At my mom’s inurnment (yes that’s a word) we were out at the cemetary in the middle of the Alberta prairie waiting for others to arrive for the little family ceremony we were going to have, and we spent the time wandering around looking at some of the headstones. We came across one headstone of a guy who died at a pretty young age. My dad, who was walking with us said right away when we read the name on the tombstone, “Now that’s an interesting story” as he went on to tell us about a young man who was to be taking over his family farm. He was sweet on a local girl and when he made his crush known to her, she spurned him in a most unkind way. It caused him to snap, so he left the farm and told no one that he was going to the city to drown his sorrows and rejection in booze and destructive living in order to kill himself slowly and miserably. His father loved him and with the help of another family member went and looked for him, found him, took him back home and his parents nursed him back to health and mental wellness. He came around completely and was even excited about eventually taking over the farm again and living fulfilled in spite of being spurned. He was back to living happy and looking for all the good in life. Then one day while on the field with the tractor, something happened and the tractor flipped over and he was crushed underneath the machine. My brother made the observation, “I don’t understand… a young man that looses desire to live because of significant loss is saved from destruction of himself only to come back to a life where he is excited and enthusiastic about living, and then be tragically killed. It’s hard to understand.”
And then there was my friends younger brother. He wasn’t really someone I knew well, even though I lived in the same house as he did. Age separation was a big part of it. I was a young adult with the cares and concerns of a young adult, only boarding in the house of a friend while working in a small town in the middle of a province far far from my parents and families home and all things familiar. I had bigger fish to fry. This young brother to my friend was just an average kid who had tons of potential. Turns out he had a kind heart, a desire to love on people, natural musical talent and a really magnetic personality for those who spent the time to get to know him better. After I had gotten to know him, he went on to college and got his degree, and also managed to connect with a young lady who he ended up marrying. They had an awesome wedding and were set to go on a honeymoon in Brazil. It all went down as planned and he and his new wife flew off to Brazil to enjoy their honeymoon in sunny newly wedded bliss. The morning after their arrival, he informed his wife that he was going for a walk on the beach to do some praying and stuff. She got worried when he didn’t return as quickly as she expected, so she went out looking for him. There was a gathering of emergency service workers on the beach. As she approached the group, she was able to find out that it was indeed her new husband, my friends brother, who had been struck by lightning and killed. It devastated everyone who knew him. None of us knew how to handle it.
A good friend called the other day to catch up and find out how I was doing. It was a good chance to connect and find out how we were both faring with our lives and just everything in general. I was asked to share about how recovery from the stroke was going and he was able to relate with some of the physical challenges as his body parts were wearing out from the damage caused by an accident a few years earlier. The things that people live through graciously and with perserverance humbles me on a daily basis, if they actually open up and let you know what their challenges are. (I have had more people tell me what they face silently and privately since I began sharing about my recovery and it often leaves me in awe). For all the personal challenges that my friend faced and did well with, his biggest struggle was with the things that his youngest son was going through. In order to maintain a trust I won’t go into detail …that is for the family to disclose, not me. This boy faces a life of psychological terror and uncertainty, with the options being long term treatment of psychotherapy and intense supportive parenting coupled with medications to assist in dealing with thoughts and fears that most of us deal with in much different fashion. We are able to work through issues that this child will struggle with for some time. He has done nothing to deserve this torment. It is nothing that has a quick cure. It was the look forward to this life of struggle and pain that caused my friend to begin to utter the word, “Why……?”
And the trigger to all of this was on my social media feed the other night when another Facebook friend posted the question, “Why me?” The conversation with my friend and the question posed on social media gave me a link in my mind to think back to when I first discovered that I had experienced a stroke. I can honestly say that the question of why never entered my mind, except in one way. The question is usually “Why Me?”, but I have to say that I have reflected on how that question seems to ruin everything. In any case, it is a question that deserves a closer look, because we all ask it. Sooner or later. My experience is so small in scale compared to many others I know who face struggles. What then do I really have to offer to anyone who is up against it and facing huge challenges? Do I have anything to offer and can I really understand pain and loss? Well I don’t know what anyone else faces, but I know what pain and loss was for me, so please allow me to tell you
I remember laying in the hospital bed in the rehab unit just after my stroke and the thought came up of how to frame what had just happened to me in light of what I believe about God and His goodness and how what was happening fits into that whole belief. Maybe it will confound some of you, I don’t know. But I do not believe that “why me?” is a legitimate question to ask. For one thing, if we actualy got the full answer, would we be able to understand it all? More importantly to me, I have come to understand the world in a much bigger way, and the question is more appropriately, “Why not me?”. I always have to remember who I am, what I truly deserve, and who I am speaking to. If I am able to remember these things in the heat of the moment, does that diminish my pain and/or suffering or my sense of trying to seek personal justice? Maybe not, but it is always better for me anyways to remember who I am, what my place is, and what I TRULY deserve before I ever get it in my mind to be asking the “why me” question, which really assumes that I know what is best for me, and that I think I deserve anything better than what I get.
Since I had lots of time to think about things in the hospital, and the ceiling wasn’t at all interesting enough to hold my attention for more than oh say, half an hour or so, I turned my attention to looking at my newly acquired physical challenge as a “why not me?” situation. Does turning the tables like this take away the pain and loss? NO! But how is it going to help anything in the moment or the future to look at it in any other way than what you have to work through and make the best of in life? It doesn’t make the moment or the future any easier to deal with if you start off thinking you didn’t deserve it. Even if you didn’t!!! Especially if you didn’t deserve it. If you recognize that you are in a less than ideal situation, or a situation that you wouldn’t have chosen to be in, and the only choice you have left is how to deal with what comes next, to refuse to choose the best that you can in that moment only puts you backwards, not forwards.
Make the most of moving forward, no matter how bleak and impossible it seems. For anyone who claims to have a relationship with Christ, our brother went before us in walking a terrible and treacherous path and knows what it is like to go through darkness and horror. We have a constant companion who knows all about suffering, knows how painful it is, and can sustain us in all our trials and challenges. In many ways this topic is so huge that I feel I will never be able to share everything on my heart and mind with regards to it. I just want to encourage all who struggle that there is, or can be hope in the really bleak and awful stuff that can happen in life. It doesn’t take away the pain, sorrow and challenge. It does bring comfort that we have a sympathizer who has experienced it all. Keep the faith.