I had been following the tweets of #oomf (I shall call her “R”)for a few weeks. I knew nothing about her except what I gleaned from Twitter. We’d occasionally even trade tweets. Here’s what I gathered about her: she had lupus. She had been spending a lot of time in hospitals of late. R had moved from hospital to hospital. Her condition had deteriorated over the past couple of weeks. She seemed to be in pain, all over pain. She couldn’t keep any food or drink down. At first, she was able to tolerate watermelon. Eventually, not even that. Her tweets progressed from mere notifications of her current state, to what felt like resignation to a horrible existence, the absence of hope, the sound of a very weary and battered soul, and in the instances where there was shard of strength, desperate cries for help.
Many of her own followers offered words of encouragement and in some cases tangible help in the form of visits, gifts of juice and doctor recommendations. For my part, I may have reached out in a single tweet trying to commiserate. She was always in my thoughts, and I would check her timeline to catch up her latest news. I prayed for her. Pain can be so debilitating, robbing the victim of his humanity, stripping away composure and erasing hope. As for her nausea…ugh! I had morning (noon and night) sickness during my two pregnancies which started at Day 1 and continued right up to the moment in the delivery room when I pushed my babies out. It. Was. Awful. Enough said. In my case I knew why I was sick. I also knew that it would end, and I knew when it would end. In R’s case, no one could tell her the reason, and nothing was helping. She was being stripped down day by day, dollar by dollar. Yesterday, very early, a lone tweet from her pierced my morning: “Anyone?” Oh God. I scrolled to the tweet before this one, and realised that in the dark just before dawn, R had thrown out a request to TwitterLand for advice as to where she could get a nurse’s aid. Not many people are actively tweeting at that time of the morning and her cry for help went unheeded. I got out of bed and moved to the laptop. I was on a mission. I DMed her and told her that I may be able to assist with a referral. Several FB inbox messages (I don’t have to provide the explanatory link to what FB inbox is, right?) to someone I was sure could help and several DMs to R later, I had linked her with her possible solution. But I was left with one question as I pondered the situation: Why?
I thought about a FB Note (I hope you know what that is too…if you don’t, please stop reading and ask your teen to tell you what a FB note is) I had written November 2009:
Why Me? Why her? Why now?
It’s always gratifying to see your children socialising and being participatory. This morning my Firstborn sang with her school Glee Club at a mass of remembrance for Pia. For those who do not know, Pia would have been 19 today, and it exactly 1 year since she died. Pia was accidentally shot by her father as he ran out towards Pia and her mother who were being held up by gunmen outside their Kingston suburban home. He slipped and fell in the melee and the gun went off, the single bullet piercing Pia’s stomach. Pia was the school’s head girl and an active Roman Catholic. As I observed her family supporting each other this morning, and the love and support of the Church community, I reflected on the whole notion of suffering.
Some of us suffer because of poor choices that we make. Others of us suffer and there is no rational answer to the question: “why?” Why did that one bullet hit and kill Pia, what anguish assails her father, why does one person get cancer and not another, why does one person get HIV infected and others engaging in risky sex escape, why, why, why? What about those of us who have misery beset us because of our own poor choices? Do we have a right to hope for mercy and redemption?
It was a very moving service that prompted these musings. I certainly did not leave with the answers, only a feeling of gratitude for the blessings that are still there in the middle of sadness, loss, regret and despair….a certain knowledge that His ways are not our ways, and that redemption is available and possible for all.
It somehow seems easier for us to reconcile consequences to actions. If I put my hand in the fire, I will get burnt. Inevitable. Painful, but expected. And we roll with those punches. But if I am walking past the stove and it somehow explodes, burning that same hand, I now contend with the same pain and then some, asking WHY… why did this happen to me? After all, I didn’t get burned through any fault of my own. In fact, some of us, having made poor choices and even wrong choices, welcome the fall out as a sort of penance for our wrong doing.
Life, though, exists and manifests with inter-relationships that we have no control over. Here’s a simple illustration: two of us are sitting perhaps 2 feet apart at the side of a pond. The fool to my left decides to pick up a large stone and throw it with force into the pond. His decision, his action. So he throws it in and there’s a huge splash. I’m pretty sure he expected that he would get splashed. And sure enough, he gets splashed. Here’s the problem though: I’m only 2 feet away, so I too get splashed, my only part in this mess being my proximity to him. The stone that he pelted into the water, startled the King Fisher about to get his morning meal in the form of a hapless fish swimming merrily in said pond. The fish escapes death, the bird goes hungry. Ripples are created and radiate outwards all the way to the other end of the pond. One single action by one person has affected, in one way or another, several other situations and persons.
So we ask why. My wise Aunt Jeannie (the same person who shared laughingly while shaking her head I as I shared with her some of the settling in pains of our first year of marriage: “Men are simple you know, Kelly…accept that and it makes it easier to deal with them…”) once replied to one of my “why?” moments with this counter: “WHY NOT?”
This is life: inter-connectedness that we will never understand or even know about… actions and consequences, some our own, many having nothing to do with us.
Last week, the parents of a student at Little Master’s school were murdered. My godson sits beside that student and his mom, my friend G, called me to talk about it. “How do you think we should deal with this situation, Kelly?” she asked. We agreed that acknowledging what had happened would probably be best, without going into the gory details, and that providing a safe space for the children to ask questions and express their feelings would be useful too. G told me that my godson had challenged her recently: “If God is supposed to take care of us, why do bad things happen? Does it mean that God is NOT taking care of us properly?” That “WHY?” again… I was naturally curious as to her response to my obviously thinking and intelligent godson. Here’s what this wise mummy replied:
“God created all things and allows situations to happen (big fish eat fish). Humans are different from the rest of God’s creations as we can think and reason at a higher level. Our job, as His people, is to do the right things in our lives.“
I can’t answer every single “why?” that crops up as I make my way in life. My faith allows me to reach out and ask for and accept grace when I am faced with the consequences of my own actions. That same faith challenges me to reach out and ask for grace to deal with circumstances that are created without my participation. I don’t believe that my life is a series of random events. I try daily to embrace My Story. There are lessons I’ve learned. There is a God that I’ve come to know. I believe that I have grown as a person, and I think that I have been able to journey with people though their own story, sharing strength and insight that I gained along the way through my own experiences. I believe that even though I may not be able to answer “why?” today, there may come a day when I possibly can. I believe that every single thing happens for a reason, and that as at today, it’s not all over…”the story nuh done yet.”