Kip’s Favorite Joke

I attended two Celebrations of Life this past week. The two people whose lives were celebrated, Pat and Kip, both lived lives which I think of as deeply spiritual explorations of what makes this present life meaningful. At the same time, their life-celebration events were quite different.

Pat’s event last Saturday was led by a Franciscan nun and–alongside remembrances of family, fellow journeyers and friends–reflected Pat’s deep engagement with the Franciscan order. In contrast–at his request—Kip’s time on earth was celebrated at a party during which his favorite Irish music interspersed with the memories of family, friends and co-workers.

The closest thing to a religious touchstone during Kip’s party occurred when a man–whom must have worked at the classical music station when Kip was program director–walked up to the microphone and shared “Kip’s favorite joke”. It went something like this:

Jesus was visiting the Pearly Gates when Saint Peter asked him if he would be good enough to keep a look out while he did a few errands. Jesus agreed and a few minutes later he saw an elderly man walking up the stony path. Observing this old man as he picked his way up the hill, leaning heavily on a walking stick, he seemed familiar.

When the man reached the gate, Jesus—doing his best to do a good job filling in for Saint Peter—greeted the old man and asked him to share a bit about his life, so that together they could decide if heaven was the right place for him.

The old man replied. “Actually, I’m not looking for a place for myself. I’m looking for my son.”

Jesus, intrigued, inquired, “Was there anything about your son that could help me identify him? I know everyone here.”

The old man replied without hesitation, “I am just a simple carpenter. But my son was a great being. His story is told all over the world to this day. His birth was miraculous, and he experienced many tribulations and transformations during his unique life.”

Jesus, increasingly intrigued, asked, “Is there anything else especially unusual about your son?”

The old man, surprised at the other’s gathering interest, said, “My son had holes in his hands and feet.”

With a catch in his throat, Jesus reached out to the old man. “Dad?”

The old man, dropping his staff in the dirt, stumbled forward with tears in his eyes, “Pinocchio!”

I hear in this joke evidence that we don’t really know what will greet us when we die. If we have too firm a picture of what we will encounter in the thereafter—once it becomes our hereafter—we are probably projecting our expectations onto something that is intrinsically unknown to us now.

Personally, I hope to be surprised, especially if that surprise is something to which I’ve earned access by being a good friend to the people with whom I share this present lifetime.

I wonder if Pat would have chuckled at this joke with its surprising punchline; or whether her devotion to the traditional Catholic prayers that returned to support her in her final months of life would have left little room for a fictional carpenter, Geppetto; even though, like Pat, he also knew the grief of great loss.

One thing of which I have no doubt: both Pat and Kip lived lives that rose above any creed or dogma. I imagine them both now sailing through whatever new realities have arisen before them, able to see near and far because of how they lived their lives while they were here with us.

3 comments to “Kip’s Favorite Joke”
  1. I think Jesus would laugh too. We often forget that laughter even at ourselves is healing. I need that lesson!

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