Nearly every morning, I get a text with a funny message, cartoon, or video from my husband, Michael. A doodler in high school who grew up to be a man obsessed with quirky, clever cartoons, he uses art and humor to make his way through the ups and downs of life.
There are some days when I laugh out loud at the texts he sends and other days when I think to myself, what would I ever do without him?
Michael’s humor is healing. He makes fun of himself and the world, of the beliefs that imprison us, and of the ways in which we humans can make such a mess of things. This week I’m happy to tell you about a book Michael’s been working on for more than three years – a story that highlights the healing power of humor in a most unusual way – to help a loved one face death.
Postcards from the Cosmic Club of Everlasting Souls is a story about his niece, Marina, who lost her battle with leukemia at the age of twenty-four. During two years of hospital visits, Michael and Marina tackle the topic of dying in a way few people do – with laughter, jokes, and playful conversations about God, the nature of illness, and what happens when we die.
Most of us don’t like to talk about death. Instead, we ignore the topic until we have no choice. Together Michael and Marina face this challenge head-on and what unfolds is a touching story that left me with three important realizations I wanted to share with you this week.
First, we need to talk more openly about death and dying. While it’s frightening to face our mortality, I’ve come to see that avoiding the conversation actually makes things worse. As Michael and I watched Marina go through the process of dying, it was both comforting and inspiring to witness her willingness to name and discuss the elephant in the room.
The second realization has to do with an agreement Michael and Marina made before she died – something I’ve done with loved ones as a result. When it came time to say goodbye, Marina made a promise: “If there’s a cosmic club for everlasting souls,” she told Michael, “I’ll be sure to send you a postcard – one you can’t deny.”
And she did.
The sign Marina sends to Michael is a miraculous part of the story that to him (and me) helped confirm that there’s much more to our existence than meets the eye. I won’t spoil the story by sharing it here, but I will tell you that when I’m missing my dad or our cat Poupon, I remember Marina’s gift and I instantly feel better.
The final realization is what inspired this blog in the first place and that’s the healing power of humor. As someone who tends to lean heavily on the serious side of life, I couldn’t imagine cracking jokes or engaging in belly-laughs and banter with someone lying on her deathbed. But that perspective has changed. During the pandemic, with death splashed across the news every day, I never would have imagined that Michael’s project, started three years ago, would be so relevant today. His relationship with Marina, both in this world and the next, provides an unusual roadmap for how humor and honesty can open a door to the kind of intimate, meaningful conversations we all long for, especially at the end of one’s life. May we all be brave enough to talk about the truth before the time comes.
To check out Michael’s new book (and his wild and wacky sense of humor), you can visit him here.
PS – Starting on February 25th, I’ll be teaching a yearlong program with my colleague, Russ Hudson, author of The Wisdom of the Enneagram, called: “Learning to Trust Your Instincts.” You can read more about it, here.
PPS – Need a good boost of self-care? Join me and my friend, John Holland, on Sunday, February 21st, for “Self-Care, Soul Care.” You can learn more, here.