It's never fair, is it? The leaves towering high on the giant maples in your neighbor's yard fall on your treeless lawn, your brand-new car gets scratched on its first outing and your twig-like sister complains that she just can't put on weight.
Life was never meant to be fair. What a disheartening attitude that would foster -- always a loser if the fair scale seldom tipped your way. You spend your life doing your best and following the rules, but that doesn't guarantee that you will get what you deserve. If that were the case, I'd be enjoying an early retirement right now, planning endless vacations and sending menu requests to the cook. Fairness is the justice in a perfect world.
It really hit me the other day. I attended the funeral of a very elderly lady, the mother of a dear friend. Her son-in-law eulogized her with great perception. Yes, she was stubborn and feisty, but early widowhood initiated these very traits that allowed her to forge ahead with strength and determination. No, it wasn't fair that she had to raise her only child alone, but she knew she was lucky to have this daughter to focus her attention on. Her loved ones will miss her, but they were well aware that the time was right and accepted her passing as the natural order of existence.
That clashed dramatically with the situation I encountered when I returned to the office after the church service. My first patient, one I've known for some 30 years, came for some dental care, but what Paul really needed was a fix for a broken heart that he perpetually wears on his sleeve.
His anniversary, usually celebrated with great fanfare and romantic dinners, was a quiet one this year. Their 25th was supposed to be so special, but Valerie, after years of chemo and a valiant struggle, was now unable to celebrate like they deserved. He vented a bit on the unfairness of it all. This is not what he bargained for.
Paul is the epitome of the words "loving husband." From day one, he has devoted his life to his wife and daughters. He would constantly pick my brain for ideas to surprise Val with new and exciting places for their dates. He could barely contain his excitement when his girls arrived. His life was complete -- a lovely and loving wife and daughters who are a mix of their mother's beauty and father's effusive gift of gab and spirit.
Why is it that such a totally committed, happy couple have to face this impending fate? He wondered why God didn't listen, but realized as we talked that it wasn't quite true. He did get an answer to his prayers, just not the one he requested. People from all walks of life have now entered their lives. Visitors, gifts and dinners appear all week long. They enjoy a support system that spans the neighborhood, hospital and church.
Their good friend, a weekday trucker and weekend musician, wrote and recorded a song just for them. Paul played "My Valerie" for me, and while I listened, I thought of how many people would think that he was the lucky one, privileged to have experienced this incredible journey with the love of his life for more than 25 years and friends too numerous to count.
Labeling something as "unfair" assigns an injustice, and therefore a victim. So, I suppose accepting the unfairness in life is the ultimate goal. Once you've grasped that, life becomes an eternally altering landscape of blessings and disappointments, joys and heartaches, and the promise of sun after the rain.
Jessica Cronenberger, who lives in West Seneca, knows that life is filled with joys and heartaches.