It is easy to focus on all of the what ifs surrounding your death. One could go mad, as a cousin of yours tells me. It’s madness when he thinks this way, he says. I thought I would pass by that portion of grieving where one blames oneself for the death- after all, you were in another country- traveling- doing your music thing. How could I be to blame? But in the complex web of what ifs, I still manage to find reasons -they range from what if you hadn’t married me- how different would your life have been and would you have still been alive? to- what if I’d called you that morning and talked for a long time on the phone at the hotel and you didn’t get a chance to meet up with Dave. It was him who swam out further than you ever would have on your own initiative. What if I had just somehow intercepted that meeting? What if I had forbid you to continue touring? What if I had gotten pregnant a few months before and asked you not to go? What if you’d broken your ankle, a measly thing, on the first week of the tour? I could write thousands of pages on all of the what ifs within this complex web of days of our lives.
So, yes it will be maddening to go through the myriads of what ifs that might have prevented your death.
But- what I prefer to do and what one must examine if one is going to even think about the above, is also all of the what ifs in any given situation in our lives when we did or do not die. What if you hadn’t died on this tour and you came back home safely? We would have been absolutely oblivious to what could have been- this nightmare that now ensues. And then that line of thinking leads me to: what other scenarios are we oblivious to that we barely escaped? Did you and I almost die a thousand times already in this lifetime? Quite possibly.
I heard it said many years ago that yes, this world is full of sorrows and tragedies but that while that isn’t really surprising, what is surprising is how much more there should be and isn’t. And this seemed like a very true statement to me, so I remembered it. If you’ve experienced even a taste of the evil in the world or that which lies in a human heart, it is actually stunning that the world functions as it does. And this is what the speaker I heard was getting at- this world would be a WHOLE lot shittier— if not for the mercies of God. This is the evidence of the mercy of God- the fact that this world functions as well as it does. This strikes me as very real, tangible evidence indeed. I don’t think it is a pessimistic view but a realistic view of mankind to say it is actually quite amazing we haven’t already blown our whole planet up. If you’ve seen tempers flare, greed, lust, pride-even within a small family unit or on a crowded subway train- this is really quite a miracle. And I think that’s exactly what it is: a miracle. And I think, if I am going to imagine all of the what ifs surrounding this tragedy, I need to also think of all of the what ifs surrounding each day that there was no tragedy. Balance. It is only wise to think of both. And when I do, it leads me right back to that unknown addition- that keeps showing up and making the sum greater than the parts…that seems to be holding everything together.
“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1.17