Remembering Diane Summers Clarke

diane cropped (Changed)Recently, at a training for certified laughter leaders, I sat across from a sparkly-eyed woman from Phoenix, Arizona, and did an exercise called “relational laughter.” We simply sat facing each other with instructions to laugh. Some folks had trouble with this, but somehow this Arizona woman and I just clicked – laughing till it hurt, stopping for a minute, then with one quick look, starting all over again.

“I think it’s because you remind me of my childhood friend,” I said, and told her about my first best friend, Diane Summers, who had lived next door from age 5 and who without any formal training had become an instant relational laughter partner. Thanks to our well-honed skills at relational laughter, Diane and I managed to spend some time in the hall outside Mr. Coleman’s fifth-grade science class and numerous time-outs from the Brownie troop where my mother, unfortunately, was the leader. “I can’t wait to tell Diane there’s training for this now,” I said.

Sadly, I didn’t get the chance. Unbeknownst to me, my first laughter partner, who in time became a South Carolina school teacher, Diane Summers Clarke, had just lost an 11-year battle with ovarian cancer. The longevity of her fight was rare, as was her spirit. When we spoke during those years, she was always up. She maintained her easy laugh. She urged me to keep sending her my humor columns “because keeping a sense of humor is so important.” Diane’s long and productive life after her diagnosis is all the proof I need that laughter has healing powers.

By the time my new friend and I were doing our relational laughter exercise, Diane was already gone. But I’m pretty sure her spirit was there in the room that day and will be checking in every once in awhile, to remind me how important it is to laugh. I don’t plan to disappoint her.

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2 Responses to “Remembering Diane Summers Clarke”

  1. Summers Clarke Says:

    My mother spoke of you often. Thank you for your kind words.

  2. Pat Snyder Says:

    Good to hear from you, Summers. I have so many great memories of Diane, and I’ll carry all of them with me tomorrow in the ovarian cancer walk we’re having here in Columbus.

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