“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith
Last week, a friend’s 9 year old son died. It was very unexpected and took everyone by surprise. He was one of those kids you read about from time to time. He was an exceptional athlete, he cared about people and his community, he was a very good student, and he was loved by many people. I know that children die everyday; some from illness, some from abuse or violence, and others from accidents.
For me personally, the death of child seems the most difficult thing to accept. It also brings up questions that can’t be answered in a way that makes sense to me. I know many people who have answers to the most difficult questions and that works for them. I don’t have answers but I do have acceptance. I accept that life is filled with things I can’t understand-at least not yet. I understand the concept of evil and sin and all of the theology that gives us reasons why there is pain and death in our world. It doesn’t mean I understand why my best friend died or why this young man died so young. It doesn’t mean I understand how people can be so cruel to each other. It doesn’t mean I understand the tragedy of a tornado destroying a town or someone shooting a school full of children, or bombing a group or people gathered to watch a race.
I didn’t know this young man well. I know his parents. I remember when he was born. I have met him. I have watched all of his accomplishments on his father’s facebook page. Yet, this touched me deeply. I have a friend who says that he believes grief lives in a special place in our mind and heart and anytime there is grief in our lives, that grief touches the other grief we have known. This young boy’s death took me back to the summer I was almost 7. My best friend was a young boy named Jerry. He was accidentally killed while playing on a rope swing we had in the trees near our house. I won’t share the whole story because it is a very difficult story to tell. In fact, I have only shared the whole story with a couple of people in my life. That has been on my mind the past few days. Even now, more than 50 years later, it still causes sadness for me.
I don’t know that answers would make things better. Would knowing “why” make it hurt less? I don’t think so. I often wonder if God will answer all of these questions when we get to Heaven? Maybe, we won’t need answers when we get there. I don’t know. I only know that death, pain, loss, tears, and sadness are all a part of this thing we call life. But, life is also filled with love, laughter, friends, family, and faith. Those are the things I hold on to when I have questions and don’t understand. I hope that my friend and his wife can grab hold of those things as they face the journey ahead of them.