I’ve found that life after tragedy is, among many things, one big study in human nature which I never asked to lead. And I feel like, as the one who experienced this particular tragedy, I’m indeed leading it, or at least my own version of it, because I could compile all of my observations related to the ways in which different types of people react/don’t react to Matthew’s death (and to others’ experiences similar to mine, or dissimilar, yet also tragic) and put them into a research paper or a book, even. And I’m sure it would be so entertaining that it would drive a helluva lot of people into a comatose state.
But one of my biggest observations thus far has been that nearly everyone tries to look for the reason that this very bad thing happened, as well as the reasons behind all sorts of other bad things happening in the world.
And at first I expected the “everything happens for a reasons” to possibly come only from religious zealot types, particularly those lucky enough to have been relatively sheltered from tragedy. Or maybe I’d envisioned telling my story to Tim Tebow and he being all like, “Christine, my football carrier disintegrated for a reason just as Matthew died for a reason – everything happens for a reason,” but in the sweetest way possible, which, by the way, isn’t a knock to Tim Tebow, because despite his uncanny ability to generate eye rolls, I kind of like him and continue to maintain that he never got a fair shake with the Denver Broncos. (Screw John Elway and his new Super Bowl ring.)
But anyway, I’ve decided that I totally wrongly stereotyped these people, or I guess, more accurately, I’ve discovered the error of my ways that was assuming the need to “find the reason” is unique to only one very specific group of people.
Because nearly everyone I encounter has looked for, and/or is still looking for, the reason behind Matthew’s death. Sometimes it comes in the form of, “Everything happens for a reason.” And other times, it’s more like, after seeing some perceived glimmer of good/hope in our lives, “Oh, *this* (insert comparatively trivial or otherwise nonsensical thing) must be the reason why Matthew died.”
And when I say nearly everyone, I truly mean it – I’ve found those searching for (or who think they’ve found) “the reason” could be those religious or not particularly religious; highly educated or poorly educated; family members or friends or acquaintances or strangers; sweet ones or jerks; doctors or nurses or executives or accountants or teachers; people I (correctly or incorrectly) perceive as having had experienced comparatively little tragedy in life or, surprisingly, even, wait for it… Other bereaved parents.
I’ll admit this phenomenon is so strange to me. Because I’ll never, ever be one who concedes that Matthew’s death (or many other tragedies in this world) happened for a reason, because a) I don’t think this is true, and b) no reason will ever be good enough for me to justify why he was taken from us so soon, or why many of life’s tragedies occur.
I just don’t believe that Matthew died to teach us a lesson or to make us better people. He didn’t die because we, or others, prayed too little. He didn’t die to make people more thankful for their living children or to bring people closer to Jesus. He didn’t die so I could start my blog and share his story. He didn’t die so we could advocate for improved standard of care in American obstetrics. He didn’t die so he could be spared from future struggles (medical or otherwise), or because he might have done something bad someday had he survived. And he didn’t die so his little brother Jay could come here instead. (Though we’re certainly hopeful Jay will indeed live.)
I don’t believe Matthew’s some sacrificial lamb whose life was shazamed by a high power who’s supposed to be good (but who’s also arguably evil if he/she is indeed shazaming the lives of innocent babies) whose intent is to use him as a pawn in some mission, the purpose of which is for us to try to guess for the rest of our lives. I don’t think Matthew’s our guardian angel who’ll guarantee his loved ones immunity from all future hardships from this day forward. (Like, if so, where the hell were our freaking deceased grandparents when Matthew needed protection?!?! Gawwwd, I feel so let down by those lazy ass mo-fos!)
All of the above reasons have been presented to us, and, often times, I’ve kind of forced a smile and reluctantly nodded in response. Though, other times, if I’m in the mood, I’ll politely disagree, highlighting any flawed logic I see. (Which I’ll point out is so damn easy – it’s like low-hanging fruit.) Because I’ll always maintain Matthew’s our innocent, precious, beautiful, healthy, perfect baby boy, our son whose life was cut tragically short by this random act of nature. And I don’t think there’s any reason for it beyond this.
And while I can certainly appreciate that everyone is different, and that some find comfort in searching for the reason, based on my observations, I would also argue that this tendency is a human defense mechanism which protects so many from thinking too hard about some “inconvenient truths” about life. (And I’m not referring to climate change here, my friends.)
