In need of good medicine

Laughter helped our family through many heartaches. Here my dad, Ray Walker, far right, is pictured with his brothers and sister in 1940. They are, from left, Dr. Paul Walker, Ruth Walker, and Robert Walker. (Walker family photo)

You know what? We need to laugh more! We should demand television show reruns of The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, Cheers, and Friends during prime-time hours. Who needs more bad news, murder, lawlessness, and unsolved mysteries? We have an abundance of those in our daily lives. Instead, we need a Jackie, a Lucy, a Norm, or a Pheobe to lighten our moods.

I was born into a family who adored life’s funny and foolish antics.  My Dad was voted “The Wittiest” in high school. He never changed; he could energize a group with his over-the-top wit. Everyone loved him because he shared his humor and cherished other’s smiles.

Dad’s brothers and sister were his best friends throughout life. My Aunt Ruth passed away earlier than the others. She lived in Seattle, and folks say any writing talent I possess is attributed to her. When she wrote letters, they prompted giggles and rereads.

When I visited her in Seattle during the 1962 Worlds Fair, she was heading to the drug store early one morning. “Lynn, wanna’ go with me?” I recall not wanting to but instead responded, “Sure!”

When we paused at the greeting card section, she began reading the amusing cards aloud, making funny faces, using body language, and generating hilarity. Folks gathered around, enjoying the comedy show in the middle of a drug store on a  sunny Saturday morning.

During the July trip, I saw incredible sights and stored priceless memories. But a lasting highlight was the laughter collected in the middle of Walgreens from an aunt who treasured the frivolity of life.

My Uncle Paul was the oldest sibling of the Walker four. He was a respected surgeon who you would think would be the most serious and studious of the gang. You would think wrong. He possessed a roaring belly laugh and a repertoire of jokes and pranks that could also amuse a crowd.

Robert was the serious one. He was also blessed with more cash flow than the others, yet they all jokingly teased him because he drove the worst car, never spent money on new golf balls, and earned the reputation from his mother as “Poor Robert.”

Of course, Poor Robert was not poor but rich with kindness and brilliance. He continually laughed and adored his comical best friends.

Part of the golf group my dad, Ray Walker, and his brother, Robert Walker, enjoyed. They’re the two on the right. (Walker family photo)

When he died a few years before my father, Dad was standing with a group of Robert’s fellow golfing buddies after the funeral. They all felt grief for their friend and brother. Dad was devastated because now, the fab four was down to one.

Suddenly, my father, recognizing the shared pain, lifted them all with one question, “Did anyone remember to put the golf ball retriever in the casket with Bob? If he can’t hunt for lake-soaked lost golf balls on the course in heaven, he will not enjoy paradise!”

They began to laugh and understand how the playful times we remember ease our misery, grief, and loss.

Humor is undoubtedly a gift we often take lightly. The four Walker siblings lost their father and a toddler sister to the Spanish Flu in February 1920. So many relatives passed away that year that Dad said, “Each day was filled with fear that another loved one would leave.”

The fabulous funny four used humor to survive the brutality of life. They entertained each other and laughed at themselves. Everyone enjoyed their outlandish and humorous ways, yet the siblings knew what heartache could accomplish if it consumed them.

My cousin Bobby recalls walking by my grandmother’s home as a young boy and hearing cackling laughter and slapping knees from folks gathered on her front porch.

And boy, do we need to hear more of it today.

Are we losing our insight into the meaning of laughter? When we applaud, ridicule, disrespect, and are rude because we think it’s funny, we abuse the happy blessing of humor.

When a former president mocked a disabled person, I knew it was terribly insensitive, but when the crowd laughed at his crude remark and gestures, I felt such shame my skin crawled.

Instead, God smiles when we use the gift of humor to lift another. That’s what we should do with our spirits. We boost ourselves and others with a cheerful heart, not a spiteful one.

As a direct descendant of a bunch of clowns, I inherited silliness. It has healed many heartaches, just as it did for my father.

I still read comical cards in the drugstore, and when I do, I recall my Aunt Ruth’s infectious merriment and these words: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up bones.”  – Proverbs: 17:22

We need to provide more medicine to the world before we are nothing but broken bones.

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