Laughing through Grief with Baby Shark

Are you ready for a story?  Here goes.

Two years ago for Christmas, Kalissa’s family bought me a Grandma Shark shirt.  I loved the shirt immediately and wear it often.  I think most of you are familiar with the Baby Shark song but for those of you who aren’t, here’s a Youtube clip.

It’s a super catchy tune for kids and adults and the song is all the rage with preschool-aged kids.

You can imagine how excited me, a childcare provider, was when Kalissa gifted me the shirt.  I’m a T-shirt and jeans sort of girl so, I wear the shirt often.

I wore my grandma shark shirt on May 28th of 2019.  That is one of those days that I can see in my mind very clearly and is one of those days that shaped my life.

I was sitting in this waiting room while Kramer, my husband, went in to get his PET scan.  I was trying to be hopeful but as his wife, I knew.  I knew things with his cancer were going downhill….  I knew they were going downhill fast.


Getting him to the appointment was so hard.  He was a little owly and I was a little frustrated.  He thought he knew how to his calculate his oxygen.  I thought he didn’t know how.

Originally Kayla was supposed to take him for this appointment but Kramer had gone downhill so quickly, I was nervous to take him so I certainly wasn’t going to let Kayla take him when she didn’t know where to go or what to expect.  Kramer would fight riding in a wheelchair.  He tried so hard not to look weak but he needed to ride in a wheelchair.  I was the only one that could make him ride in the wheelchair.  He’d pull out his big booming dad voice and get the kids to let him do whatever he wanted.  Even with oxygen, walking that far would have totally pooped him out.

A PET scan was supposed to take about two hours.  So here I sat in this waiting room.  I sat and everything started to grind on me.  Something was wrong with Kramer.  I knew it.  He needed to see a doctor.  He needed to see a doctor on this day.  Originally we were supposed to come back the next day and find out what the PET scan said.  I was so exhausted from just getting him to the hospital.  I wasn’t up for another day of fighting to get him back to the hospital.  So I picked up my phone and started calling up to the oncology floor.  I decided he was going to be seen that day and we were going to find out the PET scan results that day.

I called and begged for an appointment.  If you know me, I have this setting in my brain that I call the “Woah be onto the person who tells me no” mood.  So as they were telling me there was no appointment available, I started advocating for Kramer and advocating for myself.  I just knew mcoming back to Lacrosse the next day would be too much.  The two-hour drive there and back was more than Kramer or I could do.

After MUCH trouble they said we could get in at 1:30pm.   This was the earliest they could possibly do as it took a bit for the radiologist to read the PET scan and send up his report.

This would be a long wait and I had to arrange to get Kramer onto hospital oxygen but waiting here in Lacrosse for three hours was better than driving the two hours home just to turn around and have to drive back the next day.

Kramer got out of his appointment and I told him the news that I had moved his appointment and we’d wait and be seen today.  Kramer was so relieved.  His life had turned into a waiting game at this point and waiting here was much easier for him than the car ride back and forth.  By now cancer had eaten the bones in his neck so the jostling while riding in the car was so painful for him.  Cancer in the bones is so challenging. He was happy to not have to make a trip the next day.

We went to the oncology waiting room.  We started talking about food.  Kramer had a feeding tube and couldn’t eat but he was worried about me and me getting lunch.  I said I would just wait and grab something on the way home.  By now it was 11:30ish and the nurse called us back for his appointment.  This surprised us both.  We were ready for a long wait.  This was about two hours earlier than his appointment.

We were told we were going to be seeing a PA that we had only seen once before but we didn’t mind her so it was okay.  She was only going to tell us the PET scan results, not change any treatment.  We waited in the office for a bit but then she came in.  She was nice…sat down on her chair, adjusted the computer screen so we could see, and pulled up his scan on the computer.

I looked at it.  By now, between Kramer and I, we’d seen several PET scans…but this I couldn’t figure out.  Kramer had lung cancer.  It was in his right low lobe.  In that area, there was a big circle and it was black.  The rest of his lungs were a limey neon color.  I could see that limey neon color everywhere else too.  Hmm.  I thought DARN.  The radiation didn’t take.  That spot on his lung was black…but then as the doctor started to talk, it dawned on me.  The limey neon color showed cancer.  His cancer was everywhere except where he had radiation.  WHAT?  How could that be?  How could he be loaded with cancer??

