The Laughter of Grief – 15th Story for the Inspirational Book


There’s an old saying that goes something like this, ‘If you want to make God laugh, tell him what you’ll be doing tomorrow.’ It’s an adage that I’ve come to believe in greatly over the years and it’s one which has helped me to see the lighter-side-of-life when carefully made plans have gone haywire.

But on that cold, frosty January morning I wasn’t particularly at ease with God’s sense of humour. It was supposed to be the day that I was taking my daughter back to school following the Christmas break; the day that I had planned to clear my office of all the junk I seem to accumulate during the course of a year’s writing; and most significantly it was the day that I had set aside to oil reels and polish rods in preparation for spring and the start of a new fishing season. Instead I was sitting on the backseat of a taxi, on my way to see my dying father.

There’s a magic in fishing that only those with a fervour for it can fully understand. It takes you to a place of mist filled mornings and long summer days where time stands still; a place where myths and legends – the one that got away – lurk in the reed-beds of tranquil pools and bubbling streams; a place where mother nature plots the pattern of the day and where all men – kings, presidents and paupers are equal; a place where childhood dreams are re-lived and new adventures unfold.

So it was for my father and me. We lived and shared our dreams together on lakesides and on riverbanks and through our passion for angling we forged an alliance that surpassed kinship. Our friendship lasted for 40 years and was built on trust and understanding.

He hadn’t been ill long. Just a few days before we shared a family meal of turkey and roast potatoes and he beamed as he watched his granddaughter – my daughter – open her Christmas presents. He laughed as she danced and skipped through the mess of wrapping paper and declared that her favourite present was a pair of Spiderman wellingtons. And later, when she was sleeping, he told me how thoroughly he had enjoyed the day and how special my daughter was.

The taxi arrived at the hospital, stopped, and my mother and I got out. The driver wished us ‘all the best’ and inside the large, grey building a young doctor introduced himself with an apologetic smile. He led us to a small room off the main, brightly lit corridor where we sat whilst he explained how my father’s chest infection had worsened which, when combined with the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease he suffered from, made breathing almost impossible. He was receiving antibiotics and the staff were preparing him for a chest x-ray.

“But he didn’t seem too bad last night,” my mother said.

I had to agree. The previous night my father had sat up in the hospital bed, giggling and chatting with my daughter. He was wearing an oxygen mask but his appearance had improved substantially. Nothing like the man who, just two days earlier, had been taken to hospital sweating and struggling for air. His previously sallow skin was glowing and he eagerly made plans for the New Year.

The doctor fixed his gaze towards the floor and said, “I think you should expect the worst.”

My mother wept. I was too engrossed in disbelief to cry but managed a croaky, “Can we see him?”

“Of course,” the doctor replied.

My partner got the job of leaving our daughter to school and arrived shortly after the shocking statement and together the three of us entered the long hospital ward. We approached my father’s bed where an array of monitors kept the hospital staff informed of his condition and a tall, black cylinder supplied him with oxygen. My mother and partner tried not to appear anxious, though I could see the tears welling in their eyes.

I gently took my father’s hand and said, “You’re going to be fine. We’ll be back catching fish in no time.”

“Oh,” he said, his voice was low and hoarse. “I don’t know about that.”

Numerous phone-calls were made that day. Family members, close friends and acquaintances arrived and when my father drifted into a deep, coma-like sleep he was moved to a small private ward of his own. I held his hand and when the time came I kissed him on the forehead and said, “Goodbye.”

I left the small room, made my way to the bathroom, got down on my knees and through my tears, I prayed.

There’s something terribly un-nerving about watching a parent decline into ill health and eventually death. And the feelings of loss that are part of it emanate from the pits of your stomach to fill every cell and thought of your being. The person you looked upon and relied upon to be there in the stormy seas of life, to be the calming influence when your boat was swamped, is no longer your anchor. More than at any other time in your life you are on your own. It’s something you know will happen. It’s something you prepare for and think you’re ready to deal with, but when it does happen you can never be prepared enough. And praying was all I could think to do.

My father was buried a few days later and as the days progressed and turned into weeks the pain began to subside, though the feeling of loss will remain with me always, of that I’m certain. My daughter was a constant source of enlightenment despite asking all the questions I had equally expected and dreaded.

“Where is granda?”

“Why did granda leave?”

“Will granda be back?”

My partner and I done our best to explain and in her own way, as best a four-year-old can, she mourned the passing of her ‘granda.’

One evening we decided it would be good if we all spent the following day at the Zoo. Preparations were made, provisions were packed and we went to bed early to be ready for the next day. Around two thirty in the morning I was wakened when my daughter climbed into bed beside me. She curled up beneath the covers and in the sweetest voice I ever heard she said, “Daddy, can we go fishing tomorrow?”

God was laughing again and so was I, and as I laughed I knew that somewhere in the heavens my father was laughing with me.

copyright John Rooney 2009


JOHN ROONEY of The Ups , Downs and Sometimes Insane World of Writing is a freelance writer and photographer.

He says : “My work has appeared in magazines throughout the UK and Ireland.”

He writes about excellent topics which are very useful to amateur and professional writers. His expertise as a published author lends credence to his numerous articles:

e.g. Beat the Block – Tips to Defeat Writer’s Block . This article has proven that he can write in any genre. Visit his blog to learn more about him.

32 thoughts on “The Laughter of Grief – 15th Story for the Inspirational Book”

  1. beautiful… I can sense the relationship you had with your father.

    I envy you though, for you were able to say goodbye to a departing love one.

    thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Hi Roy, thanks for your comment. Yes, my father and I had a good relationship, but as you say I was indeed fortunate to have been able to say goodbye. Others do not get the opportunity.

