Monday, September 21, 2009

Life is Not Fair

Daring Daughter's favorite phrase appears to be "But that's not fair!" This is uttered frequently in response to anything her father or I do or say that is remotely not to her liking.

Trust me when I tell you that the child has it good. More than good. Exceptionally, spectacularly, tremendously great, in fact. We keep pointing out to her the ways in which her life is so wonderful, and model gratitude for the good things in our life. We are in good health, we have fine educations, we live in a nice home in a safe neighborhood free of nuclear waste dumps and roaming bands of zombies....

We are sitting pretty.

We talk to her about the ways in which others' lives are not fair.

Like a local high school teacher who died after a car hit him on his bicycle and then drove away.

Like a friend who lost his job and is struggling. Actually, we have several friends like that.

Like fabulously talented Hugh Laurie once again not receiving an Emmy award. WTF?!

Like a zillion other examples we share with her.

I don't pray very often for things (I do try to remember to offer prayers of gratitude when something goes right, because my Mom stressed the importance of thank you notes) but I am praying now:
Please, God, make this kid appreciate all the great things about her life and stop whining.

And yet, she has a point.

I was deeply saddened to learn this weekend that one of my blogging friends, Barry Fraser, author of An Explorer's View of Life, received some very bad news. He and his wife Linda have been valiantly dealing with his condition of esophageal cancer, fighting the disease with grace and humour. But the cancer has spread, and the doctor thinks it's incurable. Who knows if she's right? There are plenty of people who've been told such things, only to go on to get well and outlive their doctors.

I pray to God that's the case here. In fact, I'll take back my prayer about my daughter in order to give this one priority in the queue.

Barry is a great storyteller. He writes of his marriage, his beloved dog, Lindsay, of gardening, of life in Canada, his children, his grandchildren....all with vitality and fine wordcraft. I think the first post of his that I read was War Brides - Part 1. He told the tale of his parents' courtship. I was hooked. I continued to be a frequent reader. Then one day, months later, I read the news that Barry was having trouble with his throat. But the good news was that the doctor said it was an ulcer, not a tumour. Phew. I knew a friend who'd had cancer of the esophagus, and it had been scary. Thankfully, he'd recovered after treatment. But it certainly wasn't something I'd want anyone else to have to go through.

Unfortunately, it wasn't long before Barry found that he actually DID have cancer. He's been undergoing treatment since March, and I'd hoped that he would get a clean bill of health soon. Although it was debilitating at times, the disease hadn't kept him from writing and enjoying walks and celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day. He knew that every day is to be treasured. And now this.

Thinking about him and his family, I feel like yelling as my daughter does.

God, that's not fair!

I know that we've all got to go some time, and at least Barry had many good healthy years. More years than my own Dad did. But although he's old enough to be my Dad, he's still a heck of a lot younger than I want to be when I get news like this. He doesn't deserve this situation in any way.

My heart is heavy.

I think it's precisely because of cases like this that I want so much to believe that there is more to life than just what we have here on Earth. Obviously, I haven't been able to find out for sure yet.

I know that we can create our own heaven and hell - a Paradise on Earth, if you will, (perhaps it looks like Paradise Inn, at Mt. Rainier, pictured below) but I don't know what happens after our bodies stop working.

I think in order to avoid going crazy about the undeniable fact that sometimes life is not fair, we must believe that there is an afterlife.

That doesn't mean we stop trying to make life better here for ourselves and others. But it does mean that we can take heart in knowing that when the day comes that we and our loved ones exit this life, there's something new waiting.

That sounds fair, doesn't it?


Brian K. Wingate said...


I'll say a little prayer for your friend too. Your observation on how we can make heaven or hell for ourselves in the here and now really rung true for me. Love to read your blog, keep it up. Un bacio, Brian

kyooty said...

hugs for you,your friend,your friend's family and anyone that is out there reading his blogs and yours.Canceris one scary disease.

A Tired Wife said...

Prayers going up for Barry and his family.

This mom of a cancer survivor knows the crushing fear and the anger at the unfairness of the disease. I pray that Barry joins the ranks of the survivors.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

What a beautiful post, Holly, and funny too.

(Zombies can be dreadful. Heh.)

I'm so sorry to hear such sad news for such a lovely man. It does make me cling to the hope there's something more, later.

Becky said...

It is NOT fair. We have daily proof of this, it seems.

I'm like you. I'm not sure what happens after this, but I want to think it's something.

Sometimes I pray, when nobody is even watching, so I must believe in it? I'll say a prayer for Barry.

Mrs. Chili said...

Wow. I've got quite a lot to say about this (my recent experience helping my mother die is quite relevant here), but I'm not even sure where to begin...

Tell me; is your daughter 12, by any chance? Because it sounds like we've got the same thing going on in OUR lives...

Bee said...

I have a good friend who feels that she has been dealt way more than her fair share of the bad stuff in the last 7 years . . . and it is inarguable, really. And yet no one is spared the truly horrible thing -- death -- especially if it seems premature. I wish that we could get some guarantee of a life beyond where everyone gets their just desserts!

But until then, I agree with you: what can we do but focus on what's good and mitigate (as much as possible) what's bad. Unfortunately, it takes a truly wonderful life to make a person think that having to clean up a bedroom "isn't fair." I think Hugh Laurie is probably okay with his deal . . . although that line did make me laugh!

patricia said...

Life is certainly a journey that we all have to figure out and I certainly hope there is more than this after I die. I totally understand the kid thing and wanting children to appreciate all they have in light of the difficulties others experience. I will pray for your friend.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of folks out there pulling for Barry. He is an inspiration to me.

phd in yogurtry said...

Plain and simple, life truly isn't fair. And cancer is the illustration of this fact. Your friend is in my thoughts.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

I like your trust in the possibility of prayer; it's heartening, and that feels very fair :D

Having people like you loading up yet kindly reorganizing the queue occasionally ought to make God quite happy.

Monkey Girl said...

Life is indeed unfair.

We, too, found out this week a friend who is struggling with stomach cancer found out that it's spread and inoperable. She's 41, with 2 children ages 2 and 4.

It breaks my heart.

It's difficult to teach gratitude to our children when honestly they want for nothing. We try hard to show them that working hard for something is more satisfying than being given everything.

When I was 16 my father took me to Manila (he had business there).
I saw slums unlike anything I'd ever seen. 3rd world poverty. Living in a cardboard box.

It was shocking.

And I kept lucky was I to be born in America?

La Belette Rouge said...

I am so sorry your friend is going through this unfairness. Hugs to lovely you and wishes of healing and hope to Barry and all who love him.xoxo

Miss Healthypants said...

It absolutely sounds fair to me...I don't know how I would deal with life's sadnesses sometimes if I didn't believe in an afterlife.

I'll keep Barry and his family in my prayers.

Casey said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend.

It's tough to put things into perspective when you're a kid but it sounds like you guys are doing a great job at helping your daughter see other people's perspective.

Fantastic Forrest said...

Thanks, all, for your loving words and thoughts. I'll make sure Barry sees them. He often stops by here to comment, but I suspect he's been rather busy in light of this recent news.

Some of you live nearby, some of you live very far away. I've known some of you in person for years, and others are recent friends. I feel blessed to be connected to such a great group of caring people.

Barry said...

Busy is my middle name these days Forest. But I'm never too busy to stop by your blog.

I am honored and deeply touched to find myself the subject of one of your posts.

And the comments! What a thoughtful and compassionate group of followers you have! I can't begin to tell you how deeply this has affected me.

Thank you seems inadequate.