Laughter That Renewed My Spirit

When my Aunt Laila died, we all went to her home to begin the ceremonial funeral, as is customary in Afghanistan. We brought tea and lunch and prepared the Quran Sharif for those who wanted to recite for her. 

On the first day, I just wept and recited the Holy Quran and prayed for her spirit. By the end of the day, my voice was worn out and I could no longer recite.

Aunt Laila was my father’s sister. She was a woman who spent her time and her life making other people happy. She loved my father and all of our family. She was very kind and when she came to our house she would tell me stories. I could see these stories as vividly as if they were pictures. 

She had taught me the Quran when I was 12, instructing me that when she died I should recite from it for her spirit.  

On the second day we held the traditional Fateha, the ceremony in which all the relatives, friends, neighbors, and workplace friends come to pray. Everyone sits for 10 to 15 minutes and recites an Aya of the Holy Quran and then leaves. The Fateha usually takes place in a public mosque near the person’s house or at a relative’s house.

Since my father was Laila’s older brother, the Fateha was held at our house, which has two big salons where as many as 50 or 60 people can sit. I sat beside my mother and cried, unable to stop, and my aunt’s daughter and daughter-in-laws and her sister also cried.  

My uncle’s wife, Gulnaz, her sister Rabia, and her sister-in-law Shringul, walked around the room with the purpose of kissing each of the relatives. 

My aunts came to kiss me. But Rabia, seeing the room full of women, didn’t kiss everyone, but instead calmly sat down in one of the rows. At the same moment, my aunt’s sister-in-law Shringul came and kissed me and then she started to kiss Rabia, who had come with her to the Fateha. Rabia stood and kissed her one time, quietly saying “Oh Shringul-jaan, we came together. Why you are kissing me?”  

When I heard this, I began to laugh. Rabia saw this and she also started laughing. I tried my best to look sad, but could not. My face turned red. My mother took a look at me, and told me to leave the room. Rabia had the same problem, but she covered her face with a handkerchief. 

When I was out of the room, I laughed so hard that my sister came to ask what was going on. I couldn’t explain, but she told me it was okay, and pointed me to an empty room where I continued.  

That laugh renewed my spirit and gave me new energy. I stopped crying. When all of the guests had left, my mother found me. When she heard the story she also felt much better, and said how good of Rabia to make us happy and lift our spirits. 

By Fariba 


  1. Douglas White says:

    What a lovely, touching story! So often, there is a fine line between laughter and tears. Both are wonderful ways of letting emotions flow.
    You write very well.
    Keep it up!

  2. What a wonderful essay, Fariba. Thank you for sharing it.

    The same thing happens to many people here in the USA during a ceremony to mourn a loved one — something happens, usually someone says something, and extreme sadness turns to extreme giggles. It is a very human thing to do.

    I cried so much when my father died, for three days straight, I didn’t think I would have tears for anything else — and then, on the way to the graveyard for his burial, my sister made a comment that, for some reason, made my entire family burst out laughing. We could not stop laughing for probably 10 minutes.

  3. This was totally your Aunt Laila sending you a message! Lovely! Great story!

  4. Sahar Omar says:

    I think this happens almost in every Fateha! 6 years ago, when my mother and sister were murdured on Chritsmas day, I was thinking that I would never laugh in my life again. During the Fatiha and all that people coming and going, everyone was trying to calm me down and all that. My cousin’s 6 or 7 years old daughter was thinking that it is cool that everyone is giving me attention. I was wearing a gold brecelet of my mom that was given to me. While all the guests were about to leave, she came to me and told me that she can’t wait for her mom to die so she can have her brecelets too and to have everyone’s attentions too. That made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t stop. Everyone started laughing too. Everyone got happy to see me laugh. Because everyone like myself were thinking that I would never laugh. I think it was my mom and sister that made me laugh. Because, they were in heaven and wanted me to be happy for them. Same is with your Amma jaan. She is in heaven and she wants you to be happy for her.
    R.I.P Mom & Farda

  5. Bree D. says:

    Laughter is the best medicine in hard times! Even if some people can’t see that as a way of letting loose for one minute just to breathe. I understand where you are coming from and can relate to your story a lot.

  6. Julian D. says:

    Laughter is certainly an antidote for the mind and spirit. While mourning, sometimes the best way to honor a loved one who has passed is to look to the future. We can never bring back someone who has died, thus why dwell on this negative when there is the gift of life to look forward to. Very touching story!

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