By Ronald Cypress

People may think my family is an odd bunch, but we’re a good unit that is very stable. Yes, people see us, and they say that’s the family that loves to laugh. They’re always laughing. And that’s the truth. For us it’s the old adage, laughter is the best medicine. It’s what we were taught. It’s more than just a remedy, but it is also the best way to go about this life. You just have to laugh.

The first time I can remember receiving this lesson was when I was about four or five and fell out of a tree in our backyard. My brother Jim had been climbing with me when I my foot slipped on a branch and I went falling to the ground. I wasn’t hurt too bad, but my first response was to start crying because that’s what kids usually do when they have an accident. My mom was out in the yard and heard my wailing. She came rushing over to us. As she was coming over, Jim was already standing beside me and laughing. He was laughing harder than I had ever seen him laugh before. Mom reached me and I saw that she was laughing too. She picked me up off the ground and in a very sweet voice told me to stop crying.

“Come on and laugh, child,” she said. “You’ll feel so much better. Laugh. Come one.”

She laughed and my sobs began to calm down. I tried to imitate her, but my laughs were weak.

Later on, I would get the hang of it. Like the rest of my family I would commit to a life filled with laughter. Did this make me stand out? It sure did. Even with the reputation that my family had around town, I was still seen as an odd girl while growing up. There were several times during elementary school that I would burst out into laughter during class. Most of the time I just got a look from the teacher. The worst it got was that I was forced to see some people, and the teacher whose class I interrupted insisted that there was something wrong with me, claiming that I had some type rare disease that forced me to laugh uncontrollably, but the laughter was very much voluntary. I guess most people just don’t understand. We get this one great gift as humans, and yet many of us are so afraid to use it as much as we can.

My family insists on being devoted to laughter. When people pass away in our family it is typical to see my immediate family sitting together during the funeral and laughing as we prepare to bury the departed. Some people have refused to come to anymore of our funerals because of this behavior, something they call odd and a little disrespectful. Most people just don’t get us. Why shouldn’t we laugh at death? It’s going to happen to us all. Something so inevitable is not meant to be taken seriously.

We laugh at everything. My Aunt Rae got cancer last year, and while she was lying in her bed sick from treatment several family members filled her house with laughter. She’s doing much better now, and I’m certain the laughing was the strongest treatment she received. My younger brother, Tommy, was paralyzed after being hit by a car while riding his bike. We all knew that laughing wasn’t going to make him walk again, but it still helped the situation, and Tommy was ready to stick with our customs even after he found out that he would never walk again. Nowadays, it’s Tommy who does most of the laughing in our family. I would say he and my sister Naomi laugh more than anyone else in the family.

Naomi wasn’t much of a laugher until an incident happened during her senior year in high school. She had been out with some boy and something happened that left her a little bit bruised and damaged. I was too young to understand what had happened at the time, but I remember my parents talking to Naomi about, telling her that she just had to laugh really hard to get over any pain she may have been feeling. They were right. Naomi’s laugh more than doubled in volume, and I noticed that her whole body seemed to be affected when she was laughing.

Laughter is a miracle, and I would like to make more people realize this. We’ve been called all kinds of things that would be insulting to most, but we know whom we are and what we’ve got. The other day, my dad and I were talking about the days when there were more people in the house and how we often missed meals because there wasn’t enough food. We were laughing the entire we talked about those days, laughing so hard that I actually began to cry a little. I don’t care what anyone says, that type of laughter, the one that brings about tears, is the best kind.

Laughter is a gift and a privilege that more people need to cherish while they can do it. People can call it odd to use it so much, but if it feels so good shouldn’t we indulge in it as much as possible? It almost seems odd not to take advantage of the ability. And now I am starting to laugh as I finish this. It’s going to be a good bout, and if I can really get into it, there may even be tears.