Her life was marked by suffering.
Her father died when she was nine. At twenty she was diagnosed with a hereditary kidney disease that would eventually lead to kidney failure. In 1991, she was found to have breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. In 1993, she began kidney dialysis four times a day. In 1996 she received a kidney transplant which produced fatal complications.
Who was she?
Amazingly, one of the funniest women the world has ever known: Erma Bombeck.*
This woman, with so much suffering in her life, made people laugh for years, producing one bestselling book after another. Even the titles make us chuckle, such as, Family: The Ties that Bind and Gag and The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.
I know Erma Bombeck had great doctors, and I certainly don’t want to minimize their contributions to her life. But I can’t help wondering if the most powerful medicine she had working for her was her sense of humor. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Maybe that’s why so many comedians have lived well into their 80’s and 90’s, such as Henny Youngman, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Phyllis Diller, and Rodney Dangerfield, to name a few. We’ll never know for sure, but I have a feeling Ms. Bombeck wouldn’t have lived as long as she did if she had’t been such a hoot.
Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is a time to laugh and a time to cry. Of course, it’s very important to know the difference. Inappropriate laughter is always shameful and usually hurtful to someone. But when life offers a good reason–and it does on a regular basis–it’s great to rear back and roar with laughter.
I read recently that almost half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug everyday. Perhaps a good many of those pills wouldn’t be necessary if we laughed more.
For further reflection read Proverbs 15:13 and Ecclesiastes 3:11-13.
Mike Cope, Rubel Shelley, What Would Jesus Do? (West Monroe: Howard, 1998), 118