The Inexplicable – Why?

This past week a nineteen year old female student at the University of Pennsylvania jumped to her death from a parking garage.  Family and friends were shocked and devastated.  Why would someone so young, so well off, and with so much to look forward to end her life?  Why?

Most of us have known someone whose life was cut short by some disease or accident.  We wonder why did those cells mutate, or why did that accident happen?  Some also wonder why a loving god would allow such things to happen?  We especially think this when someone ends their own life.

In the Middle East under a very different religious tradition, we are witnessing senseless “end of life” stories.  There, young men and women put on explosive vests and detonate them so as to kill or maim as many others as possible.  Why would someone ask these young people to hurt others?  Why would anyone choose to end ones life?

Several years ago, while walking along the upper banks of the Mosel River in Germany, my wife and I came across an old cemetery.  Those buried here had passed away many years ago for reasons unknown to us.

As we walk through the cemetery looking for names and dates, we eventually reached a separate section.  In this section we noticed most of the grave markers had small stones on their top edge.  We wondered why?

The answer turned out that this was a Jewish custom where on each visit a small stone should be placed “in the memory of the departed”.  In this manner the deceased “lived” on, at least in the minds of those who remembered the deceased.  Hmmm.

There are never satisfactory explanations for why people die.  When people are old or have been sick a long time, we usually say it was expected.  There are almost never satisfactory explanations why people choose to end their own life.

All that is left for those left behind is to find a small stone and place it on their grave.  The body will turn to dust, but the memory can live a long time… maybe forever.

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