Laughing In The Face Of Death

BY { 21 comments }

by Sally (unbrave girl)

I think about death a lot – like, all-the-freaking-time a lot. I think about death as much as most people think about fun, happy, pleasurable things. (Like petting puppies! I was talking about puppies! What did you think I was talking about, sicko?)

Specifically, I think about my death. Usually my death is the result of some little-known, undiagnosed disease. Of course, there were symptoms – a twitchy eyeball, a persistent cough, a sense of pending doom. Who was to know that all these were signs that I was coming down with a nasty bout of death?

Sometimes, I imagine my death as the result of a household accident – falling down the stairs, setting myself on fire with the gas range, choking on my dinner of dark chocolate and red wine. (Antioxidants, people. I need my antioxidants to keep the death away!)

When I do, in fact, venture outside of my apartment, I’m faced with even more ways I could possibly bite the dust. I could get run over by a bus or attacked by a rapid dog. I could topple into an open gutter or eat some bad food. Or I could eat some good food and some bad dessert. Or I could eat some good food and some good dessert and just end up dying anyway. (Because life is like that, you know – all ironic and stuff.)

Given the amount of time I spend worrying about my pending demise, I used to think I’d be prepared to react accordingly when death did come knocking on my door. I’d be calm and dignified. I wouldn’t whimper or cry. I would be prepared. Yep, I would be the Boy Scout of Death.

“Hello, Death,” I would say, “I’ve been expecting you. Care for a spot of tea?” (I’m always British in these scenarios, just so you know.)

Due to my preoccupation with death, I don’t tend to take a great many risks.  I don’t sky dive or bungee jump. I try to stay away from open water and open sewer grates. I don’t pet stray dogs or talk to strangers. I don’t even cross the street all that much, if I can help it.

Given my cautious nature, I have only had a few near death experiences.

How have I reacted when faced with the very real possibility of my death?

I’ve laughed.

Mind you, this wasn’t some nervous titter. This was hysterical, wheezy, knee-slapping, tears-in-my-eyes, peeing-in-my-pants kind of laughter.

This has happened three times in my life.

One time an eight-foot-tall brick wall collapsed in my wake as I was walking down a dark street in my neighborhood in Brazil. If I had been walking a touch slower or the wall had collapsed a moment sooner, I would have been crushed. I was laughing so hard while recounting the story to my baffled roommate that she thought I was joking – until she saw the wall.

Another time, I was in a speeding taxi in Philadelphia that merged onto the highway too quickly. This caused the car that was in the merging lane to skid, flip over and burst into flames a mere three feet from where I was sitting. I tried screaming at the taxi cab driver to stop. But it’s hard to scream when your mouth is busy laughing.

The first time I almost-died, though, was definitely the scariest. (And by “the scariest” I mean “filled with hysterical, inappropriate laughter.”)

While living in Japan twelve years ago, I went on a hike with some friends up a mountain in Nagano – a really, really tall mountain. We had been hiking for a couple hours, when halfway up the mountain (the really, really tall one), one of my friends and I decided to turn around and head back down. The climb had become uncomfortably steep, and after scrambling up a couple large boulders, the two of us had had enough.

On the way down, my friend, who was walking in front of me, suddenly disappeared from view. When I ran over to find out what had happened to her, I quickly discovered that she had slipped on some grass and was sliding down the side of the mountain.

How did I discover this?

Because I promptly did the exact same thing.

Did I mention this was a really, really tall mountain? With lots of big craggy, scary boulders? Oh yeah, and there were trees! Lots of them.

I’m not sure how long we slid down that mountain – it seemed like forever. We miraculously missed all the boulders and trees, and when we finally stopped sliding we were practically at the bottom. (That would be the bottom of the really, really tall mountain that we had already climbed halfway up, remember?)

We staggered shaky-kneed to an open field where we flopped down on the grass and stared up at the sky.

“I thought we were going to die,” my friend said.

“Me too,” I said.

“Then why were you laughing like that?” my friend asked.

I didn’t know what to say. After all, how do you respond when you find out that death gives you the giggles?


