Written words have always been my method of choice for communicating. I use them to defend, soothe, convince, agitate, explain, define, beautify, announce or (as is most often my way) find the funny angle in whatever person, place, event, action or thought that happens to have my attention, my hope being to help others (and me) to see deeper, think differently and perhaps feel better.
But sometimes words don’t work and they don’t make me or anyone else feel better. And sometimes things just aren’t funny.
On Thursday, a beautiful thirteen year old girl, whom I did not know of ten days ago, died from an aggressive, fast moving form of cancer. I’d have never known about her (her name is Kayleigh Maria Keeble) were it not for an email from a dear friend asking me and others to consider helping the family of this little girl, who was in the hospital fighting for her life while doctors tried to get her stable enough to deal with a large tumor between her heart and lungs. He asked for our prayers and if possible, financial contribution to an online website fund set up to help the family. All of us who were sent that email became right then and there, part of this family, connected to their nightmare, to their hopes, to their desperate plea to God “Please not our baby.”
I and an exponential number of others through the beautiful side of the not always beautiful social media united all our good mojo with conviction and rich optimism. No matter that many of us didn’t know Kayleigh. Someone WE loved knew and loved her so therefore we loved Kayleigh too and so then did the people who love us, and so on. And these beautiful, golden threads connecting us all were woven into an intricate quilt of love and wrapped protectively around Kayleigh and her family and there was no way God wasn’t gonna notice.
But within days of her diagnosis, she was taken from her family and from the world.
And it feels like God didn’t listen.
Because while we whisper knowingly in our hearts (and beg our brains to catch up) that Kayleigh is for sure in a better place where she no longer has to “fight like a girl”, the family she left behind is NOT in a better place right now.
There are some strong souls who are unwavering in their hearts and actions despite the dark, lonely space that death creates. These people are soothing saints who keep that quilt of woven love in place while the rest of us rage, curse, wail and shake our fists and try and see one tiny glimpse of understanding as to why a beautiful girl would be ripped from her family so ruthlessly.
Rage is not comfortable. Selfish, blasphemous questions are certainly circling in my own head. From the perspective of someone floating helplessly far outside the circle of Kayleigh’s family and friends, I ask: “Why did I have to know about this? It hurts so badly! It brings me fear and worry and uncertainty! Why God, did you involve so many people in this if you had no intentions of listening? With so many people wrapped up in this, wouldn’t it have been a great time to show us what you can do? How do I explain to my kids why you didn’t help Kayleigh the way we all asked you to? How do I explain to them why prayers don’t always fix things or make us feel better? What the HELL God?”
But pause for a moment (as I am) and think on this: rage is a form of love. The ever eternal words of poet Dylan Thomas sing a bitter sweet song. He raged in prayer for his father to fight to the end: “Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
That we (all of us here, feeling robbed and abandoned by God and by death) would hold desperately to the light of another human being, that we would rage and wail and curse at the idea of Kayleigh’s light being extinguished puts value on what is most important in the world: love. And this fuels and stokes Kayleigh’s flame, helping it to burn more brightly so that she not only shines forever “into that good night” but also continues to burn with infinite and comforting love upon her family.
So let us rage and stoke the light, and be glad to be a small part of one family’s journey (you as a reader of this are now on the journey with them too) knowing that it somehow, through some kind of cosmic, interconnected, angry beauty does indeed give us a glimpse of a plan that has been mapped out with such passionate love that while we don’t know much, we know we have been brought together, regardless of our degree of separation, to lessen this family’s pain by embracing the sorrowful rage that keeps the flame burning.