Friday, June 02, 2006

Feeling bad for not feeling worse

Jessica called me last night to tell me she'd just learned that a boy she knows had been killed in an accident. Wesley had delivered the news with the unnerving sentence, "Guess who died?" Remind me to teach him the meaning of "segue."

The news was disturbing, especially for Jessica.

"I don't know how to feel, Mom," she said. "I want to cry but I can't."

There was a good reason for this. This was not the nicest kid. In fact, he had regularly harassed my kids in his high school years. That was bad enough, but a few months ago Jessica had called me very shaken to say a carload of boys had pulled up beside her at a traffic light and the driver - this boy - had yelled insults at her. She described him as looking "crazy," and said he then tried to cut her off as she was driving back to her apartment. For days she worried that he might know where she lived.

But nothing came of it, and she hadn't heard of him again until she'd found out about the accident that took his life.

It's easy to mourn someone you love. It's harder to mourn someone you never liked. We spent some time talking about that, and later she called me back to say that she and Wesley had passed the memorial service at his high school. Lots of people were there, she said.

"I guess he did have friends," Jessica said, and started remembering how this boy always seemed to be fine his own, but at his worst in the company of others. The picture she painted wasn't of a monster, but of a follower who liked to look tough for his buddies. I could hear Jessica's voice - along with her perceptions - softening as she spoke.

I reminded her of my friend and editor who'd died of brain cancer. When I was a reporter, he and I locked horns over everything and it was easy to dismiss the sweet, fun side of him and just see him as an obnoxious boss. Now that he's dead all I remember is the sweet, fun side of him. And I miss him.

This is a good lesson, I told her, for how we should do life. Instead of waiting for the death of someone to see the good in them, maybe we should do it when they're alive. Seeing the good in people would lead to friendships, and no ambivalence upon passing. Every death deserves mourning.

19 comments:

Roland said...

Too true.
And probably won't be received well.
Too many people today relish it when someone gets what they "deserve."
Thanks for reminding us that, in the end, we should all want to be on the same side.

Morgan said...

Thanks, Roland.

You're right of course, people love revenge. But I still think when death comes for someone they know, even if they didn't like them, the reaction is similar to what Jessica had. I think she felt guilty for not being able to be sad initially, and perhaps a sense of loss that she'd not tried to cultivate a friendship with this kid when he was away from his buddies.

Thanks for you kind words. You're exactly right; we should all be on the same side.

And nice avatar. It's a little edgier than the duck, but I like it. :-)

Roland said...

I wonder if many Jews could feel that way about Hitler. Especially if they ment him. I had read a story once (can't remember where) about a woman that went through the concentration camp stuff and later met the man that was in charge of the camp she had been in.
It took more than she was able to give, but she was able to forgive the man. (God is a miracle worker!)

As for the new avatar, Darkwing Duck fits my personality better anyway. Too many people think I act like a cartoon anyway. :)

prettylady said...

It took more than she was able to give, but she was able to forgive the man. (God is a miracle worker!)

Indeed. One thing we constantly forget about forgiveness is that it is not something we do--it is a gift from God to us, which heals the forgiver and forgiven equally. And if any genuine harm had been done, it would not ever be possible.

Pablo said...

Every death deserves mourning.

I wonder how he would have mourned had your daughter gotten into a fatal accident when he tried to cut her off.

It might seem harsh but his death is likely no great loss. The fact that you can "see the good" in someone like this reflects more on your character than it does on his.

Morgan said...

Pablo, I respectfully disagree. 20-year-olds are rash and prone to doing stupid, dangerous things. This kid was, by all accounts, a follower. The need to impress increases the odds of risky behavior.

God forbid someone would judge my fitness to live or die by the kind of person I was when I was that age. I was a dingbat.

Given time and understanding, I learned the sort of lessons that turned me into a halfway decent human being. I'd like to think that kid would have turned out OK after a few hard knocks.

You're right, of course, that my opinion might not be so generous if he'd hurt my daughter. It would have been much harder to forgive. Could I have done it? I don't know, Pablo.

But he didn't hurt her, even though he knew what kind of car she drove and where she lived. His actions, while scary, were for show. I can't hate a kid for being stupid.

