Sunday, October 09, 2005
" ... In a Better Place ..."
Haven't we all heard that platitude uttered by a friend or relative intended to quiet the struggle and the rage that a parent experiences upon the death of a child? Though I believe that more hugs and fewer trite-though admittedly well-intended-words would most assuredly provide greater comfort, there should come a time for every grieving parent when the calm acceptance of finality takes over-which is NOT to say that time heals all wounds-only that continuing to fight the irreversible wears one down.
Meanwhile, should we not stand atop the highest mountain and cry out to the heavens above that the death of my child or yours is immeasureably unfair?! Every grieving parent needs to know that s/he is not alone-that living life and surviving death is easier when shared. What might even be more terrible than suffering the death of a child? ... To do so alone!
Harold Kushner in his When Bad Things Happen to Good People argues persuasively that God neither causes anyone to fall ill and die in retribution for sin - a belief commonly held by many religious people- nor does He or can He take measures to prevent such tragedies from occuring. Whether unexpectedly ending a young life or predictably that of an elderly person, death is and remains as much a part of 'maasei bereshit'-the works of creation- as is birth itself and all that happens between those two points in our lives. After all, the same god who set the planets in motion, who renews our lives with each and every sunrise, whom we praise and thank each time we arise from our slumbers, who brings forth flowers, causes the winds to blow and the falling rains ... just how could it ever be thought-no less believed-that such a sublime being would select even one child, young adult, woman or man or six million for that matter?
"Where was God during the Holocaust? Why did He not stop the murder of 1.5 million children? Maybe you have heard it said that there are no stupid questions- as many reticent school children are often told- but there are most assuredly at times wrong questions! And why not? Are there not wrong answers? The wrong question for me to ask would be ... "Why did Ben die?" Rabbi Kushner wisely remarks that "The dead depend on us for their redemption and their immortality." It is for us the living to make of our children's memory a blessing. We can do so-not by blaming a capricious god or oneself for past sins-but by the performance of good deeds and acts of loving kindness.