Memorial for Loss

“This is the unintended consequence of living.” said the cop. He indicated toward the broken body of a child laying in the street. The boy had ridden his bicycle into the street without caution; — the exuberance of so many kids just like him. “You ask why this happens, well, there isn’t any reason. Things like this just sometimes happen.” His words were of little comfort to the bereaved parent, asking why this terrible thing had happened to their child. But then, what words can give comfort in the face of such tragedy?  I can’t think of any.

A soldier goes to war and falls in the line of duty; at least there’s some solace that death had purpose. We can take some strength from the knowledge that our loved one or comrade fell in defense of his or her nation. Or as a policeman, firefighter –a first responder.  Someone who purposely risked themselves for lofty purpose. But accidents or profound illness offer no comforts like that, they just produce the melancholy of senseless loss.  I think that’s why victims of profound illness are so often cast as heroes, valiant soldiers in a battle for their lives. Such phraseology attempts to give dignity of purpose to the hapless, to apply purpose where there isn’t any in our desperate attempt to understand that for which there is no understanding.

I am prompted to this quiet outburst by an email forwarded to me by a friend. It said:

Looking at this I didn’t see a military memorial. I saw a testament to the unintended consequences of living. I didn’t see stars and stripes as I looked at this image, instead I thought about how so many lives were interrupted unexpectedly. How so many of  those interruptions didn’t have the quality of purpose exemplified in military death. But I also see hope in this image. I see the way that the world accepts its losses and moves ahead. Perhaps carrying reminding scars, but continuing on none the less.  It reminds me of how important life is and how life always seems to find a way to go on, offering a firm promise of tomorrow.