Thursday, May 3, 2012

On Suffering- For Tripp Roth

Just in case you're tempted to slash your wrists during the first part of this post, keep reading, I swear it doesn't end on a depressing note. I swear.

    So my little friend Tripp died on January 14th.  My little friend that I never met.  I'm just getting around to blogging about it.  It took awhile for me to process it.  He died, and I cried myself to sleep that Saturday night.  I moped around the house and faked smiles playing Legos.  I went through the motions of fixing dinner, crying into the peas, sniffling next to the turkey.  And then, lo and behold, I noticed something.  Something beautiful started pouring out across the internet.  The love people had for this little boy.  Thankfully, I was not the only hysterical person on the earth over this.  I felt comforted.  There were a ton of other people bathing their pillowcases in utter sorrow.  And boy, did this make me happy.  Not happy because we were all miserable but happy because we all loved so much.  A little boy we never met.  A mother who we all admired more than we could put words to.  A grandmother who essentially stopped her life to take care of her daughter and her first grandchild.  The endless rocking.  The endless, tortuous baths.  The unending, unconditional love.  It was all too much for us humans to bear.  I've never seen something, been a part of something, so darn heartbreaking, but so darn beautiful all at the same rotten-wonderful time.

    ABC ran a news story on Tripp about a month before he died.  The story generated many comments.  SO many of them were infused with love and support, sending love and prayers their Ponchatoula-way.  There were the occasional hard-hearted, why-don't-you-put-him-down-like-a-freakin'-dog comments.  They pretty much got ripped to virtual shreds by the rest of us.  I don't tolerate people comparing a little boy to a dog very well, apparently.  Gulp.   People from all over the world poured out their hearts to this little boy and his family.   So many cried.  So many prayed.  So many hoped.  It didn't end with a miraculous healing and a chorus of hallelujahs.  It ended with reality.  Not everyone is healed.  Tripp wasn't healed of EB on this earth.  All the saints intercessions we implored.  All the Hail Marys.  All the Our Fathers.  Were they heard?  It appears, "Thy will be done" was heard loud and clear.
     Even when Jesus, GOD, walked this earth, not everyone was healed.  Isn't that hard to bear?  That he didn't heal everyone.  Sometimes we only focus on the ones in the bible who were healed, you know?  We know them all- the man at the pool of Siloam, the man with the withered hand, Peter's mother-in-law, the bleeding woman, etc. etc. etc.  But you know what?  He didn't heal everyone.  There were sick people left when Jesus died.  There were paralyzed people left when He died.  There were still lepers when He died.  He obviously didn't come to cure everyone's physical ailments.  I don't know, maybe part of why He came was to make sure that those who suffered could know that it gets better.  Maybe to make sure that those who suffered knew that they were loved.  Fiercely.  That there is a place where there is no suffering.  That even though He doesn't heal your son's EB blisters, even though He doesn't take away your daughter's cancer, even though He doesn't shrink your husband's tumor, that He loves you beyond words.

     Physical cures are NOT evidence of God's love.  Merely existing is evidence of God's love.  Physical cures do not ensure that you go to heaven.  You could be healed of cancer and lead a terrible life and end it with a terrible death.  Therefore, being physically cured could not possibly mean you are loved more than those who are not healed because God wishes all to be saved.  Not to throw a dagger at those who have been healed, no way.  But they received a gift and what they do with that gift is what counts.  Those who were not healed received a gift too.  The gift of an early entrance into paradise.  Maybe not what they were hoping for because we don't have a flippin' clue how great heaven is.  Maybe not what their parents or loved ones wanted because we don't get to peer into the window of heaven and see them so freakin' happy that we're actually jealous they got cancer.  But it's a gift just the same.  I'm sure Tripp feels sorry for the rest of us down here.  He's probably playing the drums and chewing on a cherry Twizzler while I'm sobbing uncontrollably with snot running down my nose over him.  Really?  Actually, he's probably like "Who the heck is that lady with the snot all over moaning and groaning about me?"  I'm sure Tripp Roth feels very sorry for me at the moment.  That's okay, Tripp ole' buddy, just keep praying for the snot lady to be where you are one day.
     It's bitter but it's true, sometimes this is a valley of tears.  Bad things happen.  Sad things happen.  Every prayer is not answered in the way we want.  Every pleading of the heart is not met with earthly consolation and a "everything's okay".  No, sometimes everything is not okay.  I guarantee you Courtney is not thinking everything is okay at the moment.  And good for her for being honest.  I'm sure she heard a million times at the funeral the phrase everyone uses when they don't know what else to say- "he's in a better place."  And it's true.  He is.  But it's still not okay.  It still hurts like the dickens.  It still rips my heart out and punches me in the gut.  And if suffering people can be real with God and say, "I know my boy is in heaven, but this hurts like hell," then maybe we reach acceptance a little quicker.  Even if we're saying it ten years later, that's alright.  Even if we tell God that this world He created totally bites,  that's okay.  He knows it's true more than anyone.  That's why He doesn't leave us here.
      The day Tripp died I let myself be crazy with sorrow.  I didn't even try and drum up every thought I could to make me cheery.  I was mad at God.  And I think I even told Him off a time or two with one of these zingers: "Maybe the atheists are right!  Maybe You don't care!"  I'm thirty-four years old and, yes, sometimes I yell at God like a two-year old.  But, as a wise priest once told me, "You can keep yelling, just make sure you never walk away."  And I didn't.  I didn't walk away from Him, even though I was so sad and He broke my heart.  Because, as St. Peter once said, "to whom shall I go?"  Where else would I go with my tears?  I realized a little bit later that, no, the atheists weren't right.  Because the only thing worse than Tripp Roth suffering like he did would be for there to be no heaven.  No reward.  No purpose or meaning to it.  Yes, sometimes God hurts us in the moment, but He never walks away.  So I begrudgingly told Him I was sorry for yelling.  For like the hundredth time.
     I swear, though, people can be amazing.  Oh the love I saw for this little two year old, blistered boy.  People gave to that family like the world was coming to an end.  Love oozed out every pore of people's bodies as they read Courtney's blog.  Isn't that a miracle somewhat?  Maybe we read about and see and experience a lot of cruelty from others in this world.  But that blog was a place where love ruled.  That boy stole a million hearts and those hearts beat stronger because of him.  Tripp created a situation where, just by existing, love flooded hearts and people were more generous, more prayerful, more compassionate.  In a way, Tripp Roth didn't receive a gift of healing.  He gave the gift of healing.  To us.  To those who don't have a clue.  To those who don't deserve it.  The little suffering boy became a sort of vessel of grace.  It's how suffering works.  It's why it's so powerful.  Those who suffer open our hearts.  To the realities of this world.  To the grace that is flowing.  To the very heart of a God who once suffered terribly, too.

     So, I thank Tripp, Courtney, Grammy, Paw Paw Carey and everyone else I feel like I know now.  You went through the fire.  The fire so many of us spend so much energy  avoiding (with good reason) our entire life.  But this fire fell into your lap.  You can't control what happens to you, only how you respond.  Well, gang, you hit this one out of the park.  You inspired thousands of people and made sure your little boy only knew love on this earth.  You couldn't control the blisters from forming on the fragile skin of your son, but you succeeding in not letting your hearts be blistered- with anger, with despair, with bitterness.  Congratulations.  I know this probably doesn't feel like a celebration, but I celebrate just the same.  Your son died, but Love won.

We can't do anything about Tripp, but you know who we can do something about?  Bruce!! Yay, Bruce!  Take a look at this stud muffin:

Check him out on Reece's Rainbow: - we don't want Bruce to be friends with Tripp just yet.


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