Tuesday October 20th 2020

THE LAST LAUGH – Shuffling Off This Mortal Coil, in our slippers, with a decent whisky to hand

We’re dying – all of us are, but some with a little more haste than others. We two who are writing this column have been given timelines which can be counted in months. Facing your own mortality raises several questions: how can I get one of those lovely Ghanaian coffin makers to fashion me one in the shape of a giant cock? What sort of contest can I organise for my friends to see who gets the playstation in my will? Does this mean I get a license to take medicinal marijuana? And – what will people remember us for? We hope that some of you, at least, will remember The Last Laugh.

For Lucy and Andrew

A friend of ours just lost his sister. Terribly careless thing to do, really. She was a lovely woman, small dusting of freckles on her nose, mouth like a toilet, maker of several truly disgusting casseroles, and winner of at least four small regional cha-cha contests. He should have been paying more attention, one feels. All those hours he spent with her in the last months, walking, talking, and, when there was nothing else left to do, reading to her, rubbing her hands, playing music to her, and then right at the end what does he go and do? He loses her. Her body is right where he last saw it, but she, she is gone.

As a bright young thing, I recall laying my grandmother to rest. She must have been bloody tired, because that was a full 17 years ago and the old biddy is still resting. And I’m not really sure what exhausted her so, the most exercise I ever saw her take was walking to the kitchen and back 23 times a day to put the kettle on. She did put a hell of a lot of oomph into her hugs though, I’ll give her that. And you could tell from all the wrinkles that she’d been laughing for the majority of her 60 odd years on the planet.  (Very odd indeed, for those of you wondering – including a walking tour of South America, an unexpected cameo in a Hollywood movie, knitting a comforter for my uncle’s raccoon, and inventing the recipe for Mustard Mackerel with Melon Mousse, which is not nearly as delectable as its alliterative title would suggest.)

Jack, a mysterious neighbour of indeterminate years, and, some might add, slightly perverted habits, breathed his last on the 10th of August. His last must have included, as most of his breaths in the several years he lived there, the acrid hint of the chippy down the road, the whiff of the unlabelled brandy on the bedside table, and one would guess not a little of his own personal stench, best described as a cross between schoolboy locker room and recently flushed but not quite enough toilet.

But these are, at least, euphemisms aiming at giving those left behind a sense of softness, grace, mercy, ease. There are several that are more disturbing, to any thinking person. I, for one, am in no hurry to meet my maker…as that would be my mum and dad, and they’re quite fine as they are, you know, walking and talking and in possession of all of their limbs and faculties. We’re not entirely sure we’d like to become history either, as that usually causes people several yawns and headaches, and implies a sort of tedious worthiness. We definitely don’t want to receive our own death warrants, or bite the dust – disgusting, you have it on our authority, please do NOT try this at home – or kick the bucket, as everyone knows stubbing your toe is quite the most painful thing imaginable.

And we’d like to make it abundantly clear that neither of us intend giving up the ghost. Oh no, we shall relish the ghost greatly. We have several haunting plans in place, including harassing some of our more annoying colleagues by constantly tipping their coffee mug as they’re just about to sip, hitting delete on our friends’ keyboards when they make grammatical errors we are no longer physically able to berate them for, and leaving white feathers where people least expect it, in ultimate Disney style, just when they thought they might be starting to forget us. Not on your life, folks.

Joining the choir invisible, and pushing up daisies are not, in themselves, unpleasant things. Provided the choir is half decent. But given the number of recently deceased, there’s bound to be a couple of good voices to go round. Of course, the devil gets all the good music, but if that lovely Christian myth is true then, given our recent comments about the religion we’re sure as hell bound for the fiery place, so that’s all right then. Good for roasting marshmallows.

And while there have been times when one of us has been proud to be described as stiff, any medically minded person will assure you stiffness is but a small part of what happens when you die. Oh I’m sorry, did I upset you then, you know, when I said “Die”? Such a small word, but then again, it’s always the small words that are the hardest, isn’t it? Please. Sorry. Love. Die. The smallest of all, but the hardest for many to get their mouths around – minds around, would be fairer.

And, although some of those that know us best might not believe us, this whole column hasn’t been one overindulgent excuse to direct you all to the video of the 419 scammer getting his own back on the Nigerians by making them do the Monty Python Parrot Sketch .

Instead, what we are trying to say is that Death is not a four letter word, no matter which way you cut it. This fear we live in of dying, of even mentioning it, is not healthy. It stops us from truly living: no one can live in a constant state of fear, although some form of “existence” might be possible. Death hurts – not those who die, but those who live on. Look it in the eye, acknowledge it, but do not let it beat you. Live on, with hope, with kindness, and with a whole heap of laughter.

2 Comments for “THE LAST LAUGH – Shuffling Off This Mortal Coil, in our slippers, with a decent whisky to hand”

  • Jane says:

    I absolutely love your irreverant humour, and ability to laugh in the face of..well, everything really! Keep up the good work, look forward to reading many, many more blogs =)

  • Last Laugh says:

    Thank you Jane. One has to laugh, as the saying goes. We look forward to writing more 🙂


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