Grieving comic says humor, like hope, springs eternal - Word&Way

Grieving comic says humor, like hope, springs eternal

SHREVEPORT, La. (ABP)—Jinny Henson, a native of Houston, began doing stand-up comedy when she was a student at Baylor University. While working on a master’s degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, she began touring nationwide.

Against the advice of friends, she took a six-year hiatus after the birth of her daughter, Maggie Lee, and son, Jack, two years later. In hindsight, she says she is glad she took the time off to be a full-time mom until her children entered kindergarten.

After a local event in November, she’s heading back to the comedy circuit with a major event April 24 in Pearland, and an August date in Monroe, La., for the first time since Maggie Lee’s death at age 12 from injuries received in a tragic church bus accident last summer.

“I am feeling more like myself than I have in a while,” she said. “In the very early stages, when someone would talk about Maggie Lee and then, in the same breath, mention my being a stand-up comic, I would think, ‘Now, isn’t that ironic, a grieving comedian?’ Being humorous was my last priority.

“Interestingly enough, I have found that humor, as well as hope, springs eternal. I have always felt God’s presence and encouragement through humor in my life and I have never needed that more than I have in the past seven-and-one-half months.

“It is refreshing to make people laugh again, even just out to lunch with my friends. It’s a relief to feel any part of my personality is still intact, like my soul is defrosting.”

In the past, her routine included thoughts about how a sense of humor sustained her after losing her mother-in-law and father within a short period of time. Losing a child, she said, confirmed that message at a deeper level.

“For years, I would get notes from someone who saw one of my shows that said, ‘I lost a child two or three years ago, and this is the first time I have laughed since then,’“ she said. “At the time, it was always profoundly moving, but now that I am on the other side, those words are much more meaningful to me.”

She and her husband, John, associate pastor of emerging ministries at First Baptist Church of Shreveport, La., were watching a comic recently, and she recalled their “cathartic belly-laughs.”

“It hit me then what an amazing gift comedy can be to someone with a broken heart. It’s like this little vacation from the trenches, a lifting of your soul above your circumstances. Being on the audience end of things makes me want to be even better at my craft,” she said.

In addition to her comedy, Jinny does religious retreats including new topics titled “God’s Amazing Grace” and “Devastating Blessing” born of her recent experiences.

“Amazing is an overused word, but I am astounded beyond description that God is carrying my family through this heartache,” she said. “It’s by his grace that we are viewing this as a bad chapter in a good book and not our final chapter. Maggie Lee gave me so much more than just good material.”

“It is true that life at times can be brutally painful, but my pain has been lightened by God’s gift of humor, and I want to encourage others using that gift.”