…and with that, I thought my world had ended.  I zoned out for a second and then brought myself back around.  I needed to be attentive.  I needed to get back to the present.  Kramer was full of cancer.  The doctor was talking and I had to focus.  He was dying.  I needed to know everything I could so I could help him leave this world in all the grace and dignity we could manage so I pulled thoughts away from myself and back to him.

The doctor said what I thought.  Kramer was full of cancer.  We talked for bit…and it was me that finally asked, how long does he have?  She said we needed to get to planning or doing whatever we needed as he only had 3-4 weeks to live.

Again, my world stopped.  Again, I worked to bring myself around.  It was all I could do not to wail…not to scream…not to fall in a ball on the floor.  But I couldn’t.  Kramer needed me.  In a short second, I promised myself that I could do all of those things once he passed.  For now, where he could see me, I’d have to fake it.  I had to fake being strong so he wouldn’t worry about me.  It was so important to me that he not worry about me.

The appointment was done.  Kramer was sent home to die. I was sent home to watch him die.  UGH.  It was definitely one of the hardest days of my life.

The nurse sent me down to get our vehicle to pull up to the door.  She was going to swap out oxygen tanks and get Kramer situated then wheel him down to the door to meet me with the truck.

As I walked out of the room, I thought, now.  Now you can fall apart.  He can’t see you.  But I couldn’t.  I had to walk through the oncology waiting room.  I couldn’t let all of those people see me crying.  All of those people still had hope.  I couldn’t take their hope away.  I couldn’t let them see that for some people on the cancer journey, hope is stolen away.

I got to the elevator.  I pushed the button.  I prayed for an empty elevator.  I could cry in the elevator.  The door opened.  The elevator was pretty full and there was a little kid.  He looked at my shirt, saw the grandma shark, and started chatting with me about my shirt.


It was all I could do to hold the conversation….and then somehow, even in my overwhelming grief, the kid got me to laugh.

I don’t remember what he said.  I don’t remember what I said back.  All I remember is a big overwhelming feeling that I could get through this.  I could still laugh even when my world was falling apart….and that laughter might just be the thing that got me through these hard days ahead.  Maybe it was the laughter and not the tears that would move me forward.

I got to the truck, drove around to pick up Kramer, and started heading home.  Our time in the truck was filled with questions, plans, and phone calls to the kids.  They needed to know their dad was dying.  It was hard.  But, Kramer and I both found a few things to laugh about on the way home.  I was always the straight man to his comedy.  He loved making people laugh and right up to the end, a short 4 1/2 days later, he worked to keep us laughing.

He still makes us laugh to this day….So many of our memories of him are quirky…like jokes he told us or sayings he had.  He’d say things like, “you do the math”.  Now we catch ourselves saying it to others in the family just like he used to say it.  That saying was connected to a story he used to tell and we’ll all start laughing over the memory.

I think many people, as they grieve, forget to laugh.  Sometimes laughing in time of grief might be seen as frowned on as it’s not something somber or respectful as death is often perceived to be.  For us at the Kramer house, laughter over memories of Kramer’s silly quirks, goofy sayings, and often non politically correct jokes move us forward and I know Kramer wouldn’t want it any other way.  He’d want to see us laughing!

If it hadn’t been for my Grandma Shark T-shirt and the short laughing exchange in the elevator with the little boy on the day we were told Kramer was truly dying, I might not have seen the value in children or laughter as one of the best medicines to deal with grief.  So many people questioned when I only took a week off after Kramer died and then went back to doing childcare.  I knew it was the right thing for me.  It truly has been children and laughter, that has me putting one foot in the front of the other facing a new day….

Today would have been birthday number 59 for Kramer.  It’s the second birthday he’s not here to celebrate with us.  Instead, of celebrating his birthday, we are celebrating Kayla’s boy Jasper, mine, and Kramer’s grandchild number 6.  He is getting baptized today on Kramer’s birthday.  When Kayla called and asked if it was okay to baptize him on Kramer’s birthday.  I said YES!  Kramer would have loved it.  I can’t think of a better way to honor the day.

Even better…
Lilly, Buck and Lora’s little girl, is getting baptized too.  They are doing baptism at Kayla’s church too.  Buck’s church isn’t open in a way that baptism can happen.  So Kayla offered to Buck that the kiddos share their baptism date.  Kayla’s minister was awesome and is doing a private service to keep us all a little safer.

