The question has perplexed theologians, philosophers and the grieving alike since time immemorial – why do the innocent die? The question sits alongside “what is the purpose of suffering?” and “why do bad things happen to good people?” Ageless questions without easy answers. Xavier, and those I know through Xavier, are not the only people in my life to have left the world too soon. A small handful of beautiful young souls within my orbit have been taken from this earth in the past two years. People that surely karma would grace with long lives. Sometimes it seems that Billy Joel’s, “Only the good die young”, is particularly prophetic. Is there any sense to be made of this apparent waste? Some profound lesson? Some divine reason? Or do we spend too much time, trying to find gold where only misery lies? Why do we try to find reason in the unexplainable? Why do we yearn for order when the world throws us into chaos? Why must we look for the silver lining in every cloud? Why does our Western obsession with looking for the good in everything extend into the darkest of situations?
Perhaps sometimes it’s okay just to realise something is crap without redemption. Just utter, terrible, heart-breaking, soul-destroying crap. When Xavier died, the words I found most comforting were – “it’s just not fair.” No attempt to explain what happened. No pretence around reasons and better places. Just an acknowledgement that very often life is terribly, terribly, terribly cruel.
Of course, I have tried to look for answers. I have spent the better part of 18 months turning the puzzle of Xavier’s death around and around in my head – a rubik’s cube that will never be solved. There are a number of ways that I can look at his death that give me a kind of comfort. That he is an old soul. That he had little to learn and much to teach. That his death had no reason but his life held a grand purpose. That he is still here, in different ways. Snatches at comfort – things that would bear no close scrutiny but that do not need to.
The thing that made the most sense to me came to me late one night. You may think me crazy, but I often have imagined conversations with Xavier in the still of the night. Whether it’s Xavier’s soul speaking to me, or some deeper part of me that still belongs to him, it doesn’t matter. I asked whether Xavier could see the future and give me comfort in what he saw. The reply came that whilst living life, we have an incredibly narrow vision. We see only what is immediately around us. Xavier’s view was as if from an aeroplane – an expanded view of the landscape below, creating a larger and different picture from what we experience on the ground of life. A more holistic viewpoint, removed from the minutiae of the moment.
Perhaps when we reach the other side, we will be able to see a richer and more complete tapestry and suddenly our questions about why the perfect souls leave us, will be answered by the complete vision in front of us.