Laughter is the best medicine. How many times have we heard this phrase? Experts say it’s good for our health. Among other benefits, it boosts the immune system, relaxes the muscles, and reduces stress by releasing endorphins, making you feel less burdened. I’m a firm believer of this theory. Who doesn’t need a little less stress in their life? But as a teenager I was convinced that one could die of too much laughter.
You see, my father was constantly telling jokes and making funny remarks. When we gathered with family or friends, he was the proverbial life of a party. He was loved by everyone, young and old. No one could make me laugh like he did, and sometimes I’d laugh so much I couldn’t stop. I’d lose my breath, literally. During those terrifying incidents, my lungs felt like they would burst, and I would have to isolate myself in a place where I could calm myself down and breathe air back into my lungs. I did this in secrecy, worried I’d be made fun of. In hindsight, it was probably more in fear that my father would stop making me laugh.
But can you die from too much laughter, I’d sometimes ask myself?
Not according to my father. Laughter adds years to a person’s life, he would always say. I believe that’s why he lived a long and healthy one. To this day, I’m terrified of losing my breath, which is probably the reason I’m not a good swimmer. Staying underwater for more than ten seconds is an impossible feat for me. Being stuck in the MRI tube holding my breath for twenty seconds at a time is pure torture. Not to talk about plunging down a sharp drop in a roller coaster. The first and last time I ever tried it, I thought I wasn’t going to make it out alive. But I’m not terrified of laughing anymore. Now that my father is no longer on this earth, I miss his clever jokes and his positive outlook in life. He taught me to always look on the bright side of things and to never stop laughing, so I look for humor wherever I can find it—in a baby’s gesture, a puppy’s cute trick, a funny movie or book, but often I look for it in my memories of him. Sometimes, though, I long to experience those breath-stealing, lung-bursting, all-consuming laughing fits, because despite the agony they brought, they marked some of the happiest moments of my life.
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