I have never felt so lethargic in my life. I just can't seem to get going with anything. I have a long list of things that I want to do, yet there seems to be no urgency to getting them done. Mary has been feeling the same way. The two of us have been sniping at each other one moment, and the next moment we will be hugging and trying to hold back the sobs that have been so frequent for the past ten days. Mary loved Rich as much as I did, and we are both trying to figure out what comes next.
We have lost loved ones before: our parents and grandparents are all deceased, Mary's brother, our next door neighbors, who were dear friends to us and wonderful grandparents to our two kids, and others that weren't necessarily as close as family members, but for whom we still grieved. Death is not discriminatory. It will take us all sooner or later. Rich's death just fell into the sooner column where we didn't expect to see it yet.
Rich is still affecting us as if he was still part of the conversation. The current subject would have brought out the best of his verbal skills. Because, you see, the subject is God, His existence, and whether or not He has a hand in everything that happens to us or what we do. Rich and I spent our high school years together in the seminary, so I know he believed in a deity of some kind that had something to do with our very essence. I think though that he had, like I did, a crisis of faith as he got older. He was no longer the devout Catholic that had brought him to the seminary. I wasn't the same either. Neither of us was ready to dismiss the existence of a higher power. Just what that higher power was and did was the question that vexed us.
I know Rich wrestled with the very concept of "God" because we talked about that concept many times during our years of lunches together. Rich would never dismiss you if you disagreed with him, but would embrace your ideas and give them the respect and reflection they deserved. That's what he did when I had a return to faith last year when Mary was so sick. I found myself praying more and more to my God and seeking solace in the understanding that He was making it possible for me to return to faith on my terms. When I told Rich that I was attending mass again and that I had, dare I say it, a "born again feeling," he didn't dismiss me out of hand, but was truly interested in how I arrived at this stage in my life.
Mary's concept of God is more mainstream and questioning. She has an unshakeable faith in God, but just can't understand why He allows all the bad stuff to happen if He is the loving, beneficent God we think he should be. She wants an explanation for all the evil and sickness that we have to suffer through. When she asks me for answers all I can say is "it's God's will."
That's the best I can do. It is like we are all game pieces that get moved around the game board while we play the game of "Life." We all take turns rolling the dice and moving our piece to the indicated place on the board. The places we can land on determine what our lives will be like. If you are unlucky and land on the colon cancer place, too bad. You got it. Land on the clinical depression spot and you will spend your life depressed. All the diseases we know of are represented on the game board, so you have good odds of suffering sometime during your existence. Of course if you are lucky, you will land on the "You just won the lottery" place and spend your life living it up and not worrying about the cost. Or you could land on "you will have a loving wife or husband" place and have a fifty year marriage with a life full of family happiness.
The point is that whether there is or isn't a God we an all agree on, there will always be human suffering, human happiness, human confusion, human disagreements, human expectations of your God, misinterpretations of the so-called word of God, which will lead to wars and more human suffering. That beneficent God is just trying to stay out of the way so we can use the extraordinary gift of "free will" that He gave us. All the mayhem and all the sickness, all the killing by lunatics with assault weapons, all the genocide by people who are just like the people they are trying to eradicate, all the thieves who disguise themselves as bankers and fund managers who steal our money, all the alcoholics who drive their cars while impaired, killing our children, all the liars and backstabbers who spread vicious rumors that can cause the ruination of the innocent, all the drug pushers that turn decent people into addicts just for the money they can make selling their poison, are all just mankind doing its best to screw up the chance to live the moral and ethical life that God hoped for when he made us in his image.
All these are the result of mankind using the "free will" that God granted us. I wonder if He ever sits back on His throne, surrounded by angels, and seriously considers pulling the plug on His creation. That mankind could screw up such a wonderful gift from God has to make Him wonder why He bothered to create us in the first place.
While we haven't reached any solid conclusions in this argument, I can hear Rich in the background chortling at some of the more outrageous ideas that spew forth from mouths that should stay shut. That he would have a lot to say on the subject is a given, but he would never force anyone to agree with him. The more disquieting the question, the deeper he would plunge into the fray, eyes twinkling in delight at the opportunity to display his logical and erudite debating skills. The quiet force of his intelligence melded with his sense of humor and presented in his rasping voice, won him many arguments when others would have given up the fight in frustration. I lost many an argument to him and got quite an education in the process. But I had my share of wins, too, which he readily acknowledged, delighted that he had the opportunity to enjoy another lively conversation.
How can I ever replace those conversations and my continuing education now that Rich is no longer sitting on the other side of the table? And when will I snap out of this lethargy that I find so debilitating? Grieving for a lost friend includes grieving for the chances lost that can't become memories. I know Rich would want me to get on with it and stop all this mourning and grieving. Time is being wasted by the display of emotion, he would say. But I still need more time to adjust to the new reality in my life. Mary may never give up mourning him, and that would upset him even more. Rich, old friend, we are doing our best to get beyond the grief that has taken over a part of our lives, but we will never forget you, the reason we are in this emotional predicament.