Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It’s been a long time since I have personally lamented the unfairness of life. There doesn’t seem to be a point to it. Life is unfair; it’s unfair for everyone; I know this, so the best thing I can do is just get on with things.

But then there are moments when I am left at a such complete loss, when the vagaries of fate are more than unfair, they’re just wrong.

Nine years ago the next door neighbor who for years had been the bane of our existence put his house up for sale. Nothing could have pleased us more, as the man—a divorced father of two—seemed to be on a personal quest to complain about as many things as he could each day.

I totally understood why this man was divorced.

One young couple came, with her parents, to see the house, and decided it was theirs on first sight. They moved in not long afterwards, as soon as they came home from their honeymoon.

These new neighbors were a delightful change from the other guy. They were a simple couple—he worked at a wood products factory, and she at a community home for the severely handicapped. They entertained a fair bit, but not the way you’d expect young people to entertain. There were no raucous parties, no drunken feasts. They instead hosted plenty of family-friendly picnics and barbeques. There were always kids there, either with their parents or on their own just having a “sleep over” with their uncle and aunt and you knew that this young couple would make excellent parents.

They had their first child slightly more than a year after they moved in; another daughter came about two years later, and then finally a little boy two years after that.

In the summers, mom and dad both took delight in playing with their children, and getting the children to pitch in on outdoor chores. In winter, you’d see them go on family walks around the block, or find them building snowmen together.

Sundays they would emerge from their home, all dressed neatly, and go to church.
Just slightly over three years ago, the young mother found a lump in her breast. It was suddenly just there, a massive growth, and when she went to have it checked, it was to discover that she had stage three breast cancer.

We were never intimately friendly with these neighbors. We’d chat when we’d see each other. This past winter, the husband and my beloved took turns clearing the snow from our respective sidewalks and from around our cars. The young couple would ask, from time to time, how my career was going. We’d chat with the children and, one day when all their tricycles were on the sidewalk, stated in mock horror that an outlaw biker gang was living next door.

They’ve been good neighbors, and from all I’ve seen, good parents and very good people.

Over the past three years we’ve watched them fight this disease called cancer, always determined, both of them, to stave off the worst. Throughout the battle, that young woman never wavered. She had her faith, not only in God, but in her own self. You knew she would do whatever it took to win this battle.

It had begun to look as if she would succeed.

And then the tide changed.

I remember talking to her husband one day, when it seemed she was in remission. “She’s always done everything right,” he said. “She’s never smoked, she’s always eaten a healthy diet, and she’s exercised regularly. I just don’t get it. Why did she have to get sick?”

That is so human of us, isn’t it? To think that if bad things happen, we must have done something to deserve them. The truth is, bad things happen to good people for no reason, and that is that.

In the wee hours of this past Sunday morning, my brave young neighbor lost her battle with this disease. She passed away at home, her three young children and her husband by her side. She was only thirty-eight years old.

Her husband told me the news himself, but I’d awakened and seen the ambulance there, and I’d known.

He said he was grateful the children got to say goodbye to their mother. He also said that she’s in a better place now. I believe that, too.

No, life not only isn’t fair, it was never meant to be fair. This I’ve always understood.

But sometimes, the degree of unfairness I witness quite simply leaves me gasping for breath and begging for mercy.


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