Laughter and Tears

Laughter and Tears

I wander about not certain whether to laugh or cry. Do I greet the world with sarcasm or sadness?  I commit myself to the intention of making at least one person laugh every day. It’s not hard to accomplish in the glare of the absurdity that smacks us in the face. The silliness of human pretensions. The ridiculousness of each person’s futile efforts to sculpt the world into their own image, to manifest their own desires and beliefs. There is more than enough to laugh at in every hour of the day. Myself included, with my particular weird preoccupations, glaring shortcomings and peculiar preferences. If nothing else is available I can always get people to laugh at me.

It is in laughter that we bond. The shared delight in recognizing how funny everyday life is, connects us. Laughter comforts us in the face of fear. It warms us from the cold of separation and loneliness. At the same time, the human heart is heavy with poignancy. The inevitability of sickness, death and loss takes from us our most precious and prized companions. We lose our lovers, our friends, those who have taken care of us and those we have cared for with the deepest devotion. We know this and yet we are shocked each time it happens.

On top of a Ferris wheel in the warmth of the Florida sun, a breeze blowing our car gently back and forth, I rest my head on his shoulder. There doesn’t need to be anything else, no time before or after this exquisite moment. That was all I needed from knowing him.

We are startled each time someone is taken from us. Each time the person we valued disappears into another variation of themselves. A variation that doesn’t want us; a variation that doesn’t recognize us; a variation that no longer knows us.

There is the mother who mistakes her son for a shoe salesman. Thirty years later he is still shocked by the loss. Astounded by how his maternal companion turned away, momentarily let go of his arm and then looked back with eyes that had forgotten his face, his name, his place in her heart.

Losing people fills us with a connection to all of humanity. The emptiness of loss is what we share. Along with our fear of knowing that inevitably nothing will last. In spite of knowing, as we do, that everyone will leave and everything will end, we share in the delusion that we can hold on.

We cling like bats hanging upside down on a limb. We cling like ticks embedded in the skin. We blindly march like ants down a hill into a crack in the sidewalk pretending we don’t know that a fall lies ahead. Pretending that we don’t know that not all of us will make it. Forgetting that the most glorious experience only lasts for one ecstatic moment. Having a glimpse into that truth, now and then, seeing with awe how it all fits together on a warm, rainy day, sitting beneath an upside-down umbrella, there is laughter and there are tears.

Madlynn Haber

Madlynn Haber is a retired social worker and writer living in Northampton, Massachusetts.  Her work has been published in the anthology Letters to Fathers from Daughters, in Anchor Magazine, Exit 13 Magazine and on websites including: A Gathering of the Tribes, The Voices Project, The Jewish Writing Project, Quail Bell Magazine, Mused Literary Review, Hevria, Right Hand Pointing, Mothers Always Write, Mum Life Stories, Random Sample and Club Plum Literary Journal. You can view her work at


  1. Decent primer on life philosophy but honestly i was hoping for more.

  2. I am more than satisfied with just what was on the page! So much to ponder and to savor, Madelaine. Thanks for sharing!

  3. That previous comment was off mark it's not supposed to be anything close to a plato's philosophy of life. a mirco-essay at best that worked well for what it was intended.

    1. Agreed! I thought it was a very moving piece, a glimpse into the truth of our fleeting existence

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