When your dad died months ago, barely a week after we met, I acted sagacious. I delivered my one-liners and pithy comments instructing you on how to face the future and how to focus on hope and not despair and more nonsense like that. What did I know?
It’s easy to be a philosopher when dealing with someone else’s problems. The scope is narrower, the distance is long, like a telescope sweeping over distant moons, our view of other people’s problems is an evening’s armchair adventure. How profound! How sad! How terrible! And then we go off to sleep.
I confess I thought I had seen it all. Fathers have died aplenty. I’ve even fantasized over the possibility of my father’s sudden death for years, I’ve gotten used to the idea—I think. So I could sit down and calmly tell you that the worst had happened, its time to face the future and every cloud has its silver lining. I laugh now at the loftiness of my talk.
The puzzle of death is in its finality. Its finality, at least, for this world—I know of no other. In this puzzle lies the ache, the sorrow, the bitterness, the fear—ha, we fear what we do not understand. And in this puzzle lies the attraction for us philosophers. It is final. Let it go. We claim to understand death. Death is on a timetable and one takes it when it comes. Death is natural. A man dies, another is born. Nothing is good, nothing is bad, and life is merely a cycle. I told you: the younger ones are there, your mum is there, take care of them, and take care of her. I joked, we laughed.
It’s easy to be a philosopher when dealing with someone else’s problems.
You listened to me, your philosopher, and the sunshine returned to your smile, and you got used to the idea of future life without your father, no granddad for the kids, no father in law for the husband, no dad for you. But you got used to it, gradually and even painfully. And we even began to joke about the man he had been.
It’s very easy to be a philosopher when dealing with someone else’s problems.
Then today your mum died.
Barely eight months after and death gleefully takes another swipe. Nature is not supposed to act that way! Its should be someone else’s turn! You’ve paid your dues for God’s freaking sake! What more does Death want? And God? Is there a reason for this? Oh, I so want to point out that this is one of life’s little events that unshakably point a finger to his nonchalance. The Devil has nothing to do with this!
I need to calm down. I dare not even lecture you now. What do I tell you? Need we repeat the ritual so casually performed eight months ago? Go through the whole ceremony of healing again? How about the funeral? The same people who gathered then, are they all present and accounted for? Oh, someone is missing: it’s your mum. Oh, oh, is God playing games, or is it all part of his Grand Purpose? Is his almightiness too busy watching over the birds and the flowers…?
Sorry. I’m going to be calm. I’ll try. Maybe there’s no use blaming God, he’s just the most convenient. Maybe it’s all natural after all. Maybe life is random and there’s no purpose or order to things. Maybe death is not on a timetable and nothing has its time or date.
Maybe we simply die because the opportunity to die comes along. So, Death, personified as always, comes knocking without schedule or invitation, he is strolling down along the road, and seeing your house, he simply likes the colour of your door, so he knocks: “Knock, knock, anybody here ready to die?”, and at that moment, you are all dressed up, just about to go out for a walk in the sunshine, and you open the door, and Death says, “Hello—I’m surprised, how did I guess you were so ready”