How finding humor can save your family

How finding humor can save your family


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SALT LAKE CITY — Nothing lightens the mood like projectile vomiting.

When my wife and I first started raising kids, projectile vomiting, exploding diapers and the occasional combination of both made me laugh like no other. They were better than a good movie or a quality stand-up. In the middle of the night, if my wife heard me with the baby in the bathroom giggling, she knew all was well and she could go back to sleep.

A good laugh made things bearable when our martial stress level was off the charts.

"We will look at this a few years down the road and have a good laugh," they say. Well, forget about that. I want to have that good chortle now. Humor has always been the bumper that kept everyone in our family from whiplash.

A family history of humor

Shortly after my wife's father joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was called upon by the bishop to say the closing prayer in sacrament meeting. After the rest hymn, when he had apparently been resting, his wife nudged him to wake him up from a not-so-private snooze. He stood up, walked to the pulpit and promptly ended the meeting.

When my wife tells this story, we don’t know whether his ending the meeting before its time was funnier or if the real punchline is the addition of the not-ready-for-Primary expletive he used that carried over the microphone when the bishop told him the meeting wasn’t over.

Somehow lighter hearts make it easier for us to deal with the day-to-day. A spoonful of levity has helped a whole lot of medicine go down.

When family life gets difficult and borders on unbearable, someone pulls out this story, dusts it off and lightens the moment. Somehow lighter hearts make it easier for us to deal with the day-to-day. A spoonful of levity has helped a whole lot of medicine go down.

These aren’t just happy tales or legends for my family. When finishing a recollection, no one in my family smiles and says, “Oh, how cute.” They are rough, unsophisticated and are the glue that holds us together through disagreements, discord and sometimes death.

Humor in difficult family relationships

Often my coping-with-family batteries have been recharged by a retold family moment or a brand new horrifying one. Humor brings us together even if it may be difficult to be in the same room with each other.

Humor becomes the bridge that spans the yawning chasm between us.

The ability to laugh gives my family the ability to rise above any situation, even if it is only for long enough to catch our collective breath. Humor straightens the clutter of our minds and wipes down the whiteboard. In a sense, humor is less the use of one's funny bone and more the mastering of the art of living.

We are proud of our ancestors who overcame severe misfortune. Even when confronted with harsh conditions, Brigham Young once encouraged his people to “make the devil mad” by eliminating the sad countenance.


My family doesn't get together to “solemn-a-cate” (a family word). In fact, many gatherings can be identified as being uniquely Cheney because of these things: plenty of food, laughter, some more food … and some projectile vomiting.

Humor in death

Even in our family funerals, humor is the binding that keeps the book of life together, with laughter through tears being common. At the last funeral I attended of a family friend, military officers folded the flag and presented it to the widow. After marching to their vehicle, through an undiscovered open window, they casually confirmed in the reverberating and reverent silence that the widow of the decorated deceased was “hot.” My friend's widow was not beyond a smile.

Levity in Cheney land can be the great equalizer, evening out painful moments and lightening hearts weighted with weariness.

When my mother died tragically, there was just no way around the sad. My older sister blew her nose loudly and told the story of my mother at church, dressed in a lovely though inflexible woolen suit, lifting both hands above her head to lead the congregation in the opening hymn while her family seated below shook their heads and kept their eyes on the hymn book.

To this day we are grateful that she always insisted on wearing a full slip.

Davison Cheney attended BYU where he became proficient in music and theater, which prepared him to be unemployed and to overreact. He writes sports commentary for Deseret News for those who need more sports commentary. See his other writings at and on Twitter @davisoncheney.

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