My husband was recently in a group of people who were discussing grief and loss. As is often the case, he was asked to share his views. This happens, in his case, because he has a Masters in Biblical Languages, reads Hebrew and Greek as easily as I read my English Bible (which means he reads the real Scripture!), and he has been through the loss of a child. He surprised more than a few people in the group when his core statement was “I don’t have all the answers, certainly none that have totally satisfied me.”
I don’t think about my age very much but the reality is I have lived almost six decades now. I’ve seen and read about many tragedies and horrific disasters. My innocence or naivete regarding life was shattered when I was sixteen and three of my friends were killed in one night in a car accident. I went to three funerals in two days. That remains a very vivid memory to me. The Vietnam War also made a huge impression on me as I knew people who did not return and everyone who did come back were forever changed. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes came and death tolls would begin with 10’s and rise to 100’s even 1000’s. It was hard to understand.
The school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, the terrorism attack on September 11, 2001, the space shuttle Columbia’s explosion in 2003, the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, my son’s cancer diagnosis and death five years later – all of these and more have happened in my lifetime and I do not have any satisfactory answers to my many questions. I can philosophize and theorize. Discussion can be helpful but no conclusion is ultimately written on a final chapter to close the book.
Politicians and commentators insult our intelligence with their soundbites and partisan debating. Lawmakers attempt to point a finger at a cause and legislate something that will make someone somewhere feel better that this won’t happen again. But it will. Not in the same way or in the same location but history shows us that terrible, senseless events continue to happen.
Not every question has an answer – not a satisfactory one, any way. Some people believe that if we just keep researching and learning that we will eventually figure it out. We’ll learn more about weather or psychology or disease or how to live with each other without making war or destroying this planet. It is un-satisfactory to live with words like random and accidental in the same sentence with tragedy. It’s interesting that no futuristic science fiction has been produced in a writer’s mind or a director’s vision in which tragedy is eradicated.
I want to say to my children and grandchildren that they are going to experience tragedy in their lives. They are going to be shocked, appalled and sickened. I hope they never reach a point when they aren’t when confronted with events like I have seen. But I also want them to know that despite a lack of answers or satisfactory ones, they will survive and survive with hope. They will because I, and so many other people who have been a part of their lives, have walked before them, shared their lives and faith in something, Someone, Who will never abandon them, no matter what happens. Nurture your faith so that it remains a living, growing support in your life when everything else around you is shifting. Nurture each other as a family that is there not only in tragedy but in the everyday with your love and your time.
I live with unanswered questions but I can live with them because I also live with love, faith and hope – and they take up more room than the questions.