Saturday, April 17, 2010


I finally got out to the cemetery. I needed it so badly. I had not been there in just over a year. It's been just over 4 years since my father died.

My father died in 2006 at age 59. 11 years before he died (1995), he was hit by a drunk driver at age 48. We should have lost him then. He was severely burned, had a significant head injury, and was badly injured. On the way to the cemetery I drove past the place where the accident happened. Nine years before that (1986), my father had a terrible fall off a scaffold that had no rails. It left him partially disabled. He was 39 years old when this injury happened.

I turned 40 this year. My knees crack sometimes and I ache every now and again. But when my dad was my age, his able bodied days were over. It is so much sadder for me now than it was when it happened. I cannot imagine my able-bodied days being over by now. I cannot imagine the rest of my life in physical and psychological pain every single day. Dad lived for 20 years in pain. And frankly, his whole life was that of pain. His first 16 years at home were unspeakable.

As I pondered his life, I asked, "Why so much pain?" I asked the question of God. I stood at his grave, sobbing and asking God, "Why life is so painful?" The question of pain and suffering gets to the very core of theology and faith. Why would a loving God allow so much pain and suffering?

My usual approach to answering this question involves freedom and love. I settle it for myself. I didn't go there today. Rather, when my questioning persisted I looked at my father's gravestone. Engraved on his gravestone is the following: "He laughed heartily to the end." This descriptor of my father has two meanings. 1. The day my father died, he had a brief moment of lucidity. He was attached to all sorts of tubes and could not talk, but he could hear and nod. My brother told a joke and my dad's body quaked. He was laughing. Soon after he fell back into his sleep. 2. If you had known my father, your favorite thing about him would have been his sense of humor and his laugh. It was contagious. When he laughed, you laughed.

In my sobbing theological question of God about pain, I read my father's gravestone - "He laughted heartily to the end." It challenged my question. The man whose life theme was pain was also the man whose best charactersitic was humor and laughter. How can this be?

Then that question replaced my prior question. Who I addressed my interrogation to also changed. I addressed not God, but Satan and asked, "How do you explain this?" Asking this question made me laugh while I was crying really hard. I guess Satan's got some explaining to do as well.

The time spent in the cemetery was good. I really love my dad.