Dark Humour for Dark Days

There’s a story—perhaps it’s true. During World War II Ghurkha officers were not counted at curfew as some would slip into the enemy encampment with their khukuris (15-inch curved blades). However, the following morning all would be accounted for at roll call.

It is reported that officers awakening in the enemy camp would say, “Well, we lived through another night.” To which would come the reply, “Shake your head.”

I’ve attended three funerals in as many weeks (all too personal, too young and too final). That, together with the relentless heaviness of events reported world-wide and coastal mists shrouding the sodden trees, perhaps explains why the war-time anecdote—from an obituary—was the best laugh I’ve had all week.

The sentiment now-a-days seems to be that the dearly departed would want us to be happy. They wouldn’t want us to feel bad. They would want us to move on. How they would have enjoyed the celebration, seeing all the people they loved enjoying themselves together.

Whatever happened to sackcloth and ashes? Once upon a time rending of garments, weeping and gnashing of teeth were de rigueur.

I wonder whether it might be heartening if people could count while alive—even if only on one hand—family and friends who might be shattered for a significant period of time by their passing. I wonder how much more people might enjoy their existence if that assurance were their touchstone today.

In the absence of such consolation perhaps the most satisfying alternative might well be: Shake your head.

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