Why Bad Things Happen to Good People


Written the Night of My Wife’s Emergency Brain Surgery

“My head hurts really bad and I’m scared.” my lovely wife, Kat, said, just before unconsciously sliding off the bed to the floor.

I managed to reach her in time to slow the fall, though I wasn’t quick or strong enough to stop her descent. I let her glide softly to the carpet, arranged her body so she would be comfortable, got her some blankets to keep her warm and dialed 911.

There had been no warning, no symptoms, no way to prepare. One minute she was the picture of health, the next, comatose. Dispatch sent an ambulance in a matter of minutes. They rushed her to emergency. After a preliminary evaluation that showed her to be in very serious condition, they shuttled her to a nearby hospital where a neurological team was standing by.

After taking a cat scan the neuro team decided to forgo immediate surgery in favor of wait and see. She definitely had a hemorrhaging brain, but without further tests they could not determine the source. The next morning, after running more tests, they discovered the root of the problem, and were strategizing what to do. My beautiful love started deteriorating rapidly. They had no choice but to perform emergency brain surgery.

All the things we planned; the trip to Europe, visits to family, seeing the Grand Canyon, and jet-skiing vanished within minutes. We could have done them, but work commitments, both hers and mine, always seemed to take priority. We always ignorantly believed there would be a tomorrow full of hours that we would spend together. We now know that to be a false assumption.

Our jobs replaced outings, shows, and lunches together. Time is a commodity much shorter in supply than we thought. Once spent, time cannot be retrieved. Truth is, someone else could have done the work we instead chose to do. But, no one could take our place to spend quality time together.

Suddenly, petty arguments were no longer important. . . where and what we ate, whether or not we worked out. Should we buy a new car to replace my aging steed? Everything that seemed so big yesterday, was suddenly a molehill today. Priorities changed instantaneously. We would not repeat the same mistakes. We would put more value on the here and now and less value on tomorrow . . .  there might not be a tomorrow. Instead of planning for work we could fortify fun, love and family . . . but only if she lives.

As I sat in the waiting room I asked myself the inevitable rhetorical question. Why her?

She is a physically attractive woman, even after the tenth time she’s turned 39, but that is not the source of her beauty. She is brilliant. Even when her ideas are ridiculously better than others, she makes people feel they are important and necessary. She possesses more understanding and love than a warehouse full of teddy bears. She is no saint, none of us are, but she is as close to an angel as I have ever come.

Why, then, would God choose to smite her? The answer is simple. He didn’t.

Some may not agree that God exists. We happen to believe in a loving, omnipotent God, but one could also call it Nature or the Order of the Universe, Allah or anything else. Regardless what this power is called the question remains. Why did this happen to her?

Over the years I have tested the mettle of many clerics with similar questions. Why, if God is so great, does he allow pain, suffering, death and injustice? Why do the dishonest profit, while the honest and worthy remain destitute? I received varying answers about free will, God’s plan, and admonitions about man’s limited scope of understanding, etc. They were all plausible, but none struck a chord of absolute clarity. The veil forcefully removed by Kat’s predicament, an answer was suddenly clear. The uncaring, dangerous, neutral, physical world alone creates pain. God is there to help us.

God does not cause suffering. He is there to guide recovery and minimize anguish, using whatever has happened to teach us. If God intervened to stop all tragedy, there would be no free will. We have to take the good with the bad. If we want to decide how to live, we have to accept any bad that happens, whether caused by us or by random event. Otherwise there cannot be freedom of choice.

Many of us require a 2×4 upside the head before we will transform. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, who know or love Kat will be immediately affected by what happened to her. They will fall into one of three categories.

Behind door number one will be those concerned only with their own fleeting temporal life and well-being.

“It is just business”, they will say or “That’s life” or “That’s the human condition” or “In the long run, we are all dust anyway.”

They are wrong. The truth is that we have the power of choice. What we do and the choices we make always matter. When gain is the result of someone’s loss, it IS personal. Benefiting at the cost of others or disdaining what is right is wrong. Instant gratification that mortgages the future can only result in long term emptiness and sorrow.

To those proclaiming that the law of the jungle prevails, there can be no peace. Nothing will ever be enough because there will still be someone or something else to conquer. Those constantly looking over their shoulder rather than trying to do what is right, will undoubtedly suffer a lonely and shallow existence.

Behind door number two will be those with heart who are saddened by Kat’s story but see no reason to view or do things differently. They are destined to continue their lives unabated till tragedy befalls them or someone they love. Perhaps too late, they will realize that change would have been better, that unfinished personal business was more important than business as usual. Truth can be ignored for a while, but not forever.

Behind door number three will be people affected by what happened to my Kat. They will decide that things, even if already good, could be better. They will take actions to correct past wrongs. They will revisit what is important, they will re-examine priorities, setting them straight. They will be the reason God used my beautiful wife to affect change, even when HE was not responsible for her predicament.

We made a bad business investment a couple of years back. We were hoping to recover some, if not all, of what we lost. While we waited, our medical insurance ran out. We had already signed up for our association’s group medical coverage, but it will take affect long after Kat’s surgery. We are medically uncovered.

The cost of her surgery will be in the $250,000-$500,000 range. The facilities, the equipment and the skill of her doctors have been incredible and worth every penny, but it is a penny we do not have. It is likely that this will cost us all that we have worked so hard to achieve for the last twenty years. Our business will survive. Our agents will be fine, but our house and many things we thought important will be gone.

I’m not bitter. The only thing that really matters is Kat’s survival and recovery.

I choose door number three. I do not yet know whether she will live or die. I cannot predict whether she will remember me or our history together, her family, her friends or all the wonderful people she has already touched. All is in God’s hands. I can only tell you that, through her misfortune, I am changed and will be a better person to the best of my poor ability. Failure to do so would dishonor the message sent through Kat.

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