On June 9, 2011, I woke to the warm breezes of too many fans in a too-warm room. One was on my face—a fan clipped to a bunk pole. Another ruffled the sheet up and down my body, and a third brushed my feet. My BlackBerry buzzed beside my ear.
I pressed the green button and mumbled a drowsy “hello.”
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]God is good, and His will is perfect.[/pullquote]Still half asleep, I paused to plea with my brain to wake up. Late night phone calls, early morning phone calls—in my experience, they never brought good news. I realized, though, that it was my mother speaking, so at least she was okay.
“What’s up?” I said.
“I’m really sorry to wake you up so early, but cousin Daniel died this morning.”
I sat up quickly. All of my questions jumbled together into a mess of panicked sounds. She told me she loved me and that she’d see me soon, and, stifling a sob, she hung up.
Feeling confused but awake, I walked a few steps to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, I was hyper aware of my breathing, my blinking, my eye movement. I felt fully and painfully alive—something my cousin was not.
I called my brother. He was calm, and he kept repeating, “God is good, and His will is perfect.”
My cousin was dead. How could God be good?
Later that morning, my friend Karen and I walked to work at the southern end of the Ocean City, MD boardwalk. I didn’t say a thing about Dan. To Karen, it was a normal Thursday on Summer Project with Cru. Nothing was different. Everything was fine.
Isn’t it funny how the world doesn’t stop? How everything keeps going and going in its normal cycle, even when something disrupts your world? In the midst of a tragedy, stupid seagulls still eat Thrashers French Fries out of the trash. The Polish Water Ice sounds still play on a loop over and over and over again. The beach and water are still gorgeous and perfect. The vacationers still walk up and down the boardwalk, buying food and souvenirs. Coworkers and customers still make conversation and joke around.
Isn’t it funny how life goes on, even when someone’s life stops? Isn’t it funny that people smiled the day Dan died?
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”right”]Isn’t it funny how life goes on, even when someone’s life stops? Isn’t it funny that people smiled the day Dan died?[/pullquote]When I got to my aunt and uncle’s house, I found my uncle in the garage. I hugged him tightly. He and I were never all that close, but “closeness,” I’ve found, doesn’t matter when someone you both love is gone.
My other cousins were there—“the girls” and “the boys,” I call them. My mom is the middle child of three. Her older brother—the uncle I hugged in the garage—had three boys, while her younger brother has three girls. My mom has a boy and a girl. Everything was even. But it wasn’t anymore.
Because he was texting and driving, Dan is eternally 23—three years older than I was when he passed away, and two years younger than I am right now. He was my older cousin. Is he not anymore? Is he younger than me? How do I reconcile him being my older cousin with him no longer growing? How is it fair that I can still grow?
When someone you love dies, it’s so easy to get mad at God and turn away from Him. It’s easy to run away and question His presence. It’s easy to be frustrated and scream, “Why, God?! Why?!”
But what I’ve learned is there is no “satisfactory” answer to that question. God hates death because death came from sin in the Garden, and God hates sin. Death is a human problem, not a God problem. The spiritual answer to the question of death is “because sin.” Nothing more. And to a grieving human, that answer just fuels the grief.
What’s hard is to remember and have faith that God is good, and His will is perfect. Even when life isn’t good, God is. How would we know the good if we didn’t experience the bad? How would we know light if we didn’t experience darkness?
One year later, on June 9, 2012, I spent the majority of my day in Pittsburgh. My paternal cousin PJ was marrying his bride Abigail, and I was tasked with reading 1 Corinthians 13 at the ceremony.
Isn’t it beautiful how life goes on?