Yesterday, while I was talking to my realtor, I mentioned to her that I was going to go fishing later on in the day. She quickly reminded me to be careful and she related to me a story of a 65-year-old man who, while fishing, fell out of his boat and almost drowned. I thanked her for her concern and then reminded her that she was more likely to be in a serious accident while driving her car than I was by fishing in my boat. The reality that any of us may be taken from this Earth at any time could not be more apparent than in the latest airplane disaster in Europe. A distraught copilot locked himself inside the cockpit and drove his plane into the side of a mountain killing all aboard. Just two days ago a carload of three teenage girls drove off the road and slammed into a tree killing all three. A cruise ship, several years ago, ran aground killing many on board. I could go on and on about the unexplained and the unexpected visits from death that occurred around me every day.
I personally have been in many places where my life could have been taken. My experience in Vietnam left me with the agonizing question of “why”. Why did I survive while many others did not. This question of why has haunted me for years and years. I had sniper bullets that missed me, mortars exploded in front of me and booby-traps trip by me and yet I still survived. I watched as a rain of mortar shells fell down upon my position tearing apart the men close to me while I walked away without a scratch. Each time that I was in combat and was able to walk back to a secure position, I would sit down against the wall and begin to shake and to cry. Each time I would ask “why”.
While working for the police department I had many situations where a fellow officer was injured while I made it through the situation without a scratch. Sadly, I experienced the loss of a friend and a follow officer when that officer took his own life. Once again, I repeated the question of “why”. While working, I experienced man’s inhumanity to man over and over again. There were times when I watch the perpetrator of a crime walked out of a courtroom as a free person, while the victim of a crime continue to suffer. Many times at night, as I review the day’s actions, I would ask the question “why”.
I should point out that I’m not a particularly religious man, but I do find myself believing in a God. In the beginning of my career I would ask God why things happened as they did. As time went on I would just ask the question “why”. I must admit that I lost my connection with any religious organization and soon quit asking God why things happen.
Some years ago I was involved in a high-speed head-on collision. Both I and the driver of the other vehicle survived the crash. While I was in the hospital I came close to dying. But obviously I did not die. When I heard about the accident of the three young teenage girls who died recently, my mind again went to the question of “why”.
In my younger years I would feel guilty and ignorant because I could not comprehend why things happen to certain people and not others. While are young babies born with cancer or whole populations wiped out by certain disease. I cannot comprehend why a copilot would take his own life and all those on board the plane. I cannot explain why I survived cancer while others die the same disease. I cannot understand why a tsunami or an earthquake can kill so many people while others survive.
Is it important for me to understand why? Yes, it would help me make sense of the world around me and make me feel more secure about the decisions I make every day. But the reality of it all is that the answer to the question “why” is “because”. Nothing more substantial than just the word because. I cannot give credit or blame to a supreme being like God. Therefore, I am just left with the reality that it is what it is. Every time that I start to get depressed, I remind myself of all the times that I should’ve been taken from this Earth and yet I’m still here. I still struggle with feeling guilty about all the men that died in Vietnam and the fact that I survived to go on to live a great life. I don’t know why that people die in automobile accidents while driving the same roads that I drive, nor do I know why men of my age die of heart failure or cancer while I continue to exist.
As much is this may sound like some kind of a downer or depressed statement I have found that I can live with the answer for the question “why”. It’s just “because”, or as we used to say in the 1960s, shit happens-deal with it. Now, when I watch the news I realize that the world does not revolve around me. I cannot stop bad things from happening to other people around the world. I cannot feel guilty about an airline pilot taking the lives of all his passengers. I can feel sad about it and if one of those family members were nearby I would do what I could to help them in their pain and loss. I think the best thing that I can do is continue to live life with a smile. I used to say that I should make lemonade out of lemons and find the silver lining for each cloud. What I now think is that I should recognize what has happened and realize that there is a tomorrow and in that tomorrow I should strive to make it a positive and happy day.
So the thought of the day is – “because”. Live with it, it happened, appreciate the fact that you can move on.