Everything Happens for the Best?

A couple of days ago I wrote about an item I lost. Although the item lost was relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of life and death, it reminded me of a loss that was important — the loss of Jeff, my life mate/soul mate — and I was swept by a huge upsurge of grief. This was just a few days before the fourth anniversary of his death, so everything that happened that day took on a greater meaning than it might otherwise have done.

ripplesAlthough I can never replace him, I was able to make a replacement for the lost item. The replacement wasn’t as ornate or as perfect as the first one, but as it turns out, it actually worked better for my purpose. So perhaps it was best that I lost the item.

My father is fond of saying, “Everything happens for the best,” which has always made my teeth grate because I don’t believe that things really do happen for the best. In books, everything does happen for the best, whether good or bad. That is the point of writing — to make sense of senseless happenings. There has to be a lesson to be gleaned from the story events — perhaps character growth or a fitting resolution. If the story events happened without reason, the way things happen in life, readers would throw the book across the room and never pick up another one.

Oddly enough, our brains do that same work for us. When a tragedy has passed and we have come to terms with it, when we have found a way to live despite the pain life dishes out, we often look back and think, “Everything did happen for the best,” though the truth is that we made the best of what happened. But what if my father is right? What if things do happen for the best? What if it was best that Jeff died, best for both of us? (Well, it was best — he couldn’t have continued to live with such pain and debility, but was it best he got sick?) I don’t know the answer, of course, since I am not privy to the inner workings of the universe, but the whole lost item/replaced item lesson seemed a bit pointed considering the nearness to the anniversary.

Maybe the universe really is unfolding as it should (assuming the universe is made up of shoulds rather than coulds). Once a very long time ago, I believed Jeff was a being of light — a cosmic teacher — come to accompany me on my journey to truth. (He really was radiant when I first met him, long before ill health became a way of life, which made the conceit seem reasonable.) At the end of his life, he used to give me all sorts of unwanted advice, and when I would bristle, he’d say, “I won’t always be here to teach you.” Obviously, I don’t know the truth of why he was here or why he left, but maybe he had taken me as far as he could and went back whence he came. (This idea seems a bit far fetched when I remember the pain he went through. What makes the idea even more bizarre is that I’m not sure how much of our consciousness survives. Maybe we simply become subsumed back into the whole.)

In the end, it doesn’t matter if everything happens for the best or not. Things happen, and we deal with them the best we can. There’s not much else we can do.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Everything Happens For the Best — Oh, Yeah?

Twice today I was told, “Everything happens for the best.” Everything? Is it best when a child dies? When an earthquake hits? When people lose their home and end up on the street? In books, everything does happen for the best, whether good or bad. That is the point of writing — to make sense of senseless happenings. There has to be a lesson to be gleaned from the story events — perhaps character growth or a fitting resolution. If the story events happened without reason, the way things happen in life, readers would throw the book across the room and never pick up another one.

Venice Beach PierOddly enough, our brains do that same work for us. When a tragedy has passed and we have come to terms with it, when we have found a way to live despite the pain life dishes out, we often look back and think, “Everything did happen for the best.”

Sometimes now I feel that the death of my life mate/sould mate and my ensuing grief all happened for the best. If he hadn’t died, our lives would have remained on the same treadmill of pain (him) and despair (me). His death set me free — free from his illness, free from the financial constraints that his illness caused, and even free from the chains of such a deep love.

He almost died twenty years ago, and so every day I made a point of recognizing and appreciating his continued existence in my life. Because I knew our time together would be cut short (and it was, just not as short as that earlier brush with death would have indicated), whenever there was a choice of doing something with him or by myself or even with another person, I always chose him. And so, gradually the chains of love were forged. Now if there is an opportunity to do something, being with him is not an option, which has opened my life to many new possibilities.

But was his death really for the best or is my brain simply doing what it can to make sense of everything that happened in the past two decades, and especially the past few years? His death ended our pain and set us both free, but what would have happened if he could have gone into intermission? Would I have ended up in the same place even if the tragedy hadn’t occurred? It’s impossible to tell, but I do know not everything happens for the best. We make the best of what happens. It’s called life.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Appalling Remarks People Say to Those Who Are Grieving

People make appalling comments to us bereft. At a time when we can barely manage to drag ourselves through our days, we have to find the energy and graciousness to make allowances for people’s tactlessness, ignorance, and downright meanness. Most people are unaware of what it feels like to lose a significant part of their life, such as a spouse or a child, and they seem to be terrified of even thinking about that unthinkable happenstance, so they distance themselves from our pain with unfeeling words. They want to believe that the universe makes sense; that God is in his heaven and all is right with the world (except for that one little slip when he let your loved one die); that everything happens for the best. It is almost impossible for people to comprehend that bad things happen for no reason at all, so of course, the deceased had to have done something to cause his or her death.

Although people were generally kind to me after the death of my 63-year-old life mate/soul mate, I still got my share of inexcusable remarks such as:

Blank stare, then, “My second cousin’s great aunt just died.” (How does that in any way relate to my having lost the man with whom I shared the past thirty-three years of my life?)

“I didn’t know he smoked.” (He didn’t. And what does smoking have to do with kidney cancer?)

“How did allow himself to get so sick?” (He took excellent care of himself, better than anyone else I ever met.)

“I know how you feel. My cat just died.” (There simply is no response to this.)

“You’ll find someone else.” (What kind of comfort is that supposed to be, especially a few days after the death of the one man who ever truly loved me and had time for me?)

“It’s God’s will.” (You don’t want to know what I think of a God who allows a good man to suffer for years and then die a horrible death just to satisfy His whims.)

“God never gives you more than you can handle.” (Wanna bet?)

“Everything happens for the best.” (Who’s best?)

As grief continues, even those who started out kind become impatient. They say things such as:

“You have to get on with your life.” (This is my life).

“He wouldn’t want you to grieve.” (Well, then, he shouldn’t have died!)

“Get over it.” (I’ll get over it when he gets over being dead.)

But the worst thing anyone ever said was:

“God will never take something away from you without replacing it with something better.” It’s bad enough to say (as so many people did) “God never closes a door without opening a window.” At least this door/window analogy acknowledges that the replacement might not be as good as what was lost. But for someone to say that He will replace what was taken with something better is totally reprehensible. How could He possible replace my life mate/soul mate/business partner/best friend/comforter/supporter/companion with anyone or anything that would be better than what I had? If you lose a job, perhaps (in a good market) you can find a better one. If you lose your wedding ring, perhaps you can buy a better one. But a person? How can one unique individual be replaced with another?

Besides, I know for a fact that the aphorism is wrong. It’s been twenty-one months since my mate was taken from me, and though many things, both good and bad, have happened to me in these months, nothing comes even close to being as good as what I once had.

Click here if you want to know: What to Say to Someone Who is Grieving