“…and I gave you sons, though it pleases God to take them back so soon.”
In movie The Other Boleyn Girl Catherine of Aragon uttered the line achingly as philandering husband Henry VIII used the lack of male heir to annul their marriage and wed Anne Boleyn. Catherine of Aragon was a pious Catholic, and since Anne Boleyn was riding on the “new Christianity” wave that line took a double meaning. Catherine was reminding Henry not to turn his back on a lawfully-wedded wife and the God he’d known all his life. After all, as so she believed, her miscarriages and stillbirths were ultimately God’s decision.
How often have we heard similar lines whenever a tragedy occurs? God’s mysterious plan, God’s better judgment, God’s fickle hand of fate, or the illustrious “It pleases God that this gut-wrenching injustice of epic proportion should befall upon you”.
During last year’s craziest week when I was juggling Jakarta Fashion Week, Indonesia Investment Summit and a TVC production I learned within an hour that two longtime friends were diagnosed with cancer. Both women, both about my age, both gentle souls to friends and family, both examples of piety. I was tired as hell but that night I stayed wide awake. I asked where God was.
The first friend was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer. She opted for a non-medical treatment and though I have concerns for the method I’m glad that she’s still among us. The second friend was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer while undergone a check-up in Singapore. As soon as I could wrap up work I flew out with Mom to be by her side, going through the motions with her family as they scrambled to get second and third opinions—all the while watching her silently cried in fetal position whenever painkiller ran out of her system.
Her family finally decided on a world-renowned oncology hospital in the US, so Mom and I waved our goodbye with a sense of renewed hope. We sent litany of prayers as she fiercely battled the cancer, braving rounds of chemotherapy. We rejoiced when tests showed the cancer cells were defeated. The joy was short-lived as the cancer returned with a vengeance— started from breast, mercilessly spreading to lungs, kidneys, and other organs. Medications stopped making effect. After 10 agonizing months and 7 painful chemotherapy rounds, yesterday God took my friend away.
“The good always die young, because God loves them that much”, some earnestly tried to console me. But God, does it really please you to take away someone that young and kind this soon, and with that much pain? If it does, why? To watch us in survival fight against the remaining wretched and wicked?
I consider myself a believer, and to a certain extent I practice my faith. I know we all will eventually die, often not knowing how. But there have been times when I hopelessly couldn’t fathom why God had to take away the kindest heart and the gentlest soul in such excruciatingly painful manner, while at the same time letting pathological liars, chronic cheaters, acute fraudsters, manic manipulators, rapists, pedophiles, cannibals, serial murderers, genocidal generals or good old fashioned terrorists to roam the Earth, often scot-free from the hands of law,
living well into old age?
This dear friend, my beloved uncles and cousins swept away by Aceh tsunami, my cherished 3rd and 9th grade classmates succumbing to leukemia, a friend’s 3-year-old daughter who got drowned, countless of senseless deaths in catastrophes and war zones—people who never campaigned for evil, who put grace in life around them, or simply had so much potentials to make the world a better place– why turning your back on them, God, while sparing, for example, society scumbags like FPI?
I believe you exist, God. I believe you’re in charge. That you’re fair and just. Yet all of this unravels under your watch. Being the Almighty, you could’ve stopped or prevented it. But it is going on. So they were right– it must’ve somehow pleased you. Pray tell, why? How does that compute into the promise of rightful goodness for committing good deeds, while it seems like the good are getting screwed, over and over? Or should we continue to strive for goodness simply because we fear your next wrath, however seemed unfair?
Ramadhan is on its last leg. I’ve been trying my best to fulfill my dues. So please God, if the Eid is truly the day of reckoning and redemption, I humbly ask you to kindly enlighten me—how does it please you to take away good souls so soon and by so much pain? Yes God, I’m asking where you are.
I found God on the corner of First and Amistad
All alone, smoking his last cigarette
He said, ask anything
Where you been, I asked
Where were you, when everything was falling apart?
Lost and insecure, you found me
Lying on the floor, surround me
Why did you have to wait?
Where were you, just a little late
These days The Fray’s song is the only thing that comes to mind. I wish you a more joyful Eid, everyone. I have to bury a friend.