Why Do We Ask Why?


2014-08-12 16.12.26We are often blown away when a life is taken from us so soon.

Whether at the hands of a monster, accident, or by self, we seem shocked at the suddenness of a life shortened.

As I think about the passing of Robin Williams, I think about all the other lives in the public eye who have senselessly been taken out of the picture.

James Dean (1955), Marilyn Monroe (1962), Judy Garland (1969), Jimi Hendrix (1970), Janis Joplin (1970), Bruce Lee (1973), Cass Elliot (1974), Elvis (1977), John Lennon (1980), Natalie Wood (1981), Grace Kelly (1982), Vic Morrow (1982), John Belushi, (1982), Karen Carpenter (1983), Kurt Cobain (1994), Princess Di (1997), John Denver (1997), James Michener (1997), John Ritter (2003), Christopher Reeve (2004), Michael Jackson (2009)

Before you point out that there are hundreds more that should be on this list, let me remind you, “There are hundreds more that should be on this list, but these are the names I knew when I read the list.”

It’s not enough to simply ask “why” with a hope of clarity. Nor is it important to know all the details, yet we seem to yearn for every smidgen of information. If “why” is important, then what do we do with the answer?

It must be more than knowing the details and attempting to make sense of the “why.” It would be nice that once we know, we use tools to prevent others from walking down the same pathway – of course, that only works if they follow the advice.

We are shocked as famous people die of car wrecks, overdoses or intentional self deaths.  Do we somehow think them invincible? Are they bigger than life itself so surely nothing untoward can happen to them? However, they are simply people like anyone else around us, only they happen to be in the limelight.

We are less than shocked when the same tragedies happen hundreds and thousands of times every day to nameless faces.

As the story unfolded, USA Today web app had at least 6 stories on the death of Robin Williams and all the reactions. Every news report, talk show and print media had to bring it up, document favorite memories, and wonder about how we will remember Robin in the future – by his work or death? Everyone seemingly had some personal recollection how Robin impacted their own life – comedy sketches, TV appearances, movies, or interviews.

Everyone wanted an audience because it seems like everyone had something to say. This is true of those around us… Everyone seems to have something to say, and they need someone else to hear them.

Some misspoke as they talked aloud to their audience, others broke down and wept, and there were some who were not very nice.

I am often more concerned when the person who leaves so soon is one that I know, or one with unrealized potential, or even one who is so very innocent.

There have been a few heroes in my life who passed on that I remember all too well and their impact on who I am is greater than these other public figures.

You have your own list.

Mine includes my grandmother, Daniel Calk, Franklin Jones, James Kilgroe… These are the ones that will touch me more than some public figure. Their deaths may have seemed unnecessary at the time, but every one of them had a connection to God. Every one of them have a greater impact on who I am today than any public figure.

The one thing I take away from Robin’s passing… We really do not know anyone else! What are their demons? What do they battle when they are not in the public eye?

Even if they publish the facts, we still do not know them. Even if their life is an open book to us, we are surprised at their actions. The only tears I can justify is the finality of a life that has passed on to judgement. What will that judgment be?

By my youth pastor from 45 years ago, “By a life I did not live, and a death I did not die, I rest my whole eternity.”


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