The funny bone that breaks our hearts
Something we might enjoy in a novel or movie. You know, an unexpected twist in a story. An almost-amusing turn of events. An online dictionary offers this example: “It was ironic that I was seated next to my ex at the dinner.” Depending upon one’s relationship with an ex such an experience might not be so delightful. Not funny as in ha, ha but funny as in really!? of all the seats in this banquet hall… (squirm/fume/laugh to keep from crying). Which is to say that irony may intrigue us in fiction but not so much in real life.
Life in a coronavirus world seems way more focused on death than on life. Ironic, isn’t it? And how almost-amusing that we have been conducting a census during a pandemic. But not funny ha, ha. It’s tragic. As death often is. Because death is always an interruption of life. And this living, breathing, walking around life is all we know with any certainty. Death takes someone out of this reality and away from those of us who remain in it. And when that someone is a friend, a relative, a partner, a young person it hurts. The loss might even break our hearts. But now even the deaths of total strangers unnerve us. Isn’t it ironic that we are devoting so much of our time and energy to tracking the death toll rather than tracing the possibilities for life even in a pandemic?
People die every day. And not just one or two. But now we’re alarmed by the numbers and frightened by the cause. In fact, last week the news broke that the coronavirus is rapidly becoming the number one cause of death in our country. Isn’t it ironic that that sounds like a competition? (It appears to be lagging just behind heart disease). But this is not funny ha, ha. It’s sad. And yet the topic continues to consume us.
Not that if we ignore it, it will go away. Hardly. Death is here to stay for the foreseeable future. And the number one cause of it is birth. Merely being ushered into this reality – something that was never our idea – we may rest assured we will at some moment in time and in some particular manner be escorted out of it. It’s one thing to be aware of how vicious this virus is, doing all that we can to avoid making its acquaintance, and quite another thing to be so obsessed with the potential death it wields in its wake that we fail to live fully in this reality we have been given in the moment. Death will come to us and to those we love and it will not come by invitation. Maybe it’s the craziest irony of all that having entered this reality we didn’t choose we will be required to release it in the long (or short) run. Which is to say that this little piece of nonfiction is part of our real life whether we like it or not. And if we have any inkling of how precious it is to live and breathe and walk around, death will always be the funny (not ha, ha) bone that breaks our hearts and sets them free.
Rev. Rebecca Taylor is pastor at First Presbyterian Church. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org