“I don’t always get to know why things happen. I may spend hours, even days, trying to figure out why bad things have happened to me. I may get caught up in trying to understand other people, situations, even my own thoughts.
“Today I will accept that I don’t have to know why things are the way they are. Instead I can pay attention to healing, growing, learning.”
– by Judith R. Smith, from Time to Break Free, 1999
In three words I can sum up what I’ve learned about life – It goes on.
I remember one May day from my childhood very vividly. I walked out of the funeral home after the services for my dear aunt who had died at 36.
How can this be? I was still in grade school, and the funeral home was close to the school. I heard the happy shouts of kids enjoying the warm sunshine and the freedom of recess, and wondered, “How can this be?”
I was still young enough and not yet toughened up to the one enormous reality of life. It goes on. Life is a blend of happy moments, stretches of sadness, events that are vexing, perplexing, confusing. And we have to be tough enough to take it all.
There is no other place to turn to bring this more clearly into perspective than to read old news accounts and obituaries.
The late 1800s were filled with sorrow and loss, the horror and drama of many of these losses almost beyond belief.
Horse accidents. In a Kansas City newspaper obituary, dated 1892, it is reported that Maudie Stephens was killed when their work horses spooked in a nearby field, running over her as she hung rugs out to dry, pushing her into the tines of a farm tool placed against the barn nearby.
She lived, standing up against those tines, for several hours while help was summoned. It was not until after she had been carefully removed that she died.
The number of horse-train accidents in days gone by still puzzles me. It seems many old newspapers carry accounts of a man being killed while making deliveries in a small town with his horse-drawn carriage. I have read similar accounts enough times to wonder why.
The horses certainly must have been used to living and working around the towns and open country where trains crossed at all hours. So, what is it that would cause a horse to spook and dart in to the path of an on-coming train?
All kinds of pain. People suffered from depression, and there was not much that could be done. Suicides were reported with frank decree, judgment often being passed along in the reporting.
There was plenty of suffering and sorrow and hard times that were often followed by even harder times. But the next day, the sun came up, yet another newspaper was printed, and survivors pressed forward.
Then, as now, there was one truth. Life goes on.
While following the horrific journey of my son’s illness since being bitten by a tick in the summer of 1998, people have asked me, “How do you do it?” The answer is another question: what choice are we given?
A recent EKG shows further damage to his heart, and neurologically he has struggled, as time goes on.
Personal pain. It is hard to understand the why of it all – why a day of innocent play one summer day could lead to years of misery and pain and a stolen childhood, why treatment works for some and not for others, why a co-infection of babesiosis, carried by that same tick, wasn’t detected in earlier testing.
Pressing on. He has learned, through an amazing strength of character, to keep pressing forward, to realize that life goes on, unfolding in different ways than we could ever dream possible.