As many of you may know, this time of year is very difficult for my family. A few weeks ago was the 14th anniversary of my brother Gabe’s death and yesterday would have been his 45th birthday. Since his birthday is on the celebration of the Assumption, I always attend mass and it is always a little more emotional. As I was discussing this with a friend, she talked about some of her personal difficulties attending mass since the unexpected death of a loved one. She confided her anger at the loss and her anger at not knowing why her loved one was taken. WHY?? The unanswerable question.
Many Christians propose answers – it was their time, it’s all part of God’s plan, etc. Yet none of those really help with the grieving. None of those sufficiently explains why a faithful woman, a young healthy man, or an innocent little child leave us. The truth is we live in a messed up world. In this world, innocent children die every day in accidents, from disease, or at the hands of another. In this world, killers roam free, addicts savor their next score and evil permeates the world. As Christians, we know that this world is not our stopping point. We will get a chance to live in a perfect world. We have a chance at heaven if that is what we choose. We have that chance to be with our loved ones again.
But that still doesn’t really answer why. I have no answer. I do know that at some point in my grief, the why stopped being as important. Even if I knew why Gabe is gone, if I knew there was some great reason that he had to die when he did, it still wouldn’t bring him back. I would still have that emptiness in my life. Does that mean I stopped asking why? Of course not! I still hurt, I still get angry, I still deny. The cycle of grief is exactly that – a cycle. It comes and goes, eases and intensifies. There are times I am so angry I want to scream “Why him?” There are times I build a fantasy in my head that he never died and he calls me just to tease me and see how my kids are doing. There are days when the sorrow and pain is so fresh that is drains everything from me. I take comfort in knowing that the Lord knows my grief.
Nearing the tomb of Lazarus, scripture tells us “Jesus wept.” Why did he weep? He knew what he was going to do, he knew he would raise Lazarus. Yet still, he wept. He grieved because those he loved grieved. He wept because he felt the sorrow of Mary and the anger of Martha. He knew their pain and he wept with them. I know that in my pain, in my anger, through it all, that He is with me. Sometimes, He is with me as I sit alone on my bed and cry. Sometimes, He is with me through a friend who is there to offer understanding and commiseration. Regardless, He is there.
Last evening, my friend contacted me with joyous news – a new baby was born in her family. The significance of her birth on Gabe’s birthday didn’t escape me and I was happy to celebrate the wonderful news. As we talked of when she would get to visit the baby, I asked which hospital the mom and baby were at. When she told me, my immediate was response was that it was good that it wasn’t too far away. Then it sank in. The new baby that was bringing joy to my friend was born at the same hospital Gabe was born at 45 years ago. Wow. As my friend and I absorbed that, she said, “So this is how I feel…You lost a beautiful soul but now you know a new tiny little girl is here not to replace but to bring joy to this world…So a very special moment in time for both you and I.” Very special indeed. These miracles happen everywhere, every day. And even though it doesn’t kill the grief, it is a tiny offer a tiny glimpse of “why”.