Death and clowning

And now for something morbid.

Just a short while ago, I received news that my mom may have experience kidney failure. She is currently at a hospital for treatment. There’s a very real possibility that she may die, or I may have to give up one of my own kidneys to keep her alive.

This put me into mind about death, and how it lead to my decision to do clowning. First off, this isn’t the only death in the family. Our dad suffered a stroke while I was in college. While he didn’t die immediately, I had to watch his health erode over the years until, one day, he suffered a fatal heart attack caused by stroke complications. During that time, I was living on the other side of the country, and every phone call was a painful possibility that this could be the one. This could be the call.

And that’s not all. My wife’s dad also passed away from similar conditions. Meanwhile, her network of friends was so extensive that it felt like I was going to roughly one funeral per month. The one that hit me had was a young woman who died at her desk at work. She was in her 30’s. She also had asthma, which is probably one of the most preventable diseases on the planet. However, she was staying late. She had an attack, and realized too late that the inhaler was empty. She died at her desk and no one found her body until the next morning… leaving behind a child and a grieving husband.

Death has plagued us so often that all of us siblings decided to cope in one way or another. My brother became a health nut, running marathons to keep his body fit. My sister became a nutritionist, for what I believe to be the same reasons.

Me, though… I began wondering what in the world I could do to make others happy before I passed away from this world. I have no illusions. I expect not live to be 70 years old. I travel. I went to the Middle East. I try out new things. For a while there I blogged about webcomics. I’ve developed artwork.

And I clown. When people ask me, “Why are you a clown?”, I simply respond, “My wife made me do it.” That’s only a partial answer. If it was just that, I wouldn’t try every day to best the best clown I can be.

The full answer is that, one day, I know I’m either going to die, or something’s going to happen where I can no longer do half the things I do. Right now, while I’m still under 40, I have my health and my humor. I can do things and learn things that are a little beyond the reach of older clowns. (Juggling for instance.)

And knowing that one day I will die is what keeps me going. If I don’t do something while I’m alive, then it’s a life wasted. But if what I do makes kids smile, or makes a sick kid temporarily forget the mundane existence of a hospital bed, or teaches a moral lesson to the kids in Sunday school… then I think it was all worth it. I can be on my death bed and realize that, hey, I may have done something good in my life.

(Incidentally, this is one of the reasons it’s taken me a long time to do what people think I should be into … like, say Comic Cons. I love comics, and I do love dress up. But while I knew I could probably enjoy going to Comic Con… I couldn’t rustle up the enthusiasm unless it meant something. And in a weird way, when I went… it did. Why did I go? Well, I wanted to say thanks to all the great creators who meant something to me.)