The Injustice of Death

By Meg C., Age 19

I came home from class last week and my mom had left me a voice mail asking me to call her because she had some “bad news about Nick.” So of course I call her immediately. She tells me that Nick passed away that afternoon. Despite being 19 years old and for all intents and purposes a rational person, my first thought was that the doctors were wrong. “What?” I asked. “He’s dead,” she replied holding back the tears. “Forever,” I questioned still not quite capable of grasping the meaning of a rather simple concept. Yes I am clearly old enough to understand that when someone dies, they are dead, and when you’re dead (despite being Jesus) that’s the end. But 19 year old boys just aren’t supposed to die.

When Nick was re-diagnosed with cancer just before we were supposed to leave for freshmen year of college, I honestly believed that he would be fine. He beat it when we were four, certainly now he was bigger there was more of him to fight the cancer. Yes, I was concerned and upset whenever I would learn of some complication with his treatments, but I never thought it would come to this. He would be the survivor. He was my friend and I prayed for him and his family came to my house every year on Christmas Eve since we were babies and he was in my senior English class and he graduated with me and this just couldn’t happen to my friend. Despite the fact that Nick had been battling cancer for over a year, I couldn’t accept this tragedy.

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It seemed so unfair to me that such a good person would pass away. Nick always had such a great sense of humor. He was a goof ball through and through. His ever friendly smile could always brighten my day. He was smart and had great aspirations to work with children who were diagnosed with serious illnesses. His experiences and personality would have made him a great counselor and he would have touched so many lives.

As I sat on the floor sobbing uncontrollably, I became frustrated with the injustice of his death. Why couldn’t Saddam Hussein die of cancer? Why did God choose Nick? I had a million questions but not one of them could I formulate into a real concern. I was just overwhelmed and confused; I suppose I was experiencing grief. Within an hour I had to go to practice and tell my friends at college what had happened and that I would have to go home this weekend. Each time over the next few days I had to tell another friend, coach, classmate, or teacher I cried. I couldn’t help it. And whenever someone showed sympathy it made it worse, every hug or “I’m so sorry” brought more and more tears. I just wanted to go home and be with my family who would understand without a word.

The day after he died I trudged around campus in a complete haze. I could get caught up in class for a few minutes at a time, which was a nice rest for the awkward lump in my throat that I just couldn’t seem to swallow. Then I would feel guilty that I wasn’t grieving or I would lose interest and I would be back to feeling depressed and distraught. I stumbled from place to place with blurred vision because of the constant presence of tears in my eyes. The instant someone saw me, they would ask some version of, “did you stay up all night writing a paper, you look tired.” Then the cycle of retelling the story would begin again.

Finally I got home and I began to accept Nick’s death as the truth. I realized that Nick would want me to return to my regular routine and that it was okay to laugh, that’s what Nick did best. But the wake and the funeral made the situation all too real. It was a closed casket, but as I kneeled at Nick’s side I felt sick to think that my friend would lie in that box by himself forever. The funeral was bitter sweet, it was standing room only which I knew would make his mother happy to see how many people cared, but at the same time that meant all those people were grieving too. By the time we left the church I was physically and emotionally pained with grief. I was dizzy and nausea. At the cemetery I collapsed and sat on the frozen ground with my mom a few yards behind the crowd just crying. I couldn’t hold my body up. My back hunched over, my legs haphazardly protruding from my skirt, grass stuck to my hands and knees, my head down, I breathed deeply trying to regain composure.

But we have to let Nick go. He had been in a lot of pain, but now his spirit would be free. But we each need to internalize this. I had said it before and rationally I knew it was true. Nick remains on earth in our stories, memories, and deep in our hearts, yet his spirit is free to laugh and be happy. At the cemetery, while I was disconnected from the group, everyone got a white balloon. After the burial, everyone gathered together and at the minister’s cue released their balloons, symbolizing the releasing of Nick’s spirit. His mother held on to her balloon for just a little longer than everyone else, but even she was able let Nick soar with the balloons through the crisp autumn air up through the blue sky to heaven. My mother had coaxed me into lifting my head to watch the balloons. As I watched this scene unfold, I felt the wind gust. It went right through me and lifted the balloons with a new emphasis. At that moment I knew Nick was free. I was still exhausted and extremely weak but I was able to get up and leave.

A week later, I’m still upset. I still can’t talk about it. I still cry whenever someone asks how I’m doing. I’m trying to return to “normal” and it is surprisingly easy. I call it “compartmentalizing:” there’s the part of me that could still cry for hours and there’s the part of me that can focus on moving on. Each day I get better and better at moving on. I still have moments, especially when I’m alone that I’ll break down. I think there always will be. But I remind myself that because Nick can’t live, I should try to live for him. Nick was going to make a difference in the world. I remember that crying for Nick won’t make him come back and it won’t help anyone not me or his family. Laughing and bringing cheer to others the way Nick always did will help. When my brother leaves for college next year, he will take the comforter and sheets that Nick’s mom bought for Nick. I like to think that just a Jesus lives on in our hearts while His spirit is in heaven and we live everyday with his intentions in mind; so does Nick live on in our hearts while his spirit is in heaven and we live everyday with his intentions in mind.