On Loss

Recently, a co-worker of mine passed away. He was only 44, in seemingly excellent condition, and died quite suddenly from a brain aneurysm leaving behind a wife and two children. Another co-worker of mine, who is not only single and childless, but recently underwent heart valve surgery asked, “Why him? Why not me? Why did God take away him when he still has two children to raise but let me survive when I have nobody dependent on me?” I had to admit that I had been asking myself the same question, “Why not me?”

Even though I have a husband, I don’t have any children of my own. My step-children are all grown and live quite far away. I’ve lived with autoimmune disease for twenty years now, and I’m at peace with the idea of dying earlier rather than later in life. I think living with a chronic disease for a long period of time can have that effect on people. But I found myself telling my friend that it’s not his time to go just as it’s not my time to go. Really that’s all I could say for sure.

I just finished a nonfiction book called Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. In it, he is asked by his Rabbi to give his eulogy for him.  Mitch Albom decides he needs to get to know “the Reb” better, and he discovers that many years earlier, this man had lost his four-year-old daughter, Rinah, whose name means Joy. The Reb admits that he was angry and even furious with God. He asked God, “Why her?” Mitch Albom asked if he got an answer. He said no. He added, however, that in cursing God, he recognized that there was a greater power than himself, and thus, he was able to begin to heal.

There are no easy answers. We don’t know why tragedy happens. All we can do is live in the moment and look forward to the day we are re-united  with our loved ones. I also find comfort in the analogy offered by William Young in his novel The Shack. From our very limited point of view, things can seem quite random and unfair, but perhaps from God’s omniscient point of view, there is order and meaning. Young likens this to a fractal (see an example below).

File:Mandelbrot set image.png

Binette228. Mandelbrot Set Image. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons, 29 Mar. 2014. Web. 4 July 2014. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mandelbrot_set_image.png&gt;.

According to Benoît B. Mandelbrot who wrote the book The Fractal Geometry of Nature” fractals are “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole.” 

You’ll find that fractals surround us in nature…from snowflakes to coastlines, shells, trees, lightning, and fern fronds, etc. You’ll even find them within us…such as the dendritic form of our neurons. If you look at just a part of a fractal, it may not make any sense. It may seen quite random, but when you zoom out, you can see that there is an order to it, a pattern. Perhaps that is how it is for God. Perhaps things aren’t so random for him.

There are things that we cannot possibly understand in this world, but I don’t think it’s wrong to ask questions of God as long as we acknowledge that God is much greater than we are and that we cannot hope to grasp the height and depth of his infinite wisdom anymore than one’s dog can understand his master’s wisdom. That being said, I feel confident that though our world seems tragic and chaotic, there is still beauty and purpose to our lives.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.



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