Six people are deeply buried in an avalanche in the Wilson Glade. One is caught but holds onto a tree, safe but not sound. Three of the six burials are from a completely independent party, strangers he never knew but soon will. He acquires the first signal, digs and gives one stranger a second chance at life. He acquires the second signal, digs, and saves a second stranger. Now the third signal. He digs to find his wife. She’s blue. Pulseless. Not breathing. CPR for thirty minutes and she’s not coming back. He leaves her to dig up three other deeply buried souls. They’re not coming back either.
So. How do we make sense of these things in life and death? How can we come to understand tragedy or, worst of all, indifference from God* and the natural world entire? It may be that we can never fully comprehend events and outcomes. Norman Maclean, in the telling of his brother’s death in A River Runs Through It, writes that we can love completely without complete understanding. The key is only that we love at all. This alone helps us, if not to understand, then to continue to move through this world. We can also be grateful for what we have while we have it.
For now? Squeeze one another, friends. Hug your children, your loved ones. Hug the trees. Ski the snow. Go make a difference in this world. (We all got a second chance at life…) That’s what our contemporary Job said despite the tears and the anguish.
(*Post script – It is in stories like these that I am often reminded of the Book of Job in the Old Testament. You’ll recall that everything (health, family, wealth) was taken from him by God and he suffered the great injustices of the world. Job shook his fist at the Old Man and demanded to understand, How Can This Be Justice? God appeared as a whirlwind….but didn’t answer the question.)