Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grappling with The Death of a Friend

Susan Shaughnessy went to bed one night with the flu. She never woke up. She was 30 years old. Writing in the Washington Times, Julia Duin grapples with the question of why bad things happen to good people:
We who miss her terribly have been consumed by theological debates as to why this evil was allowed to happen. She'd gone to a doctor, complaining of the flu and headaches, and was sent home to rest. After she went to bed the evening of Oct. 25, she never woke up. Her frantic housemates rushed her to the hospital, where doctors discovered Susan's autoimmune response to a freak virus had wiped clean her brain.

The technical name is acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. A neurologist from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told the family her case was the worst he had seen. None of the doctors held out any hope.

When word went out last Saturday that the family was disconnecting her respirator, I rushed to Fairfax Hospital's neurological intensive care unit. She lay, silent, one hand clasped about a rosary. Her hands were warm as I held them. Her parents, brother and Eduardo sat there, numb.

"God had a reason for this," a friend told me later over the phone.

"No, He didn't," I responded. "This was the devil."

Who was responsible for the fact that Susan, who wore a long, sweepy red dress as maid of honor at a friend's recent nuptials, will never attend her own wedding? Was it her doctor, who could have noticed something was gravely wrong? Was it God or Satan who structured - or interfered with - Susan's body so it would attack itself thus?

We struggle in the dark. The Jesus that Susan believed in was a healer. He never told people to wait or be content with dying. Two thousand years later, that power is missing. All the prayers, fasting and Masses offered for Susan did not prevent her death...
There is no answer. It is not the will of God that people die. There is no power of God that can magically step in and heal a sick person. And what kind of God would it be that listens to the prayers of some and ignores the prayers of others? Nor is there any Satan causing sickness, cancer, or evil.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people. We want to understand. It is human nature to want to understand. What we can understand, thanks to science, is what it is that made her sick. But that doesn't necessarily make it any easier. What we can do is weep with those who are weeping and surround them with love and care. And resist the temptation to tell them that it was the will of God.

Via GetReligion


Anonymous said...

The grace of God moves in mysterious ways.

Jesus died on the cross in obedience to the Father: He honored His father by doing His will.

God says that if you have faith like a grain of mustard, you can move mountains. He says, ask and you shall receive. He can and does miraculously heal people because the whole of creation is already a miracle, and the redemption of mankind is already a miracle. That he does not always answer our prayers only means that some prayers are better left unanswered.

What we can do in all circumstances is praise the Lord. That is what Susan always did. What we can hope is that her suffering and death, as much as her life, united to the merits of Our Lord, are for the greater glory of the Lord. We weep in sorrow but we can also weep in trust.

liberal pastor said...

Thanks for sharing your testimony.