As I sit here this Monday morning, it’s so hard to make sense out of my emotions, which are flip-flopping through my crowded mind, competing for attention.
I am grieving the death of my father, who passed away on Friday.
But on top of that I’m also grieving – along with the rest of the world – the 20 young children who died that same day in Newtown, just 30 minutes from my home here in Connecticut.
It isn’t surprising, I’m sure, for you to hear that the events in Newtown pretty much eclipsed the death of my father.
The loss of a 90-year old is a natural loss; the senseless massacre of innocent children is something that is unspeakable and unthinkable.
The death of an elderly person neatly follows a rather natural course of events; a linear progression through life’s otherwise messy roadmap. The events in Newtown? They’re part of a roadmap gone haywire; roads converging in a most horrific and chaotic manner; carried out by a person who has veered so far off course that it’s impossible to fathom how he got there and what might have brought him back.
My father lived a good, long life. He got to experience a happy childhood, a distinguished role in the navy during World War II, a solid career as a high school teacher, marriage, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There are few places on the globe left untouched by his footsteps.
And though it’s true I’d have liked to have him around for ten, even fifteen more years if I really push what is unlikely yet holds the slightest possibility (don’t we all wish to maximize what we love?) it does not surprise me from a purely intellectual level that he didn’t make it past 90.
In the end, it was his esophageal cancer that claimed him. Unleashed, it coursed through his body until he was unable to eat or drink any longer without excruciating pain. He made a very brave decision to die on his own terms, and refused all food and water. Peacefully, and without pain, he stopped breathing at 2:00 AM Friday morning.
He made his choice. These innocent children had no choice. He lived his life; they will not get to experience life beyond Friday, December 14, 2012.
There is no justice. There is no reason. Searching for either is futile, confusing and frustratingly sad.
We’ve been fighting a war on cancer for as long as I can remember. But we’re not coming much closer to eradicating or curing it. Instead, we are hearing about how people can “live” with it; how it can be considered a “chronic illness” and treated as such by keeping its symptoms “under control.”
And now I think it’s time – again – to fight the other runaway sickness that is taking too many lives: guns and violence. Or, are we becoming desensitized to it and instead standing by and allowing it to pervade our lives, as long as it’s kept under control?
We cannot grow immune to senseless violence the way we might grow immune to an elderly person’s natural death from cancer.
I wonder which will be eliminated soonest.