Sunday, April 10, 2005

A starting point:

I know that people suffer terribly. I know that God loves us. I know that good can come from bad, and that what hurts can have benefits, even if those benefits do not seem to match the costs.

This ancient story examines the intersection between good and evil, humility and pride, friends and accusers.

To frame my perspective, my starting point in examining this book, I here offer a piece I wrote about my contact with God three months after the death of my son:

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!" -- Job 1:18-19

A March Moon

He staggered along the gravel path, bent by his invisible burden. His breath hung in the air, glowing in the moonlight as it slowly drifted over the frosted grass. The huge yellow moon was sinking toward the western trees, shining as if it represented warmth and beauty, but sliding toward a tomorrow that would bring neither.

“You’re just tired little guy; you need to sleep.” He laid the crying infant in the crib.

The moon had never seemed so huge. It filled the March sky with an importance that the sun never matched. It reminded him of the importance his child held in his life. The sharp, cold light cut through the sky without illuminating it. The small, sharp stars were insignificant companions to the brilliance of that vast yellow moon. The moon shone through naked, grasping tree branches, forever beyond reach. This most precious golden orb rolled silently on toward the edge of the world.

He rolled the crying child onto his stomach, remembering the pediatrician’s admonition that Willy needed more tummy time to learn to crawl (“There is an increased risk of S.I.D.S. in the tummy position, so try to have him sleep on his side.”) It was hard to leave him crying, but Willy needed to learn to sleep without the rocking of parental arms.

The moon deepened to orange as it began to slide behind the trees. The warm color brought no warmth to him. Its round face reminded him of the round face of his child. Its perfect beauty seemed to match the perfect beauty in the face of his child. This huge yellow moon loomed as large as a small child’s life.

The child’s cries went from an insistence on being picked up, to a self-pitying wail, to a soft whimper, to a murmur, to. . . silence.

He walked over to the crib. OH GOD NO!!

In the east a faint hint of the coming day could be felt. It wasn’t so much a lightening of the horizon as a deepening of the night above. The sky had traces of a color that has no name.

He picked up the lump of clay that had been his son. He pressed his lips against the blue lips and blew gently, softly, and felt the tiny lungs expand. “Hhhhaaaaaa,” said the lump of clay.

Standing alone in that field he felt an intimate connection to the world. The moon was a metaphor. A metaphor for him alone. Like his son, the golden moon was more beautiful than all other moons, than all other sons which had ever graced the world. Like his son, the moon was slipping away into a past that could never be brought back. Like his future, this cold morning promised a coming day, a tomorrow, that could not be ignored, or stopped.

He smacked the tiny chest. “Breathe!!”

He stood at the center of the universe. The moon shifted toward red. The east began to glow.

He stood at the end of the drive. Alone in the city. Holding his dead child; holding his cold dead world.

He looked up and saw that color which did not seem meant for mortals. To call it purple would mock it. To say it was a deep dark shade of blue would belittle it. It was to purple what affection is to love. It was to blue what sadness is to grief.

Neighbors walked out to the street, or peered from windows. The sound of a siren filled the air. Holding his dead child. Holding his son.

It was the color of recognition. A metaphor for him alone. Alone.

Lights of an ambulance, winking on and off in the distance. The shrill mechanical scream of a machine warning warning warning. It screamed and it blinked, but it never moved. It hung in the distance, rushing, but never closer. Promising assistance, help. salvation, never moving.

It was three months, to the day.

It was a metaphor.

It was an accounting.

The moon was sinking, never to return, never to be the same moon again. The sun was rising. The promise of tomorrow, of today, of yesterday, beginning to change that indescribable color.

And it all came swiftly together.


He was shaken by simultaneous, opposing, contrasting, and linked emotions. He trembled and fell to his knees.

And for a moment, for a very brief moment, it seemed that the universe had bent itself to recognize him. It had made itself a metaphor for his life. For his life. It was recognition and promise. It said: “I know.”