Finding Joy and Laughter in Unexpected Places – Lessons from the Phillie Phanatic

In the early 80s, an unexpected request came my way while I was in the Phillies office in old Veterans Stadium: “They want the Phanatic to make an appearance at their grandfather’s funeral!”

It wasn’t an invitation I was expecting. A mascot at a funeral? But it was when I heard from the family that it all made sense.

The Phanatic was to be a part of an Irish Wake for an 86-year-old grandpa, a die-hard Phillies fan. He had actually included this special request in his will, wanting the Phanatic’s visit to be a surprise during the family celebration after his burial.

As I donned the green suit and entered the somber gathering, something incredible happened. Laughter filled the room, not just a polite chuckle or two, but hearty, tear-jerking laughter and of course a ton of furry hugs!

This wasn’t about me looking for unexpected joy; I was simply doing my job and respecting this family’s beautiful and unique way of honoring their loved one. Little did I know, it would leave an indelible mark on my perspective.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I found myself at my best friend’s funeral.

He was a gentle giant, a remarkable athlete, and the kind of person who drew everyone toward him. His passing, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, truly gutted me.

That level of sadness was unexpected because I and spent a lot of time with him and understood where it was all headed.

Watching him endure his illness with grace and gratitude for a decade was inspiring and of course heart wrenching.

During his eulogy, his daughters shared a powerful message that resonated deeply: “It’s a great day to be alive!” These words, uttered by a man who faced immense challenges every day, served as a poignant reminder of the beauty of life, even in its darkest moments.

Amidst this sorrow, was laughter. Tears turned into belly laughs as friends and family gathered to share stories and moments of joy. It was a moment of profound revelation.

The lessons I had learned from that first funeral appearance as the Phanatic came rushing back.

It’s in your moments of suffering that you are reminded to express gratitude and gain perspective. These trying times also provide the best opportunity to celebrate and remember the moments of joy that have graced your life.

By acknowledging the pain and sadness, we become better equipped to cherish the good times when they come our way.

It’s a lesson the big green guy taught me years ago: Don’t waste suffering; let it be the canvas upon which you paint your gratitude. Use it as a reminder that, even when life is at its most challenging, there is still room for joy.

So, the next time life decides to bestow its blessings upon you, remember to look around and exclaim, “It’s a great day to be alive!”

Because in both joy and sorrow, there’s a lesson worth learning and sharing with the world.

Share your thoughts with me – 🙏