I can identify with his mother, though. Such a loss must indeed be beyond bearing.

Morgan said...

"It took more than she was able to give, but she was able to forgive the man. (God is a miracle worker!)"

I've read stories like that before, and marvel at such resevoirs of character. I've forgiven people who wronged me terribly, and have always been surprised by how much more at peace I felt afterwards.

I remember in the Bible how much trouble it caused Pharoah each time he "hardened his heart." The softer our hearts the stronger our characters, I think.

Like you say, Roland, such sentiments aren't popular in a world where people nurse their anger and rage. But when you think about how fleeting life is, it seems like such a waste of energy and effort. Who wants all that weighing them down?

Sherpa said...

When I found out a friend's wife passed away, it was hard...partly because I never really liked her, and I felt extra guilty for that..However, the reasons why you dislike someone fades away, and you learn to forgive and mourn.

Morgan said...

Ruby, the guilt factor is a biggie. I went through a lot of that after my editor died. Like I said, he was a fun guy but not much of a manager and he kept most of us exasperated.

He got sick out of the blue, was diagnosed with his brain tumor in October and died in December. We were all in such shock over the swiftness of the illness.

After he died, we nearly diefied him, speaking of him as if he'd never done anything wrong.

That was our regret talking, of course. Now when we talk about him we'll mention the fun, silly stuff he did but also laugh at how annoying he could be. But in the context of his death, the stuff we thought was so exasperating seems kind of trivial now.

Guilt is such a weird emotion, and makes for a twisted prism that can distort reality. When I die, I want people to remember me as I was - not just the good parts, but the bad parts too. And I want to be able to view other people the same way.

That's one of the reasons I've tried to work on eliminating guilt in my life by not doing things to other people to feel guilty about. It sure isn't easy. It requires thinking through what I'm about to do or say. But in the end I believe it will be worth it.

Roland said...

I finally clicked on the "Landover Baptist Church"

Is that Christian satire or Atheist satire?

And if it isn't satire, I don't want to know. ;)

Morgan said...

Roland, it's just satire. I don't think it's Christian or atheist. I just think it's a good and accurate poke at the True Christian crowd.

Roland said...

Well, Morgan, I do agree with some of their satire.

But it wouldn't hurt to check out wikpedia
He can do whatever he wants, but sometimes it's sad to see that people actually believe that the site is real.
It is interesting to see how some view Jesus and use the "True Christian" things against them.

excerpt - The Landover site was created by Chris Harper (head writer and Chief Editor, aka "Pastor Deacon Fred"). Mr. Harper has used his "Pastor Deacon Fred" persona when giving public speeches for organizations such as American Atheists and Houston Atheist Society.

Anyway, thought you should know.

I'm not sure if I'm "big" enough to link to this site. But there are a few I will let know about it.

Roland said...

Nuts!

These guys fall right into the thing that they should be avoiding.

Sorry I got so off topic. I'll try to get away from this thing.

Morgan said...

Roland, the fact that people do mistake the site for the real thing is the perfect example of how True Christians have made a living parody of themselves.

I don't care who Chris Harper speaks to, and you should probably know that I have no more problem with atheists than I do Buddhists, Jews or other Christians. It's a free country.

I think Landover Baptist is a great site because people may just go there and see the extremes of their viewpoints and perhaps...just perhaps rethink where their viewpoints could be leading them.

Roland said...

I understand about people seeing and rethinking their thoughts.
But, it's good to know who is saying what and why.

I wonder what kind of damage was done to him "in the Lord's name?"

JohnR said...

Roland: Are you sure your link isn't a parody site too?

Check out the 'Zounds Youth Rock Ministry' link in the left column.

Unintentional hilarity abounds if these guys are serious.

JohnR

Morgan said...

Oh my, JohnR, you are brilliant. I just checked that out and am so sure you're right. I am laughing myself silly over the names of the songs of Zounds Youth Rock Ministry. I'm beginning to wonder if the site Roland referenced isn't run by the Landover Baptist crowd.

Roland said...

It's goofy, but I thought about it later, and JohnR, I think you're right.
Unlike the Landover one, it doesn't say it's a parody. And there haven't been any updates on some spots for quite a while.

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