When we arrived, I introduced my husband, Stan, to Dr. Kataria. Dr. Kataria responded with, “Fran is my favorite laughter professor”. So there you have it. From the source. Need I say more?
Well, yes. Because it reminded me of something very touching, lovely and loving about one of my favorite people in my world – my Aunt Ethel. Aunt Ethel was my mom’s oldest sister. She was warm, smart, progressive and funny. I could talk to her and know that I was heard and respected. She had a great smile; I can see it even now, crinkling eyes radiating joy. My relationship with her was validating and nourishing and I felt very emotionally connected to her. She often told me quietly that I was her favorite. It was a heartfelt touchstone of her affection for me.
Aunt Ethel has six nieces and nephews on our side of the family. I knew we all adored her. We all attended her funeral when she died seven years ago at age ninety-one. She had become sick with shingles while caring for her neighbor who was disabled by the virus.
As we stood around her gravesite, we shared our memories. Each one of us told about being Aunt Ethel’s favorite. Even her nephew by marriage was sure he was her favorite. At first we were stunned. What did it mean? We turned towards her sons and they simply shrugged their shoulders with smiles and tears in their eyes. We started to laugh and cry when we realized that we were all Aunt Ethel’s favorite. Her love was so big and encompassing that each of us, and rightly so, was helped to feel special and especially loved. That is a gift and a tribute to my Aunt Ethel’s compassionate heart and life.
I think this is what Dr. Kataria conveys when he says that anyone of us is his favorite laughter professor. I think he welcomes us and holds us in love.