Maureen Dowd of the New York Times is a constant inspiration for me and my Token Female columns. Ever feisty, clever, and searching for answers, she is my redheaded soul twin. Yesterday, she provided a Christmas editorial edifying to my deepest thoughts regarding Newtown and the latest madman to terrorize the Earth:
How does one celebrate Christmas with the fresh memory of 20 children and 7 adults ruthlessly murdered in Newtown; with the searing image from Webster of firemen rushing to save lives ensnared in a burning house by a maniac who wrote that his favorite activity was “killing people”? How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn’t seem to do the loving thing? If we believe, as we do, that God is all-powerful and all-knowing, why doesn’t He use this knowledge and power for good in the face of the evils that touch our lives?
Ironically enough, the tragedy that has been senseless killings in America, in the most idyllic of settings, brought me back to my first experience with an unexplained death.
I was two when my cousin, Mary Martha Moore, died at 6 1/2 of a hole in her tiny heart. No one explained to me if it was an atrial septal defect (ASD) or a ventricular septal defect (VSD). What I did know was that there was no cure for it. She died because a surgical procedure hadn't been invented yet. The same type of hole has been fixed many thousands of times since her untimely death in 1960-something.
Mary Martha just lived her life, though she couldn't run or play without gasping for breath. And one day, her heart could take no more, and she died after turning cyanotic. My aunt and uncle were devastated. Both of them turned ever closer to their Catholic faith...making sense out of the unthinkable...the death of their child.
My aunt expressed some relief that Mary Martha had died before her seventh birthday, or "the age of reason," as she put it. Instead, her daughter was now an innocent angel in heaven.
As usual, I was dissatisfied by most answers I was given. "Why did God give cousin Mary a disease?" I demanded to know. "Why don't I have it? Why couldn't God cure it?"
Leave it to my redheaded "sister" Dowd for a logical response. Let's call this "The Redheaded Logic Toward Life's Most Puzzling Questions."
The ability to move forward in our lives, to survive a tragedy, is dependent upon us. In tragedy, we are united as a community. And God in all these tragedies, is seen in the spirit of humans coming together to help and encourage one another when evil and darkness are present. Or, as Maureen Dowd says:
I will never satisfactorily answer the question “Why?” because no matter what response I give, it will always fall short. What I do know is that an unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds, and renews us in life. This is a gift that we can all give, particularly to the suffering. When this gift is given, God’s love is present and Christmas happens daily.