner and associated version. I responded, “Is there an option to purchase these in one-week or one-month increments. I may not require the full year.”
Fifteen minutes later, I received, “If you’re planning of leaving before year’s end, then you should not request a planner.”
“Damn,” I muttered.
Death humor is not limited to work only. For example, on a recent medical appointment, the doctor sent his’ resident (of the week’). (Side note; Residents are like advance’ scouts.’) Doctors send these ‘clinicians in training’ to peruse your life and ask stupid questions like “Why do you believe you’re dying?” Just once, I would like to say, “Well, nutsack, your boss said I was.” With medical records in hand, he asked if I was taking any medication. Shit, if he opened the first page of my chart, he’d see I had been prescribed some thirteen different medications. I blurted, “I was taking crack cocaine but had to stop because it was making me feel too good.”
Laughter is the yang to death’s yin. I am convinced of it. A friend once asked how I could find laughter while in significant pain. I replied that even though my body may be in considerable pain, I could still have a good day. I closed with him the following story.
Several disciples sought to learn from their Master of the lessons the Master had learned during his spiritual walk on earth.
“God first led me by the hand,” he said, “into the Land of Action, and there I dwelt for several years.” Then God led me to understand and purge my heart of every childish attachment. Shortly after that, I found myself embraced by God’s Love. Finally, in meditation, God detailed the mysteries of life and wonderment.
“Was that the final stage of your quest?” the disciples asked.
“No,” the Master said. “One day, God promises to take me to the innermost sanctuary of his Love, and I will be led to the Land of Laughter.”