Read More Stories > GO

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“Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.” — Jack Handey

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Writer’s Bio: Sally is a writer, teacher, performer, photographer, traveler, eater of many things and wearer of many hats (not just pink mini-top hats with feathers). She’s also a big huge scaredy cat. Follow her at unbravegirl.com or via Twitter.


Leave a Comment

  • MaryAnne April 27, 2011 at 1:32 am edit

    Awesome! I had no idea you had nearly died so many times. After 6 years in Turkey and now 2 in China, I have faced certain death a number of times and now approach it with an almost disconcertingly jaded-casual, ‘oh, it’s you again. Yawn!’ I swear, I even roll my eyes at death. I think we’d make a great team in times of adversity- I doubt death would want to take both the shrugging blase jaded seen-it-all and the manic laughing one. I mean, death’s not that masochistic!

    Reply
    • Sally April 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm edit

      Wait. NOW you tell me that Death is your BFF after we hung out together for a whole weekend. You really should have given me some warning or something — you know, so I could bring along my bulletproof vest or something.

      Reply
  • Kim April 27, 2011 at 1:35 am edit

    Hilarious post! Sally is so funny. Your laughing at death response is about the same as my smiling at horrible news issue.

    Reply
  • Raymond April 27, 2011 at 2:58 am edit

    Death is not a laughing matter! Hee hee…

    Great post! VERY funny… :)

    Reply
  • Torre DeRoche April 27, 2011 at 9:29 am edit

    I know you’re a triplet, but are you sure you’re not a quadruplet, Sally? Because I’m pretty sure, with all your fears and phobias, that I’m of your clan.

    Either we were separated at birth, or we’re both suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

    Reply
  • Nomadic Chick April 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm edit

    Absolutely adored this post! “Death gives me the giggles.”

    Enough said. If you ever get a chance, read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Yeah, it’s a comic, but a brilliant one. Death is a punky goth girl, who has a killer sense of humour.

    I think 3 times means Sally and death are friends.

    Reply
  • Sally April 27, 2011 at 2:49 pm edit

    You’re going to have to fight MaryAnne up there… she is also my twin (but apparently my twin who doesn’t fear twins… so we’re apparently not the identical type).

    Reply
    • Sally April 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm edit

      That comment was meant for you, Torre. (Sorry, I get confused replying to comments on my own blog — this whole replying to comments on my blog post on someone else’s blog is totally doing my head in!)

      Reply
  • Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures April 27, 2011 at 5:08 pm edit

    Sally, as with everything you write, I really loved this post! Alas, I can’t say death gives me the giggles!

    Reply
  • Ian [EagerExistence] April 27, 2011 at 6:10 pm edit

    Guess you have a guardian angel looking after you.
    I have a few “Holy Sh*t” moments myself; usually drunk.
    Once I slipped off a 2 storey building roof, onto a pile of bricks. Just brusies and minor bleeding.
    Another time, I managed to run 8km along busy train tracks, without getting hit.

    …stupid I know.

    Reply
  • Debbie Beardsley April 27, 2011 at 6:20 pm edit

    This was a very enjoyable post to read! I really do like your style of writing and your humor shines through! I don’t know if I have ever actually faced death so I don’t know how I’d react but I hope I would laugh. It is sure better than crying.

    Reply
  • Lorna - the roamantics April 27, 2011 at 7:24 pm edit

    hilarious!!! i think you may just be a cat sally! and i think it’s fitting that i nearly died by laughing/choking on my easter candy while reading this :)

    Reply
  • Tracy April 28, 2011 at 5:46 am edit

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who thinks about this kind of stuff … like all the time. When I was a kid I had this irrational fear of swallowing my tongue. I was convinced that was how I would die one day. And invisible cars … one of these days I just know I’m going to cross a road and get hit by an invisible car. I know it’s insane, death is probably laughing at me for this fear, it’s never going to happen … but what if it did? You’d never see it coming!

    Now I have kids and I just get to be paranoid about them being the victims of stupid accidents!

    Reply
  • Roy | cruisesurfingz April 30, 2011 at 7:20 am edit

    Wow, I guess you’re lucky! Or maybe unlucky if you think about death so much!!

    Reply
  • cary herold May 3, 2011 at 11:36 pm edit

    Stopped part ways through due to laughter and taking it all in. Good stuff can’t wait to get back to.

    Reply