I am thrilled with it all.  You might remember that Gannon and Georgia share a baptism date, the day Kramer died.  Baptism was so important to him.  He tried to hang on until he could see them baptized and died a few hours before we had it was scheduled.  One of the last things he said to me just minutes before he passed away was to ask what time it was.  He wanted to make it Sunday…and he did.  He wanted to see the grandkids baptized.  So it’s so fitting to baptize Lilly and Jasper on his birthday.

I know so many of you reading are dealing with your own grief.  Grief over the state of the world, COVID, storm damage….hurricanes, wildfires, and even the grief of the loss of loved ones.  Whatever you do, take time to find something that makes you laugh.  It can be the best medicine.  Laughter is a great healer.

41 thoughts on “Laughing through Grief with Baby Shark

  1. Kate

    So well said and tears were shed. Yes, need to laugh more and find the good in this world even during this time of Covid and distancing.

  2. Debbie B

    Beautiful post, Jo! You and your family have such strength and faith that pulls you all through the tough times. And yes, laughter is a big help to us all, no matter what we may be facing. How nice that those 2 grands will be baptized together today. Blessings to you all.

  3. Donna

    As always, your blog posts like this are beautiful and a blessing to us all.
    Thinking about you and your family with love and prayers

  4. Christine Burch

    Thank you so much for your post. I have been reading your blog for a little over a year now so I knew your story but today I cried reading of this day.My husband is only 48 and had a heart attack and pulmonary embolism last week. Thankfully, he Is fine but I hadn’t cried yet, hadn’t confronted the possibility of life without him and raising our younger children without him. I didn’t burst into a wild sobbing fit but the tears rolled down my cheeks. Thank you helping me to let go of some of what has been pent up inside. I haven’t lost my husband but you help to give me hope that when/if that day comes I can keep going.

  5. Rachel Summy

    Jo, YOU are such a blessing to so many. Always looking for the positive, bright light even in darkness. Enjoy the baptisms celebrating Kramer’s birthday! What a perfect event to honor him, and the BEST present for all.
    God Bless, Rachel

  6. Jill Klop

    This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read. I appreciate that you shared this with us! When I read the title, I couldn’t imagine what you were going to say! I’m going to go back and read it all over again. Thank you.

  7. Cindy P

    Jo, you sure have a great way with words ! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, grief and joy with us. You touch so many of us!

  8. Cindy in NC

    If you ever give up childcare, Jo, you should be a grief counselor- seriously! You’ve walked through fire and know how to do it while hanging on to your sanity and dignity.

  9. Robin

    I LOVE this post. A perfect post for Sunday, filled with so many blessings. My stepdad always had sayings that we didn’t think too much about until after be passed away. My favorite was “You better cut that pie into six pieces, I don’t think I can eat eight”! It’s fun to think of him, and talk about him, every time we cut into a pie.

  10. Susan the Farm Quilter

    In the past year, I have lost 6 people I loved, including my dad. I’m still at my dad’s house trying to get everything straighten up, missing home and husband who are 750 miles away. Today is my birthday and I’m alone, concerned about my daughter deploying later this week. I needed to read this post today and to remember that laughter is the best medicine, along with hugs!!!

  11. Katherine Gourley

    My Mom died 20 years ago this month and my sister and I were both crying uncontrollably and after Mom was moved to the funeral home we went to do some tasks to get ready for her funeral and ended up laughing so hard about what Mom would have been telling us to do. She died 10 days before her 70th birthday and we went to the bakery to order a birthday cake to serve at her funeral luncheon and when the bakery lady asked us about decorations for the cake we told her we weren’t sure how to decorate it and the lady wondered if we wanted R.I.P. and we became overwhelmed with laughter — that would be the last thing our Mom would want and she agreed and it was a lovely cake with pastel roses. We were celebrating Mom — not halloween.

  12. Elle

    I am soooo with you Jo! Dad and Mom are both long gone and I was just 33 when Dad died. I’ve had many many laughs with stories about each of them. Grief comes from love. Laughter is a love language. Celebrating life rather than that single final moment of death….and Kramer’s legacy lives on through love and laughter.

    Wishing you all a Blessed Sunday as you celebrate dedicating these 2 young children to Christ. (Can’t wait to hear about the antics of the littles at this event-I’m sure there will be a story ;-)

  13. Elaine/MuddlingThrough

    Your post touched me on so many levels. Thank you. Our daughter died shortly after her thirty-second birthday. She was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a very young child and we were told she’d never see her tenth birthday. I guess she fooled them! Ruthie was the most positive upbeat person I’ve ever known. She was always smiling and that memory always makes us smile.