  3. Hi Roy,

    Indeed John has written a very heart warming post. I was lachrymose while reading it, but in the end – happy that the supposed to be negative experience has turned into a positive one – and I had thought he was only writing about informative, formal articles. Kudos to you.

    Again , thanks John for this inspiring article and for participating in the upcoming Inspirational Book.

    Cheers and happy blog hopping.

  4. Hi Jena – Thank you. Your compliments are very flattering. I try, but don’t always succeed, to make a positive out of a negative and feel that to get through life an approach like this is more than helpful.

    Once again thanks for posting my article.

  5. Hi John,
    Such an endearing and touching life story. It truly moved me to tears as well as it delighted me in the end. The story imparts a sense of hope amidst the pains and sorrows from losing a loved one.

    I’m glad that you recognized God’s humor through your daughter. At least, it’s a real good one. I hope the fishing was good that day for you and your daughter.

    Jena, thank you for bringing stories like this to your blog for us to be able to enjoy also. I shall visit John’s blog soon.


  6. This was so poignant, Jon. And brought back the bitter sweet memories of my parents and their passing. Thank you for sharing and writing about it so beautifully. And thank you Jena, for giving him the space.

  7. Hi Jon,

    Thank YOU, for contributing to my collection. If you read the comments, everyone agrees with me that it is a wonderful story.

    Cheers and here’s hoping, the book will come out good.

  8. Hi Tasha,

    I;m sure John will be delighted to read your comment. I agree with everything you said. Thanks and happy blog hopping.

  9. Hi Jean,

    You’re welcome and you have said it all, I say amen to that. Thanks too and have a stress-free weekend.

  10. Hi everyone and thanks for your kind comments. I apologise that I could not reply sooner, but today was my one day away from the office.

    tashabud – I’m really happy that my found the sense of hope I was trying to achieve in my story.
    God does, as they say, work in mysterious ways. And laughter is always a good cure for the broken-hearted.

    jakill – really pleased that you read this and thanks for your messages of support during my time of sorrow.

    Jena – it was a pleasure to write this for the book, I just pray that others will find some hope in my story.

  11. Jon,

    God has that kind of sense of humor! I bet he knew you’d be writing about this someday and will touch the hearts of people from all over the world.

    This is a beautifully written piece.

    I tried fishing with my dad once but the only things I caught were a piece of branch and a sunburn. My dad caught a big milk fish. We did have fun.


    This story is reminiscent of an MMK episode, isn’t it?

    I am looking forward to see your book soon.


  12. Hi Jon,

    I’m extremely glad too that your story found its way to happens for a reason. God bless.

  13. Hi Z,

    I think we have the same perception. you have said it all. I look forward too, to the birth of a new venture.

    All the best.

  14. Hi Zorlone – thank you for your comment. Nothing happens in this world that doesn’t have a reason. God touches everyone in different ways and if we can share our personal experiences with each other he touches us all.

  15. That was beautiful John, you have expressed it aptly. I say amen to that.

    I once read a story about two angels trying to fly with one wing. Alone, they were not able to do it, but when they held onto each other, they were able to.

    The same is true with us, no man is an island. Helping one another would make our journey in this lifetime more meaningful and more enjoyable.

    Thanks John, for responding to your readers. God bless.

  16. Deep words, rich with emotion and I must say brilliantly conveyed… and your father must have been a great man… I’m sure he’s looking down at you and feeling mighty proud.

    great job and well done.

  17. hello disturbed stranger,

    Thanks, I’m sure John’s father would indeed be proud of him now. cheers and all the best.

  18. Hello, Disturbed Stranger. Thanks for your comment. My father was indeed a great man. Anyone who knew him said he was a gentleman’ he always had a smile and pleasant word to say.

  19. A bitter-sweet memory:) I really liked this part: “It’s something you know will happen. It’s something you prepare for and think you’re ready to deal with, but when it does happen you can never be prepared enough. And praying was all I could think to do.”
    thanks for sharing such a wonderful memory…

  20. Hi Shawie – Thanks for reading and commenting. That’s one of the hardest parts when it comes down to it. You think you’re ready but it it happens you’re not.

    Hi Jena – really liked your quote about the two angels. We can’t get by is this world without each other.

  21. I can totally relate with this story because my father has COPD as well and his health has been declining steadily. But just like the author, my only refuge is prayer, something that I do regularly for my Papa.

    A parent’s passing away must really be heart-rending, given the bond we have with them. But the cycle of life goes beautifully on, as shown by the bond that we have with our own children, in this case, Jon’s daughter.

    Thanks, Jon and Jena Isle for this story.


  22. Hi HotMomma – Sorry to hear that your father is ill. My father had COPD for a number of years, but it never seemed to bother him until the last year of his life then when he went in to hospital he rapidly went downhill.
    Prayer is a good refuge, but many people tend only to pray when times are hard or a family member is ill etc. But it’s just as important to pray when things are going well, this way we can build a better relationship with God.

  23. Wow, John.

    What an amazing thought! Yes, we should pray all the time, even when we are happy and it seems we don’t need Him.
    Thanks for the vital lesson learned.

  24. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  25. It struck a familiar in me, this story. I lost both my parents to illness brought on by old age.

    One would have thought that made their departure any less painful. But there’s no preparing you for that eventuality. It is so total and devastating.

    It’s a tad unselfish to wish our loved ones to stay a little longer just for our sake. They need to move on. Of course, this insight I only got several months after. It did not occur to me readily.

    Super story. Poignant and very inspiring indeed.

    @Jena Isle: I’m conducting a personal audit, as it were, in search of inspiring story that I can share with you.

  26. Hell0 Jan,

    I’m glad you were able to visit my blog. I would be extremely happy should you decide to send in your story too.

    Cheers and Happy Easter in advance.


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