Life isn’t (un)fair…

universe-hd-photo95-JPGA long time ago I stopped believing in a fair universe. From everything I’ve observed, life is a mix of intentionality, chance and inevitability. I have a small amount of agency; I work hard and pay my taxes and volunteer all of which come with their own rewards. But for the most part, life is just as likely to kick me in the balls as it is to let me win the lottery. Nature has no sense of justice outside of its laws of cause and effect. It is up to me to create fairness from an otherwise apathetic life.

When I believed God was in charge of everything, I had mantras like “it’s all part of God’s plan” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” to fall back on whenever undeservedly bad things happened to good people. (let’s be honest, bad people deserve it, right?) Eventually they all became platitudes. Because as more curses and blessings stacked up, most of which without any catalyst, God’s plan began to look like trying to read tea leaves and God had a funny sense of what people could handle vs. what they should have to handle. In the end I was forced to reject the notion of a just God because a just God wouldn’t stand idly by in the face of so much injustice.

free-willNot just the kind of injustice that people intentionally cause; not crime or war or corporate greed or any of the millions of ways we dehumanize each other. I’m talking about the stupid everyday injustice, like car accidents and slipping on a patch of ice and breaking your leg. Accidents with horrible consequences. The butterfly effect of causality that reaps human life. I can’t even buy into the “free will” answer: God doesn’t intervene because he loves our free will more than he loves starving children. It’s bullshit, because that’s not love or justice, that’s an excuse. Therefore, I was left with either rejecting my preconceptions about God or believing in a lie.

Recently, my father-in-law passed away. While he was not perfect, he lived a good and clean life. He didn’t smoke. He drank less than occasionally. He was a runner. He attended church, was married more than 30 years and was an overall good man. He was diagnosed with throat cancer, which spread to his brain and eventually to the rest of his body. The doctors originally gave him 6 months to live. He fought for over 4 years until May 11th, 2015. There it is; blessings and curses all wrapped up in a whole ball of intentionality, chance and inevitability. If a just God did exist, this wouldn’t have happened.

BristleconeThe ironic part is I wish I still believed in a just God because right now I could really use something to blame. I want to look God in the eye and say “You are wrong! You did this! This is your fault and how dare you proclaim love and justice and mercy and compassion when you let good men suffer and die!” I am angry because Andy didn’t deserve to die. Not this way; not like this. He deserved better from his God than he received. There are millions of other people in the world who are more deserving than he was to die of cancer. This is a horrible statement but right now I feel horrible and selfish and hurt and confused and broken. And tired.

Right now I am just. So. Tired. Because what is the point? Why should I work so hard for ideals that go against the very fabric of the universe? Why should I care? In a just universe I’d be able to look at my son and tell him that life will be kind. But right now all I can tell him is that he will never know his grandfather; that he was robbed of having a good man in his life because life isn’t fair.

Life just is.

It is a hard lesson and I’m left with one lonely realization; if there is going to be justice in this world then I’m going to have to be the one making it happen. It’s up to me to create justice where it doesn’t exist. Because that is what I want to do. The responsibility has been passed from God to me and it’s a heavy load. 11238228_10153338843751934_1951030714927036305_nFortunately I know a whole lot of other people who are working to lighten that load. I know miracle workers on the margins of society who squeeze justice from life like blood from stone and I want to be just as strong and powerful and tireless as them. And maybe if I can just keep trying, keep believing in love and justice, I can make my father-in-law’s death mean something.

Because I think that’s what he would have wanted. And it’s what I want. Rest in love Andy. I’ll keep working on the justice.

How do you say goodbye?

Recently, my wife’s grandfather passed away. He had advanced stage Alzheimer’s. I remember meeting him before we were married. There was barely a person there. He lived another 6 years. He outlived his wife while in the care center.

Tonight, my wife said, “I’m confused. I feel like I should be more broken up about my grandfather dying.” My response: “What you’re feeling is probably relief. You saw him at his worst, and are happy now that he isn’t suffering.”

She said her goodbyes years ago.

People react differently to death. My own grandmother passed away a few months ago. I wasn’t able to go to the funeral because airlines wanted $700 for a ticket. I’m still not sure how I feel about it; I definitely haven’t dealt with the reality fully. In the back of my mind, she is still living in Arizona. Until I realize that she’s not.

I still haven’t cried.

Which is strange. I cry over stupid crap. I lost water weight after every episode of Touch on FOX. Don’t get me started over the first 5 minutes of Pixar’s Up. Doesn’t my grandmother deserve tears?

It’s not that sadness isn’t there. It is. I can feel it inside; I could feel it when I spoke with her on the phone for the last time. I feel it every time I talk to my mom and my aunt. I felt it when Heather told me her grandfather died. Grief is there, but it won’t come out.

Part of me feels my grief is selfish. My grandmother was an amazing woman filled with love, faith, and charity. She was a good Irish Catholic grandmother. Why should I cry over such an amazing and good life? She lives on in my memory, and if Christianity has anything to say about the afterlife, I am pretty dang sure she is rejoicing in heaven with Jesus. If anything, I should live my life better in her memory.

Maybe this is why I haven’t cried. To me, she isn’t gone yet. In my heart and in my mind, she is still with me. My memories keep her alive well past when her body gave out. She still makes me want to be a better grandson, husband, future father and human being. None of those things make me sad.

Like my wife, maybe I am just relieved that she isn’t in pain anymore. Her death wasn’t tragic or untimely. She had a full and good life. That is nothing for me to cry over.

I miss you grandma. Even if the tears won’t come.