Death is a mystery. How it happens, when it happens, to whom it happens. We yearn to understand, to be able to explain why, to make sense of an event that we experience as senseless.
There is a perfectly sound explanation. When it happens to someone we love, however, it’s challenging to accept that this has always been (and will always be) the case, but here it is:
We live and then we die.
It’s truly that straightforward. Why it happened to this loved person, in this way, at this time, with this fallout – these are questions with no satisfying answers. It always feels unfair and too soon. But the human contract is the same for every single one of us, regardless of race, gender, creed: we get to experience life in all its glory, and then it is taken from us.
There’s this phrase that gets bandied about when the big, bad things happen: “Well, you know…everything happens for a reason.” As if there being a reason is going to make it OK.
It doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t make it OK.
It may be comforting to believe that tragedy befalls us for some higher purpose; that our misery and pain is not for naught; that a greater force is at work; that a plan is in place, and all is right with the world even when it all feels wrong. For those of you with that kind of faith, bravo. For better or worse (and I honestly don’t know which), I do not count myself as one of you.
Sometimes horrible stuff just happens. Just as beautiful, wondrous, miraculous stuff happens, I might add. I’m not implying it’s all doom and gloom.
In my mind, there is no reason worthy enough for the death of my child. Or of anyone’s child. Or of anyone’s beloved anyone, for that matter! Honestly, I suspect it’s something we tell ourselves to feel better. Otherwise, our existence (and the inevitability of our ceasing to exist) becomes unbearable.
My son’s death didn’t happen for a reason. It happened. It affected an entire community of family and friends. We were all dumbstruck and in shock at first. We each, at our own pace and in our own ways, learned to live with the reality of his permanent absence.
Did I learn a great deal about my son as a result of his choice to end his life? Yes. Did I learn anything about myself? You bet. Did I learn about the fleeting nature of EVERY(precious)one and everything? Absolutely!
All of this learning has been an appreciated outcome, but don’t tell me my son’s death was for that reason (my personal growth/development/evolution) or any reason. This mother is just not buying it.
Shit happens, or as they say much more politely in French: C’est la vie (et la mort). Then it’s entirely up to us how to respond. That, at least, is something we can control. All we need is a reason.
I cannot fathom how painful your son’s death must have been for you and for all his family and friends. To have faith in a higher power; to believe there is a reason – when reason seems to have abandoned us – seems impossible at such a time. But I am so grateful you write about it. Your honesty and courage in surviving this and so much more is like a beacon of hope for the rest of us. Thank you!