I wrote a few weeks back about a death in the trauma bay, a young man with gunshot wounds to the chest. We knew nothing about him at the time, but the paramedic report and the police presence implied he was involved in some kind of drug deal. I have recently learned that this wasn’t a drug buy gone bad, but a random shooting. The victim wasn’t even the target, but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Most people want death to be sensible. We want a reason for someone to die that satisfies the mind’s need for cause and effect. Lung disease – must have been a smoker. Heart attack – red meat, obesity, no exercise. We look for some sort of causality, no matter how feeble. We imagine a clockwork universe where everything is rational and mortality plays by the rules. The secret wish behind that desire is the belief that there is also moral justification to death; that somehow we get what we deserve.
It isn’t true. The monumental stupidity that we see daily in the trauma unit still doesn’t explain why some live and some don’t. We take comfort in the mantra that “There are no victims”, that drink or drugs or stupid decisions account for the apparent randomness of trauma, but even that is a fairy tale.
We can catalog the injuries and say this or that was the fatal trauma. We can dissect our decisions and our care and say here or there is where we could have done something differently, maybe turned things around and saved rather than lost a life. None of it is true or real.
The truth is that even when people do stupid things, injury and death follow no rational or logical pattern. We are comforted when the patient is intoxicated, or when they have taken a stupid risk, and been injured. It reinforces our desire to see cause and effect. But when the injury, or worse, when death is completely random, when a patient is literally blindsided by a random event, those comfortable illusions are destroyed. We are left with the unanswerable “Why?” Perhaps it is true that God is watching over us and maneuvering us like chess pieces. I don’t know. His ways are not the ways of man.
Meanwhile, I am praying for and working on acceptance. It is hard, but that’s why it’s called work.