Today I attended the visitation for a remarkable 19 year old man who died recently. He was the son of a very good friend, and was a close friend of one of my sons. He was a fun loving young man who always had a smile on his face. To say I respected and cared for him would be an understatement. His death has taken me down a familiar path of thought and emotion that always ends the same way.
While growing up, my family didn't attend church on a regular basis. However, looking back, we had a very spiritual home. The Bible was the word of God, and the Golden Rule was the rule of the home. There were also the deep-rooted, fundamental beliefs, such as
- We are all God's children
- God loves all of us....even before we are born
- Jesus was God's son, who died for all of our sins, and rose again
- God works in mysterious ways
- Everything happens for a reason
From my earliest memories I completely embraced my spirituality, accepting these beliefs as facts, never really questioning them. They were wonderful facts. They made me feel good. However, there were (and still are) times I struggle, especially with the last two.
As a child I would watch broadcasts of poor kids in Africa who had no food. They were starving. I can still see them in my mind, with flies clinging to their faces. How could this be??? God loves us. We are all his children. Why, God? Why???? What work is this? What is the reason? God can do anything....why won't He help them? Why?
When I asked my mom, she would say things happen that people simply cannot understand. We must try to carry God's message to them....loving our neighbors as ourselves....helping send them aid so they wouldn't starve. Use your faith to guide you. Made sense....but deep down I still wondered why.
As I got older I would see the old videos from the horrific WW II concentration camps. The unspeakably terrible things the Nazis were doing to people simply because they were Jewish. How evil one group of people could be to another. Why? Why was this allowed to happen? These people were innocent victims.....tortured and murdered. Why didn't God stop this? Why? This time, instead of asking my mom or dad, I tried to think it through using the principles and spiritual lessons I was taught. My final landing point was the same place....I must remember these horrible things, do what I can to not allow people to be vicious to other people. But the why is something I cannot understand.
When my oldest son was in first grade, one of his friends was playing little league baseball. In a freak occurrence, a foul ball struck him in the chest in such a way that it stopped his heartbeat. He was a first grader....why did he have to die? Why??? Why couldn't that foul ball have have gone a foot to his left and missed him?? WHY?
These are just examples. Every day I see things that challenge me.....
- Why are fiends allowed to kidnap and kill young children?
- Why are innocent people allowed to be killed by drive by shooters who seem to have no regard for any one's life?
- Why are innocent populations in countries allowed to be butchered by insane rulers?
Why? Why?? Why????
Then there are some very personal and emotional experiences. My dad passed away suddenly when I was 23. My mom passed away when I was 25. My oldest sister passed away before I was 40. With each of these events, I traveled through the textbook series of emotions....
- Shock - This can't be happening
- Grief - I wish this wasn't happening. I wish I could talk to them one more time. I hate thinking they suffered...or were overcome with incredible fear. Why couldn't I help them?
- Anger - This should not have happened. This is not right. WHY did this have to happen???
- Acceptance - This is life. This cannot be changed. I must accept, remember, and live on.
I would spend many evenings in a dark living room or bedroom asking why. Why God? Why did they have to die when they did?? Was there a reason that I could understand? None of them were particularly old. My mom and sister were sick....but couldn't they get better? Why not? Why?
This brings me to the day after Christmas...just a few days ago, when I learned of this young man's death. In what seemed to be an accelerated pace, I went through the first couple of emotions (shock and grief). I have spent the majority of my time in anger.
This was a very good person who made others around him laugh and feel good. He would have been a wonderful grown man. Why should his life be ended so soon??? Why couldn't he get the same opportunity I have to live a full life? WHY?????
Later today, as I sit in the church pew during his funeral I will likely begin locking in on the acceptance of this. Doing so without the why I so desperately want.
For this is how it is. My mom's advice 40+ years ago is probably as true today as it was then. Carry on the message.....accepting that I cannot understand. I have my faith. Faith is there to replace the why....to take me to the acceptance phase without the why. Why becomes far less important when there is faith.
It's just really hard sometimes. Hard to close my eyes and let myself fall backwards, trusting that my faith will be there to catch me. But it has every time in the past. Every time.