  14. Cindy F

    Thank you for another beautiful poignant post. It made me think of a quote from a Little House on the Prairie episode. I had to look it up to get it right…”Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I will remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all.” Laughter is so important when remembering our loved ones. I think if one can do that it’s a sign of healing.

  15. Kim J LeMere

    Well said Jo, enjoy the happy gathering of family today. Kramer may be physically gone but he is with all of you in your memories.

  16. Linda White

    As usual, your post has touched my heart. I will try to always remember to laugh. I had my PET scan on Friday, and will get the results on Thursday this coming week. After that appt. we are taking the camper and heading up to Lake Ontario for a few days. Whatever the results of the scan, we are going to need some time alone together to just rest and relax. And laugh! Whatever my body is doing, we need to stay bonded and close so we can take the journey, wherever it leads, together.
    What a wonderful example your family is of how to do that. Hugs and smiles!!

  17. Stearns Carol

    Its so helpful for you to talk about Kramer’s death and to share with us. This summer my husband and I were both scheduled for routine colonoscopies. I had one polyp and sent away for 5 years. My husband had 6 polyps which shocked me and one of them was cancer. Last week he had 12 inches of his colon removed and all the cancer went with it. What a reminder to get that colonoscopy. Had he delayed another year or even months, who knows what would have happened. Colonoscopies are not that horrible to have but so necessary. The best part is when they say, turn over on your side and then you are out!

  18. Jo Post author

    Thanks for the reminder Carol! I have my scheduled for next week. I am so glad you all got workable news.

  19. Connie Teasley

    Such a sweet story of how things work out for the better. Beginning with you taking Kramer to the appointment instead of your daughter to the Oncologist being able to work Kramer in. It was a blessing that you were at the appointment to hear the sad news and both of you being able to talk openly on the way home. The child In the elevator was a bonus to help lighten the burden.

  20. Marcia

    You are a very wise woman. My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and it took her about 18 months later. She was the mother of five, grandmother of nine, and, less than 12 hours before she died, became a great-grandmother! It was wonderful to be able to share the news with her and she passed knowing she had earned that title. Death is hard on all, but mostly for those who live on. My highschool home economics teacher once told me you shouldn’t cry when someone dies because it was a selfish act. That the crying was for the living grieving their pain. I never agreed with her, but now that I am in my 60’s and know people dying much too often, I understand what she was trying to say.

  21. Lori Douglas

    Everyone in the family tries to be strong when someone they love is facing cancer. Roger I’m sure was trying to be strong for you! I am so glad you could find some laughter in all of this. God sent that child to help you get through. We are stronger than we think!

    So glad that Jasper and Lilly share Grandpa Moos beat as their baptism day! Special for all of you!

  22. Miss Daisy

    What an inspiring story. I still say ‘ children are the bomb ‘ just love them. I took my granddaughter to my uncle’s funeral , she was three . She put a different perspective on grief , she wanted to know why everyone was crying , then she asked if he was saved , she said they should be happy because he’s with Jesus and walked out. If we as adults had that three year olds level of faith ” we could move mountains “. I was 16 when my dad died and 19 when my mom died , I’m 65 so many years ago. I love the fact that you opened the daycare a week later , you know best what you need.

  23. Shirley

    You may never know what another person is going through and the impact a kind word or smile can have on their life. May God continue to comfort and support your family.

  24. Ronda

    Thank you so much for writing this. I don’t know why I clicked on your blog, but I think God knew I needed to read this. We go next week for my husband’s pet scan. The doctors keep telling us it’s just a precaution and they don’t think it’s anything, but I keep having this “feeling.” My husband is only 61, so many things we want to do and see. He’s an onery one and laughter has gotten us through a lot, so thanks, for reminding me that we can laugh and cry.

  25. Jo Post author

    Ronda-I wish you the best as you anticipate a PET scan. It’s so hard. Your mind can fly EVERYWHERE! Good thoughts and a prayer sent your way today.

  26. Sandy Tyson

    Thank you for sharing what had to have been a difficult post to write. All of us at one time or another have had or will have to face losing a dearly loved family member. You have put words to the shared feelings we all have had or will have at some point. Thanks for reminding us that humor and laughter are important through it all. May God bless you as you hold on to your faith that you will see Kramer again someday.

  27. Linda White

    Ronda, Please know that our hearts and thoughts are with you. Waiting is the hardest part. I’m glad you stumbled across Jo’s blog, and hope you keep coming back.
    I can tell you there is so much love, comfort, support, understanding and learning one can find here. Hang in there girl!!

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