My grandfather and my godfather (a beloved neighbor and dear family friend) had a long standing bet- for one dollar- about who would die first. Both of them being slightly pessimistic (in the funny way), they both insisted that they themselves would be the first to die. Any time my grandfather had a health scare, he’d gleefully call up my godfather to boast that he’d be passing “any day now” and he was sure to win the bet. It was a big family joke and they were always amiably sparring and comparing notes about who was in worse shape, medically speaking.

When my grandfather was in hospice care dying of liver cancer, my godfather was quite ill also. It took him great effort to make the journey to see his dying friend. As he came into the room, supported by a family member, he shuffled to my grandpa’s bedside and silently handed him a dollar bill. He was ceding his loss of the bet, as they both knew who was going first. My grandpa had been in quite bad shape for a while and was no longer able to speak but let me tell you he snatched that dollar with unexpected strength and literally laughed aloud. He knew exactly what the gesture meant and he couldn’t help but find the humor within the grief. It was the last time any of us heard my grandpa laugh, as he passed shortly after.

When I talk about my appreciation for “dark humor” I’m not so much thinking about edgy jokes, but rather the human instinct to somehow, impossibly, both find and appreciate the absurdity that is so often folded into the profound grief of life and death. When I tell this story I think it kind of perturbs people sometimes, but it’s honestly one of my favorite memories about two men I really deeply admired. I could never hope for anything more than for my loved ones to remember me laughing until the very end, and taking joy in a little joke as one of my final acts.