How My Son Helped Me to Laugh Again After My Brother’s Death


Sometimes, on a very rare occasion, my husband refers to me as a chucklehead. I’m always a little surprised when he does. 

There was a time in my life when I was funny and lighthearted and perhaps even a chucklehead. But that was the Jen of years ago; the Jen back before my brother died.

I don’t want to admit that the sadness and heartache and grief have won, but if I’m honest, I realize in these moments that it has.

On December 11, 1981, my brother, Garrett, was born into the world, and for 20 years he filled it with laughter. My last memory of him involved some sort of flatulence and hysterics. His sense of humor was not only entertaining but a source of sanity during difficulty. His humor brought the perfect comedic relief to tense conversations (which my family loves), and it was a reminder that life didn’t have to be so serious. More than anything — he was just fun.

But then he died.

And when he did, he left a gaping hole. Funny just didn’t feel right without him anymore.

My children are getting older, and this anniversary isn’t as easy to acknowledge on my own. Now I have two little guys who look a lot like their uncle, and they want to know why Mommy is sad, how Uncle Garrett died and what he was like.

So I’m curled up on the dining room floor with my son, Isaac, and I’m crying and telling him all about his uncle and how his middle name is Allen just like Garrett’s was. And I’m remembering how funny he was and how much I miss that and how little I laugh like I used to.

And then it occurs to me that Isaac, my son whose middle name is in honor of my brother, means “to laugh.” And I believe there might be something to that. Some gift that God tucked away into this whole hellish kind of grief to emerge and find one day in the future while crumpled on my floor, wondering how to find that laughter again.

I wrap my arms around my son and take a deep breath, and I am thankful for the laughter that has returned.

Follow this journey on Jennifer’s website.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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