Wednesday, September 19, 2007
When Young People Die
A friend came to me recently after attending a funeral for the 18 year old sibling of one of her best friends. She expressed to me how difficult the funeral was for her and how helpless she felt to console her friend. She asked me what can be said in such a situation. It is difficult for anyone to find the right words in such a situation. I have been through similar experiences. When I was 29 years old, my younger brother in law was killed by a drunk driver. A few years later a child in my neighborhood died in a house fire across the street from where I lived. Another time the only son of a good friend died of cancer at age 20. When my youngest son, Nick, was 17 years old, his best friend died unexpectedly the day after spending the night at our house. Each time I felt helpless as I struggled to find words for a sister in law, a neighbor, a friend, and my son. It is always difficult to deal with the death of a young person. None of us understand why such things happen. If God has anything to do with it, I don't understand what He's thinking. What's his purpose? What's the point? Why is such sorrow brought upon spouses, parents, friends, and relatives? Sometimes I shudder when, in such circumstances, I hear people say, "It's God's will". I don't like to let God off the hook so easily. There is probably a very thin line between what God wills and what God allows. I will accept the fact that many things in life are a mystery and one can have lengthy theological discussions about God and evil and why bad things happen to good people. I don't understand everything that happens in life and I certainly cannot give my friend or others easy explanations for why 18 year old's die and other's live to be 100 years old. Do the good die young? Yes, sometimes. Do bad people live long lives? Yes, sometimes. Do some of us live long lives because we need a lot of time for a deep spiritual transformation to take place within us? This is very likely. Life really is a mystery. It is not likely we will solve it's mystery this side of the grave. Through faith we believe and trust that our lives and the lives of others, no matter how short, have a purpose and life is not just a series of random, meaningless experiences. I must believe that life and pain have meaning and someday I hope understand it. Part of the mystery of life is that we never know when it will end. This should motivate us to live each day well and to the fullest.