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Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?


People we love get cancer. 

We are all left scratching our heads…why him?  Why her?

He is the most generous brilliant young doctor.  He saves other people’s lives. 

She is a loving, kind, compassionate mother, sister and friend.  People need her to stay alive and love them.

Honestly, would there ever be a time, any of us would say, “Ya, he has cancer but he is kind of a creep anyway so it won’t really be a big loss.”  

Cancer is tragic.  Period.

Bad things happen – terminal illness being one of them. 

I really can’t make sense of it.  It makes me incredibly sad.  I grieve and often think about what my sick friends and loved ones feel and think.  It’s hard to imagine.  It’s hard to even try to “go there”.

My friend and hairdresser, Katie, is currently grieving for her 42 year old uncle in hospice suffering with a late stage terminal brain tumor.  He was more like an older brother than an uncle to her.  Recently, we talked about him, their relationship and what he meant to her as I sat facing the mirror at the salon, color on my roots and tears in her eyes. 

She had spent some valuable time with him the weekend before in Corpus Christi, my hometown.  One of his last requests was to visit the ocean “just one more time”.  Family gathered  from various cities, accompanying the young, dying, physically incapacitated man on his last visit to the beach.  Beautiful.

The scene:  a family coming together; connecting and sending this beloved husband, son, and uncle out of this life surrounded with family and love – much in the same way we welcome a new baby into this world. 

However, Katie was feeling somewhat unsettled.  She did not tell him the things she was thinking or share how much he had impacted her life for fear of upsetting him. 

Really, I asked?  You were worried that you would upset a dying man by telling him how desperately he will be missed and how much you love him?  How your life is different.  Better.  Because he was a part of it and you wish you had more time with him. 

It’s funny, really.  Many of us leave loving words on the table b/c it feels scary to tell someone we love what is in our heart?  Does this seem crazy?  It seems insane to me.  And yet, I have been guilty of doing it with my family of origin.

I have changed this pattern when it comes to my kids.  I tell them daily how crazy I am about them.  Each one of my kids is at the top of my list and they know it…sometimes, they may even hope to be demoted – especially when Mama Bear rears her ugly head upon hearing about a curve ball that occurred as we are relaying the day’s events at the dinner table.  Or as my 9 year old says, “Mom, don’t pull a Bev and call anyone.  I will handle it.” (Beverly Goldberg reference from the sitcom, The Goldbergs)

I can’t make sense about why bad things happen to good people. 

It makes sense to me to tell the people we love how we feel about them.  If it feels awkward, lean into the discomfort and tell them anyway. Do it by letter, text or email if you simply can’t speak the words.  

I have never met a single person that ever tires of hearing they are loved, special and have impacted your life. 

I have never met a young child that didn’t love hearing how much their parent adores them and how much better life is since they were born. 

So when bad things happen, spread your goodness to those good sick people.   And refuse to live under a dark cloud allowing the bad things to dictate how we good folks roll.  Tell those good people they are loved.  Show those good people they are loved with meals, errands, kind gestures or simply listening to anything they have to say and “holding space” for them. 

And yes…F&ck Cancer.

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