In the Wake of What’s Happened

We are half a mile away, when I say,

“I wasn’t going to bring this up,” but, “you have to wonder why that was allowed to happen.” 

We are walking towards the memorial for Elianne Andam. It’s a silly question, but it’s the elephant in the room, it’s what we’re all thinking. I say it out of respect for the friends and the loved ones. My sister, who is with me, says,

“You know, after Nana got Dementia, I had to stop wondering.”

I say,

“Yes, of course,” but, “it’s what we’re all thinking.” 

There needn’t be evidence that we are all agreed. The circumstance is dark enough for the words to evade us. It feels like a defeat, an unforeseen one. Elianne was well-padded. She had the divine assurance some of us also enjoy. But she went how she went, and who, if anyone, should go like that?

When we reach the memorial, there’s a black bus parked nearby. There’s more flowers than there could possibly be people at the hour we arrive. We’d missed the prayer session, and we’d missed the family. All there was to do was be sorry. I’m sorry to have wondered. Interrogating grief is what outsiders do when they want to feel useful. Those on the inside of it are often at a loss in the wake of what’s happened. For the amount of questions they surely have, there ends up being none; they all snowball when the air is thickest and the sky is whitetest. Nothing can be distinguished. Then anger melts it down, and everything needs an answer, expectedly. The harder questions to answer are the fastest to rejoin the queue. The ones that feel a little more straightforward, with answers like,

‘No, I don’t think I ever will be okay again.’

They get to join the other side, to help set a tone to the other queries.  Suffering amounts to little without the questions.

When two people lost their son, one asked, how do I forgive? The other asked, how could I be expected to? The questions came in hot and fast, some hours after the death. My dad’s friend said it was his job to forgive his son’s killers. His wife later agreed. He did so as a saint, and she joined in much later, as a human. Time determines the way, and for that, it is always a part of the answer. Forgiveness has been their lives ever since. They’ve established a restorative justice programme named after their son, they’ve visited prisons 81 times. You get the sort of answer you aren’t really looking for. It bears little resemblance to the question. It arrives when there is space to receive it. My dad’s friend can’t help but relive the details, his wife still cries when they’re recounted, but they’ve found a way to breathe again. 

Questions help to create the footpaths that lead out and away, yet they take you to places you never wanted to go. Then, you become someone you never had in mind, a bigger and deeper person than you intended. You become more than you wanted. That’s how it goes, that’s why they’re fixed, and why you cannot help but ask them. You must get what you’re owed.

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