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Well-done humor can lift spirits at funeral

By Dink Nesmith Funerals aren’t supposed to be funny but appropriate humor can ease sad situations. People die twice. The first death comes when the heart stops, the second death when the stories and memories stop. When I share with you just one of Betty’s stories, you’ll know she’ll ‘live’ among her family and friends forever. Betty was a Mississippi belle, a school teacher. Her future husband spotted her in the choir loft, singing one Sunday morning 60-plus years ago. Pretty, smart and pencilthin, Betty had a dry wit, one of her many beautiful attributes. When she twisted her face and launched a one-liner out of the corner of her mouth, the circle of people around her howled. Betty was a comic. Here’s one story a son told at her funeral. I bet Betty was listening, enjoying the biggest laugh. His parents were in a casserole club. They started as young parents seeking fellowship and entertainment on a low budget. Members took turns hosting the suppers. When Betty’s turn came, tuna casserole was the main dish. While the couples were gathered in the den, Betty excused herself to the kitchen to check on the casserole that was cooling on the counter. When she walked into the room ‘“ uh-oh! The family’s cat had been sniffing what was cooking and was curious. Betty spotted the cat licking the top of the tuna dish. Cats do like fish. Without panicking, Betty scooped up the cat and hustled to the back door. With the cat in the yard, she scurried over to inspect the casserole. Well, there was a salad and dessert, but the casserole was the featured item of the evening. It didn’t look too bad, so she took a spatula and smoothed over the top. Meal time came and went. When the last guest was gone, Betty and her husband got the house back in order and cleaned up the kitchen. Around 1 a.m., all the chores were done except taking out the trash. When Betty opened the back door, she almost stepped on the cat. ‘What’s wrong?’ she said aloud. Kneeling down, she realized their pet was dead. Uh-oh. What to do now? After conferring with her spouse, Betty decided there was only one thing to do: ‘˜fess up. She started dialing, waking up her friends. One by one, she told sleepy people about the incident in the kitchen with the cat. Then she explained about how she found the dead cat on the doormat. She advised everyone who ate tuna casserole, ‘The safest thing to do would be to go to the nearest hospital emergency room and have your stomach pumped.’ Twelve people got out of bed, switched from pajamas to street clothes and headed to get their supper sucked from their tummies into a huge syringe. By sunrise, everyone had been relieved of the suspect tuna casserole. But the story doesn’t stop there. Around 9 a.m., Betty heard a knock on the back door. Her next-door neighbor apologized for the early visit. ‘Last night, you had company,’ he said, ‘so I didn’t want to disturb you.’ He paused for a moment, apparently thinking of what to say. ’Yes,’ Betty prompted. ’Well, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘Last night, I ran over your cat. I didn’t want to interrupt your party, so I just put the kitty by the back door.’ Dink NeSmith is president of Community Newspapers Inc. and represents the 10th Congressional District on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.

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