The Inequities of Loss

A good friend recently passed away. He was 41. He’s survived by his wife, child of almost two years, and an extended collection of family and friends. As someone wrote on his obituary page, he was “one of the good guys.” A warm soul who always brought energy, enthusiasm, and empathy to every second of his life, it’s terribly unfair that someone so good was taken away so young. Loss is inequitable. Karma may be a barometer for some, but it’s not the measure for all.

Some assholes survive, plain and simple. Whether they are morally repugnant like the current US President or worse, murderers who live with impunity, there are teems of people who deserve going before others. But that is not how the world works. No matter how much virtue you possess, no matter how altruistic or benevolent you are towards others, your time may suddenly come like a thief in the night. Nobody can explain it. No priest, rabbi, or medical professional.

My friend who died was about as close to perfection as possible. Many say these things immediately after someone’s death, but this guy truly set a perfect example. He was a devout family man who had an incredible work ethic and gave one hundred percent in everything he did. His energy was contagious. He cared for everyone, which was clearly exemplified by him even giving me the time of day when I was still in school and he was an established professional excelling in his career. Nobody forced him to talk to me. He wanted to, even though at the time there was nothing in it for him (trust me). But that’s just the type of guy he was – he may have been smarter, more athletic, more handsome, and more successful than most people in any room, but it never led him to treat anyone any differently. He was always interested in other people. He asked questions. He listened.

After inexplicable tragedies we are usually left asking, why? Why him? Why so soon? What did he and his family ever do to deserve this? Some people live horribly and still survive. I like to think the universe has a way of working itself out and that the progress of humanity arcs toward the good and just, but in moments like this I am left questioning everything. It shows that no matter how well you live or how healthy you strive to be, you can still be left with the short straw before your time is due.

Now does this mean we should all be morally bankrupt, eat fried foods incessantly, and drink copious amounts of alcohol? Of course not. We should all aim to be the best people we can and cultivate as much virtue as possible. What’s the point of enjoying our time on this space rock if life is a Hobbesian dystopia that’s nasty, brutish, and short?

If tragic events do anything, it’s this – you realize the harsh truth that death is unfair. It operates often without rhyme or reason. It does not discriminate. It is inequitable. And for those reasons we must do better to cherish every second of every day, for we’ll never know which one could be our last.

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