Since my father's death a year and a half ago, I have been to 10 funerals and I have mourned countless young deaths. I think the number was up to 22 young deaths of people I knew within the last year and a half. 23 months ago, on my birthday, I went to visit my uncle, and before our visit was over, he died in front of me. What does it mean when you witness death on the day you were born? I had never observed human death before yet in the last year I have observed it three times.
Two and half years ago after visiting dear friends in New York, I learned their three-year-old daughter, whom I had licked lollipops with just days before had been tragically killed by a bus. Over and over I have faced my mortality the way a stealth blizzard creeps into the sky. Death has swarmed into many unsuspecting friends and family members who were not expecting chaos and pain to jolt their lives beyond recognition.
What does this all mean? I have struggled to see the point to this pain that I have been selected to experience. It's not like I am in my 80s and should expect this sort of human inevitability. I have tried so hard to make sense of it, but it seems senseless. Is this G-d's way of telling me he's here and can strike us at any moment? I get it, he's in the driver's seat and we are powerless beings sitting shotgun. I know You don't appreciate us being your backseat driver, but sometimes it would seem as though you need a little direction.
Do you get lonely and want one of us to keep you company? In the end do we eventually get the answers once we're in Heaven?
Are we to learn fear? G-d I'm afraid. I'm afraid You always get the last laugh. I'm afraid that I have lost my innocent child inside me that always believed life was made up of sparkly cookies and Disney rides. I'm not afraid You don't exist, I am afraid that You do.
Are we to learn pain? What is the lesson in learning pain? Is this what You feel when one of us forgets to have our daily conversations with you? Is this what You feel when You give one of us life and our soul only revels in corporeal pursuits? Do You feel lonely and in pain when we get here and ignore our soul that shines inside our bodies as it pulses with vitality?
Is life only here to teach us that the point to all of existence is to learn how to coexist with pain and merriment?
In the last decade, the world has taken witness to terrorist attacks on 9/11 and Mumbai, Genocide in Darfur, Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami in Indonesia and the earthquake/tsunami/radiation disaster in Japan. We have all seen loss and we have all been exposed to pain, but why is it that we cannot make it make sense?
Maybe if we had a trailer that showed us what goes on, on the other side it wouldn't be so painful. It's the mystery that's a killer. Can't I get a cable channel giving me access to the other world? Then I wouldn't miss my loved ones as much. I could move on, let it go, live without pain while I watched Pepsi commercials featuring Heaven's latest cola celebrity followed by "Non-Survivor" where everyone I love ends up.
And why are we born with the notion that we will last forever and when we lose a loved one we become disillusioned? We all know nothing lasts forever, and yet we are still so rocked with shock and awe. I am not mad at G-d for creating death, I am mad at G-d for creating my belief in immortality.
The fact that my ego rejects "gone forever" unnerves me. Why does it need to hold onto forever? Why can't it unravel the mystery of impermanence? I would like my ego to take a hiatus from believing in happily ever after. It is really disrupting my groove. This disillusion is what creates my grief. It allows a grieving mother to have a vacant look in her eye as she grapples with her ability to witness creation and destruction simultaneously in her lifetime.
Then again, it also forces us to search for meaning. It drives us to seek purpose. It is G-d's little sneaky way of getting us up in the morning to find an AA meeting, write a song, lend a hand to someone else who fights his or her own demons. It can be the one formula to create internal change and enlightenment if channeled correctly.
But why this model? G-d couldn't you have substituted death with something else? Couldn't we learn those things without all the drama? G-d why the drama? From here, it looks like you've become the Director of the ultimate reality show called "The Biggest Loser." In this case, those of us who get chosen to participate actually gain weight. Have you ever seen the amount of food served in a Shiva house? Even Christian mourners follow their funerals with a house full of high caloric snacks.
Years ago a sister of mine fought for her life in an illness that the doctors were sure would take her life by the time she was two. I remember having these same questions while sitting in the hospital day after day waiting for a miracle. Our faith had been tested each day as we failed to get good news that her health had improved. The very important lesson I learned during those years was that we are G-d's children, and we are allowed, no we are entitled to kick and scream at G-d if he hurts our children. One afternoon I remember my mother locking herself in her bedroom and screaming on the top of her lungs "Leave my children alone!!" I will never forget that moment, a) because it was sort of funny, and b) because it taught me a lesson that I can have a conversation with G-d that looks like this one.
We are not supposed to just take it. We are not supposed to turn our back on G-d when we are angry. We are supposed to fight for life -- because fighting promotes dialogue and dialogue promotes connection, and eventually that pain becomes a vehicle for true joy. Just ask anyone who's ever listened to Eric Clapton's "Tears of Heaven." The joy in his voice over the memory of his son sings to the highest gates of Heaven.
I will keep on singing. I will sing and create and evolve and make a lot of noise here on earth- and I won't give up until G-d swoops his arms down here and casts me in his Heaven cola ad.