It’s hard for me to write and yet I know I must. Silence, utter mute silence is my response when I’m confronted with terrible grief, irrevocable reality. I guess we all experience this at some point of our lives. It’s very hard to find any meaningful words, any meaning at all when bad things happen to good people. It’s the ultimate philosophical question mark, the most trying test to our faith.
Nothing I write, nothing I say will change the reality. Nothing, no amount of prayer can bring Hugo back. And I can’t skip over this into a cappuccino, as much as I’d like to drown myself in a whole vat of cappuccino in my despair for his family and for all who knew him to be the unique soul that he was in this world.
I was sitting with my grandfather, who’s from the old world where the Ottoman Empire ruled over Iraq and the Middle East. He’s one hundred years old now, and whilst his legs have given way and he needs twenty four hour care, his mind is sharp. Sitting with him is like sitting with a young man who’s stuck in wrinkly, well worn body, whose mouth moves too slowly for his words that he wants to express. His eyes give it away though, dimmed with age they look at me and seem to ask, ‘Who are you?’ and ‘What is it all about?’
I sat with him that early Summer, Los Angeles morning and asked my eyes asked him in return, ‘You tell me what it’s all about? What wisdom do you have to gift me?’ After a few silent moments he lifted up his finger and began to draw a circle in the air. ‘Life is a Galgal – a circle,’ he rasped. ‘Life is a Galgal.’ Slowly, carefully, around and around, his finger drew the circle of life in the air. And I appreciated his wisdom. The cycle of life, the culmination and summary of one hundred years on this earth.
If I’ve learnt anything in the month that has felt like the mourning month of Av, it’s that we don’t know much. In fact we know nothing. We know as much as the zero in that circle of life. We just go around and around, day in day out, living our lives. This may seem defeatist. Maybe I’ve become a fatalist in the month where my son’s good friend dies suddenly, horrifyingly. Where a beautiful black haired, black eyed baby of just a few months dies, also suddenly, also horrifying, and I can’t look at her mother’s face without crying. When I think of the heartbroken parents there are no comforting words to offer. How can I not be a fatalist, because they don’t deserve their sorrow. No one does.
My only conclusion is that we don’t know anything as we walk in this world. Day in day out, along the fragile circle of life which we are gifted with. All we can hope to do is work on ourselves so that each day counts, each relationship counts and to be the best we can be in the moment. In all humility we don’t know what tomorrow brings, we don’t even really know what God wants, except what comes to mind from the book of Micah, ‘What is good and what does God want from you? But to do justice and loving kindness and go humbly with God.’ (Micah 6:8)
What this means is different to all of us. It’s a personal journey, and more often than not it’s a silent expedition of the soul, which takes place wherever you find yourself, Johannesburg, Los Angeles or Jerusalem.