Death is so totally inconceivable for us, and yet by necessity, it’s an issue we have to face. We want to think we have it all figured out and so have come up with three very different ways of explaining why we die.
First, there’s the You Live and Then You Die Theory. We get born, live awhile, and then go back to the nothingness from which we came. The only value in life is in the living, enjoying it as you can, maybe leaving behind some sort of legacy to be remembered by.
Second, there’s the Death is Punishment Theory. People sinned way back at the beginning of life and cursed us all to die as punishment for their sin and our own. After dying, one either takes the up elevator to heaven or the down one to eternal punishment in hell. Thus, some people are punished both by death and by eternal hell.
Third, there’s the Death is a Part of Life Theory. Death is natural. We live and then we die because that’s how life is. Death is a gateway into new life.
And then children are killed. Senselessly. Brutally. And all our theories and explanations for death evaporate. All we can do is face the horror and ask: WHY?
Our theories of death are cruel beyond cruel. Those kids hadn’t lived long enough to just live and die. Death as a birth to new life? They were too close to their first births to need to be birthed to new life. And anyone who wants to write off their deaths as punishment–well, what I have to say about that isn’t fit to print.
It is a horrific fact of life, though, that kids die and die senselessly and brutally. Children died in the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip. How many have died in the violence in Syria? So often children die because the adults in this world believe that any one “different” is expendable, that the lives of “others” aren’t as valuable.
While so much prayer is going out to the families of the children who died, others died senselessly as well yesterday. Those adults were just doing their job by educating the children and died by being where they were supposed to be. Just because they were older and had lived more of life doesn’t make their deaths less tragic.
That young man who created this horror was 20 years old. As a mom of 20 year old twins, I also have to look at his death through eyes of compassion. What could possibly cause a young man to kill his mom and then murder people in an elementary school? No theory of death or life has a place for such horror.
If you think YOU can offer answers to this tragedy, please do so. However, I would suspect that anything anyone can offer will either fall into the category of cruelty on the one hand or saccharine sentimentality on the other. That being said, with this being the season of Christmas and wishes of peace on earth, I would like to offer a suggestion, a response to what happened. Gandhi said what I consider to be some of the wisest words ever spoken: Be the change you want to see in the world. If you want peace on earth, be peace. If you want compassion, be compassion. If you want life to be valued, then value it. If you want children and adults, including 20 year old ‘s who shoot them, to life long and happy lives, then help make that happen. Do what you can to stop labeling others as “different” and thus expendable. Very likely, you could become the victim for your efforts. Gandhi did. So did Jesus.
Explanations and theories are useless in such a tragedy as this. But what we can’t explain, we can respond to and respond to in a way that just might make a difference.
Prayers for peace–Deborah