When tragedy befalls us, we have a choice when it comes to which road we choose to travel down: the one filled with darkness or the one filled with light. May we all find the strength to choose the one filled with light.

When the Cosmos Align: A Look at Life and Death

When tragedy befalls us, we have a choice when it comes to which road we choose to travel down: the one filled with darkness or the one filled with light. May we all find the strength to choose the one filled with light.

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My cousin’s 28-year-old husband was struck and killed by a car last week. One moment he was riding his bike with his wife and toddler son after dropping his older two children off at summer school. The next moment he was in a coma and later passed away.

Just like that.

I am terribly bothered by this tragedy. Though I did not know him well, I knew him to be a kind, generous, loving husband and father of three based on my cousin’s social media posts and conversations. I knew him to be a good provider. I knew him to be the kind of person everyone wanted to be around.

I knew him to be young with a future full of possibilities.

In one moment — one single, split second — the cosmos aligned in a way that took him from his family and friends far too early. A car, a road, a bicyclist, all in the same place at the same unfortunate time. In one, painfully brief moment, his life and the lives of so many others were forever changed.

My instant reaction was one of sinking — heart and stomach sinking into a deep, molasses-like pit of despair. It always is when news of misfortune comes knocking at the door. But just as quickly as that feeling settles in comes the next: anger. Anger toward the woman who fell asleep at the wheel. Anger toward whatever deity exists, if any at all, for forcing my cousin and her children to endure this grief. Anger at the cosmos for lining everything up just right for this to happen.

But it does happen. It happens every day.

My mother said, as we were sitting in a restaurant after visiting the widow and her family at the funeral home yesterday, “I just want to scream to everyone in here, ‘THERE HAS BEEN A TERRIBLE TRAGEDY! WHY IS EVERYONE ACTING AS THOUGH THE WORLD IS OK?'”

I responded, “But see, that’s the thing. The extremely sad thing. Every day there is a tragedy. Every day, the cosmos align, and somebody suffers. Someone else has been sitting in a room with you and has wanted to scream the very same thing. Every day, someone wants to shake us all awake. Every single day.”

It’s depressing when you really think about it. It can take your mind to places nobody wants to go. What if my child? What if my spouse? What if my friend, my cousin, my niece? Why? WHY? Why must wives grow old without their husbands? Why must children grow up without their fathers? Why must these things happen to good people?

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The answer is there is no answer. Shit happens. Every day, shit happens. And we can do nothing about it except keep on living our lives. Keep those upon whom tragedy befalls in our hearts and prayers. Keep our loved ones close and tell them we care. Often. Enjoy their presence and their company.

The way I see it, there are two roads a person can travel down. The first is the one of indefinite sadness. The one of constant “What if?” The one of perpetual pity and hatred and depression and darkness. This is the easier road to navigate. I’ve been there myself. Multiple times. And as much as I loathe that road, it seems to be the one I gravitate toward. It seems to be the one many of us gravitate toward because it’s easier to exist in our sadness  and rancor — to let it consume us and eat away at our souls.

The second road is one of thanks. The one of eternal gratitude for having been blessed with knowing the victim of the cosmos for a time, however long or short. The one of good and lasting memories or of future hopes and dreams. This is the harder road to navigate. Few people can blaze this trail. Few people can build their lives along its winding curves and bask in its light. But those who can come out better in the end. Those who can push themselves to travel down this luminous pathway after making it through the shadowy one know peace. Maybe not the same peace they knew before the cosmos aligned, but peace nevertheless.

There is a saying that goes, “The only thing fair about life is that it is unfair to everyone.” How true this is. In one form or another, the cosmos align in such a way so as to forever alter each person’s life unfairly. No one escapes life without a burden or a trial. No one. In this way, we are all the same.

But what makes us different is how we live after the cosmos align. Which road we ultimately choose to traverse.

I pray my cousin finds the strength to wander the second road. I pray that, after she stumbles along the requisite avenue of fogginess, she emerges from its depths, ready to explore a new and brighter route.

Because when the cosmos align — and they do align for each of us, in one way or another — we have two roads we can choose to roam. May we all find the courage to choose the second.