Monday, May 21, 2012

On Being Powerless

Aimee's death has taught me a hard lesson about the nature of power:

I have none. Not where the universe is concerned, anyway.

What I can do, and really the only thing I can do, is choose how to live my life in the face of such horrific powerlessness. And it is horrific--no one, least of all Aimee Elizabeth Ziegler, should have suffered as she did. No one should die like she did. No little boys, innocent if a little precocious, should lose their mother. No husband should be forced to let his best friend go like this. No family should lose a loved one to a monster.

In the face of such horror, the path is not easy. I've never been a very religious man. Yes, I scored six consecutive years of perfect Sunday School attendance as a boy. Yes, I attend church weekly. I sit in the pew. I sing the songs. But it isn't the religion which moves me. Most of the time, I'm quite the agnostic. On my best days, I think there might just be a certain providence to the universe. On my worst... Well...

How can I make meaning of Aimee's life and death? She touched so many lives--as coach, counselor, friend, sister, scholarship hall director, residence hall assistant, classmate, teammate, daughter, mother, wife--in her life. No one who met Ziggs walked away without feeling her light. I could easily shake my fists at the sky and cry out, howl my most primal syllables, shout hate and anger at God for taking Aimee from us.

But somehow, impossibly, I find myself being thankful she spent thirteen years of her life in my presence. I find myself being thankful someone so wonderful walked with me and shared so much with the people she touched. I think of the alternative--never knowing Aimee at all--and realize, no matter how Aimee left us and how awful her suffering, my world would be a far paler place had she never lived at all. It's an awfully hard truth, but truth none the less.

We all must die someday. It has inspired much art, literature, and human history. We have no power to prevent our eventual deaths, no matter how we fight it with modern medicine and science. I will always hurt to think of how Aimee left the world, but I can still find joy that she was here--that she loved so many so well and helped the world be better.

How can we reconcile such beauty with such pain? How can life have meaning in the face of horrors? Sometimes, I wish the answer were easy. Other times, I acknowledge meaning is made in the midst of struggle, not in leisure and ease.

A friend recently told me, "And somewhere, on the other side of those clashing realities is a bigger truth, that few people are willing to look for, because it's such a painful journey."

How true. Oh God, the journey is painful. But there are joys, too, and meaning in the interplay of the two. But finding that meaning isn't an easy path--no, it is a "painful journey."

In the song "Poor Jerusalem" from Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus sings, "Neither you, Simon, nor the Fifty-Thousand... Understand what power is/Understand what glory is/Understand at all."  This comes, if you aren't familiar with the show, just after Simon Zealotes exhorts Jesus to incite his mob of followers and overthrow Rome. Leave it to me to take a theological lesson from a '70s musical. (But a damn good one.)

Power isn't always what we think it is. Jesus finishes with the lines, "To conquer death, you only have to die," leaving Simon with a confused and troubled look on his face.

Here's one more thing I know:

Owen's soccer team lost a heartbreaking championship game on Saturday afternoon. They "outplayed" their opponents (many more shots on goal/time of possession), but with less than a minute left, the opposing team knocked in a sloppy shot, breaking a 1-1 tie. As Owen jogged across the field after coach's final speech, I gave him a big hug and merely said, "I'm proud of how hard you played."

We can't possibly "win" life. All we can do is play hard and give the best we have. 

Yes, I'm powerless, but I can choose how I decide to live with my powerlessness.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...


I went to highschool with Aimee and recently had connected with her on FB. I was thrilled to hear of the birth of your child. Aimee and her boys...I can still hear Aimee's contagious laugh echoing in my mind. She was fun, silly, and just a hell of a lot of fun to be around.

I am enjoying so much reading how her life unfolded. How she touched so many lives, which is not surprising! How she fell in love. And Completed her perfect family. I am saddened that a "monster" won the battle and has left an empty space in your hearts. I pray that her memories and her laughter carry on. May you find peace among this tragedy. And hope among your despair.

Aaron Polson said...

Curious Anon1, curious.

Anon2 - She did touch many lives--and I'm sure no one who knew Aimee is surprised. Thank you for the wishes of peace. Aimee left quite a legacy and it will not be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

In an old graveyard near my childhood home there is a grave stone that has a quote that has fallowed me my whole life.
It reads: remember me as you pass by, for as you are now so once was I, as I am now soon you shall be, so prepare for death and fallow me.
To me this quote has always given me hope, it has always helped me cope with the loss of loved ones. Maybe it can help you too.

Lane said...

I think you are spot on here.