About 10 years ago, when I worked for a large company, I was friends with a woman there. I'll call her Mary. We both worked in the Information Technology department, which at the time was mostly male. We women stuck together, and spent many a lunch hour discussing our co-workers, our husbands, our children, and the important things in our lives. At one time I was quite close to Mary; her youngest child, Mike, was 3 years older than my oldest child, but that was close enough so that we could swap similar stories and relate quite well.
Time passed, Mary left the company and divorced, her children grew up, as did mine, and she remarried and moved to Alberta. We lost touch.
Tonight, my youngest child crashed his car. He was driving the car that we had helped him buy less than 2 weeks ago. We did "all the right things" - didn't push him to drive when he was 16, but let him wait until he was more ready at 18. We then put him in the most well-respected, comprehensive driving school we could find. He passed his driver's test the first time, and when I got over my initial shock I grew to see that he was a careful driver. We waited until he had a good job, and could afford gas and car insurance, and then we bought the car early for him with the understanding that he would pay back half the cost.
He had been driving down a very quiet rural road, with a friend in the passenger seat, when a rabbit darted in front of the car. He swerved, over corrected, and lost control. The car glanced off a couple of trees, entered a 3-foot ditch, and half-climbed out again. The airbags that I had insisted on were deployed, and both boys, who were wearing seat belts, got a good dose of airbag dust, got shaken up, but were otherwise unharmed.
I drove to the accident site after he called us, and angrily wondered if he had been goofing off, speeding, and/or making up the rabbit story. When my husband, who got there before me, told me that the car was probably totalled, I further wondered if we were going to make him continue to pay us back the half that we had agreed to, or if my husband (the softy) would just let him off the hook. I wondered if my boy had learned a lesson, and I wondered if my husband was going to rush to buy him another car so that he wouldn't have to be "inconvenienced". (I can do a lot of agitated thinking when my adrenaline is going).
Then I remembered my old friend Mary. A few days ago I found out from another friend that Mary's son Mike died unexpectedly last week. He took his own life, and no one saw it coming. He was a few weeks short of 25 years old. He left behind a young wife, his siblings, his friends, his parents and grandparents. Mary, of course, is devastated.
....and now my thoughts are wrapped up in comparing the two situations; I have my son, and Mary does not have hers. I can hug my son, and Mary will never hug hers again.
I don't think I will ever fully comprehend Mary's situation, except for the fact that Mary would probably give anything to switch places with me. I don't know who, if anyone, is in charge of life or death. Are people "chosen", or is it random? Even if I did believe that some"one" was in charge, I would still be asking WHY? Why this child and not that child? The "works in mysterious ways" answer would not satisfy me. Why was some"one" not watching out for that child in his darkest hour? Why was the suicide attempt successful? I know, I know - free will.
But why was that child's momentary expression of free will so devastating while my child's was not? I could go on and on with this.
But I am lucky; life for me and my family will go back to normal within a few days, while Mary will continue to ask "why?" for the rest of her life.
Hug your boys, hug your girls, hug whoever you love as often as possible.