So here’s where I’m going to start speaking about said “inconvenient truths” and start making some people so uncomfortable they shift hard enough in their seats to create the friction necessary to start a fire, therefore burning a hole right through their office chair, pants, underwear, and maybe even the skin on their ass cheeks…
But here’s what I think…
I think life can be cruel and unfair and tragic, which is actually a gross understatement if you think about this statement for longer than like eight seconds. The world is a scary place where really awful, heinous things happen to some amazing people deserving of all things good. And, conversely, some glorious things happen to the shittiest, most undeserving of people.
I think our world is broken and imperfect and full of evil, which can be explained either biblically or otherwise, and no one is immune from experiencing it – no one knows when that life changing phone call will come or when that earth shattering event will occur.
I think no amount of faith and prayer and being a good person protects anyone from any of it. Because there’s no reason for any of it.
There’s no reason for the death of an innocent baby from something so effing ridiculous as an “umbilical cord accident.” There’s no reason for things such as child abuse and neglect. There’s no reason people get cancer and fight it for years, only to die in the end. There’s no reason for the sex trafficking of children and teenagers. There’s no reason for the cold-blooded murder of women and children (or anyone) in Syria (or anywhere else in the world). There’s no reason that people are captured, and then beheaded, by ISIS. The list is miles and miles long – it’s infinite – the list of things for which there is no explanation, no reason, at least not one which wraps any of these terrible things up into some kind of pretty bow.
And I think redemption (at least earthside) post-tragedy isn’t guaranteed either. It can certainly occur, though only if the opportunity is presented, and with the help of some positive, free-will choices mixed with a whole lot of luck. But nothing is promised. Not always does something wonderful emerge from the aftermath, the carnage, or the ashes.
But all this said, so much good and beauty exists in this world too. Natural wonders and new life and seemingly “miraculous” things are all around us. There are astonishing acts of kindness and opportunities to live purpose-filled lives and inspiring stories of redemption. Who knows? Maybe there’s enough good to match the evil. Maybe there’s even more.
By pointing all of this out, I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should concentrate on the bad, living in perpetual fear of the next tragedy. If we constantly focused on all that’s scary and wrong in this world, we’d each surely become crippled by terror, eventually dying from the stress, most likely.
But, after experiencing such a life-changing event, I certainly spend more time in dark places these days. And I’ve yet to fully figure out why the desire to find the reason seems to be so prevalent. Because, to my knowledge, this isn’t actually an official part of any religious or spiritual teaching. (Though it’s difficult to deny pressures may exist within some religious institutions for members to find the reason, come to a place of acceptance, and move forward as quickly as possible. Though I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that maintaining a faith and rejecting the notion that “everything happens for a reason” aren’t mutually exclusive.) Or perhaps it’s just that when it comes to tragedies that hit close to home, so many have an innate desire to assign logic to said tragedies at all costs, sometimes even at the cost of logic itself. This human defense mechanism (that some are, seemingly, born without) is far more powerful than I ever would have imagined.
But, at least with me, people can stop searching for the reason Matthew died. There isn’t one I’ll ever accept anyway. And, if I’m in the mood, I might even point out the fallacies of the argument presented to me therefore making the presenter all shifty and uncomfortable, setting his/her ass on fire as I remind him/her of these aforementioned inconvenient truths.
I believe that NOT everything happens for a reason. Sometimes life just sucks. And then you try to deal with the aftermath as best you can. And maybe you do a really great job and also get really lucky and some good and redemption come from it – but this doesn’t mean it’s why the tragic event occurred in the first place.
I’ve found no reason for Matthew’s death, and I’m confident I never will. And I hope there comes a time when others stop trying to find the reason for me.
I wanted to write about my recent cord pathology scan for baby Jay and my vacation to South Carolina, and I had all these grandiose plans to do so while on the beach, but it didn’t go as planned between tears from missing Matthew and naps and there being a wicked glare on my computer screen and my concern with getting sand in my keyboard. So I’ll post on each of these things by the end of this week/early next – stay tuned. In the meantime, this post I’d already written seemed fitting as the guy sitting next to us on our flight home saw I was pregnant and asked if this was our first child and upon hearing our first child died proceeded to tell us his older sister died and thank God she did because he might not have been born otherwise – everything happens for a reason. Maybe. Or not.