It’s been a great pleasure working on a documentary that examines the science of laughter and crying over the last 18 months. Producer David Wells and I had the opportunity to film laughing babies in Vermont, super-criers in Portsmouth, England, and maternal mule deer responding to infant distress cries on the Alberta Badlands.
As a director, there were some interesting challenges in weaving all these stories together, but what I will always remember about this project is my own realization that laughing and crying are the soundtrack to life’s most important and memorable moments.
Like most families, the Downie family has had their fair share of laughter and crying over the last few years. But there’s one night in particular that perfectly demonstrates how these two unique human vocalizations become the physical manifestation of intense, human experiences.
It was my parents’ wedding anniversary, Nov. 10, 2015, and for our mother, Lorna, it was her first without her beloved husband, Edgar. Dad had passed away on Oct. 27 that year. We met at my sister Paula’s house in Kingston, Ont., for a special dinner. One thing led to another, and in no time my siblings, Charlyn, Paula, Gord and Pat, and I were partying up a storm — drinking wine, telling old stories about Edgar, dancing and, you guessed it, laughing.
If you had walked by the house that night, you might’ve thought we were celebrating some great family news like a wedding announcement or graduation. It was the first time that we had all been in the same room without spouses or children in decades, and it was the first time we’d come together as a family without dear old Dad. The last time we were all together at his funeral, a week earlier, there were tears; this time, it was more about the laughter.
I hope that while watching our film, Laughing and Crying, you reflect on some of the highs and lows in your own life and that you, too, come to realize that laughter and crying are incredible expressions of our humanity and exemplify a life fully lived.