On Saturday we gathered to celebrate my cousin Shantel’s marriage to Wes. Shantel is my youngest cousin on my dad’s side, the last one to marry. There was a time during our childhood when I hung out with her a lot, the big cousin and the little cousin, teaching her to write letters and numbers and doing lots of craft projects together. Shantel holds a special place in my heart, even though we rarely see each other. She met Wes when she moved to Tennessee for a job several years ago, and this was the first time I’d met him. He was cheerful and friendly, and made a deliberate effort to connect with the non-Christian side of the family. I liked him and appreciated the effort he made. I’m happy that Shantel has found someone to share her life with. Of course I don’t know, likely will never know, what he is like every day; I can only hope that he treats her with kindness and a warm heart.
Sunday marked one year since my 18 year old niece Simone died. Simone had been an avid cupcake baker, so her mom Lauren invited all her friends and family to mark the anniversary by gathering to share cupcakes. I never considered not going, but that morning I wondered if I could simply stay in bed until the day had come and gone.
A lot of people came to see Lauren; to acknowledge the passing of their friend, niece, cousin, granddaughter; to acknowledge the passing of time. Dozens and dozens of cupcakes lined the tables: some elaborately artistic, others in gourmet flavors. I self-medicated with caffeine and sugar, gave hugs all around, and didn’t even try to put words to my jumbled feelings.
That evening I got a message from my son’s fiancé Selena; her sister had just given birth to a baby boy. When I shared the news, Lauren suggested we call him Cupcake.
I have found myself atypically unable to articulate my feelings a year after Simone’s death. It seems surreal that it happened at all; hard to recall the three weeks of horrible news layered on horrible news; impossible that it happened so quickly. It is so senseless for a person on the cusp of adulthood to have their journey brought to an abrupt end; tragic to pour oneself into parenting a child for eighteen years only to have their life then ripped away.
I have no ambiguity about there being a higher purpose or plan; there is none. There is no benevolent force in the world that would make a choice like this. This isn’t a debate I have; I feel neither betrayed nor angry, I feel certain. I feel certain as well that two people meeting each other and falling in love, or the birth of a baby, are not signs of divinity.
The world, Life, is wild. It is wild and unpredictable. Magnificent and splendid things happen, as well as horrific things. We are a part of the wild, natural world, whether we want to accept it or not. There is no need to search for complicated explanations for the mysteries. In truth, the answer is very simple: