Letter from Felixstowe: The Randomness of Tragedy

With my brother, Rob, in Ho-Ho-Kus NJ

With my brother, Rob, in Ho-Ho-Kus NJ

This week I received an email from a dear friend in the U.S. who expressed the general idea that it was good Clive and I were back in the UK from Paris, because Paris doesn’t seem like an enjoyable place to be right now.

My friend’s words hit me hard, coming as they did upon Clive’s and my return to Felixstowe after having spent a couple days in London – deemed by all accounts to be as equally at risk of attack as Paris – during which time we rode the Underground, walked around various central neighbourhoods and in general went about our business without fear for our lives, at least no more so than going about our business anywhere else we might travel in the world.

The topic of the randomness of tragedy and why bad things happen to good people warrants so much more than a simple blog post. My brother, Rob, was killed years ago with my uncle Ted in an automobile accident on a foggy, icy December night. He was 17; I was 21. More years later, gastric cancer took the life of my first husband, Gary. I am not alone. I think almost everyone on this earth experiences loss and grief and one form or another of the randomness of tragedy.

When I read my friend’s email, my first response was to bristle in defence of Paris, the city I’ve known and loved for longer than any other, except my hometown of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey. I thought of the endless if not daily reports of random U.S. shootings – schools, movie theatres, malls – and was tempted to reply that sometimes my country of origin doesn’t seem that enjoyable a place to be, either.

But my friend’s words were sent in kindness and caring (thank you, dear one). And life is not about living in fear.  Surely we need to take reasonable precautions, but beyond that life must be lived wherever we may be. I love the English wartime expression still used today, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.

Over the years I’ve read and thought a great deal about the randomness of tragedy. One of my most favourite books on the subject is ‘The Will of God’ by Leslie D. Weatherhead, an insightful, thought-provoking series of five sermons by a UK Methodist minister during World War II. A better-known volume is U.S. Rabbi Harold Kushner’s ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People’, also a classic.

As for Paris, a wonderful blog post earlier this week, with text and photos by ‘Paris Breakfasts’ [note: I am not the ‘Carolyn’ mentioned in her post] sums it up perfectly: ‘Paris IS OK, people!’

Last month in Paris

Last month in Paris

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

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