Thank you all for your thoughts on Ryan’s passing.
Some of our Christian friends have reacted with immediate offers of support for his family. Some have mostly successfully held back from sermonizing and talking about heaven and hell. I really appreciate that.
One man refused to accept that God would allow someone so young and so needed to die.
Me: I don’t know if we’ll be able to commit to that date since one of our friends passed away and we might be doing something in his memory.
Him: How old was your friend?
Me: Around 30.
Him: How did he die?
Me: Heart attack. Blood vessel burst in his heart.
Him: Ah. Was he overweight?
Aside: AARRrrgh! Overweight people are more likely to recover from heart attacks than ‘normal’ weight people, but we still read adipose as unhealthy. Its ‘healthier’ to carry a little extra weight.
Him: Oh. [pause] Did he exercise too much?
Me: He seemed pretty healthy and balanced.
Him: Did he do drugs?
Him: Did he have any other health problems?
Me: (What the heck? I’m just telling this guy that I can’t confirm some dates.) Uh, insomnia I think. Once depression (he had a difficult childhood thanks to some bullies)
Him: (conspiratorial voice) Do you think they are hiding something from you?
Him: (triumphant voice) Suicide!
Me: Absolutely not.
Him: (patronizing tone) Are you sure.
Me: Yes. Thank-you. Have a nice day.
I understand that his children are in Ryan’s situation right now, but the need to put blame on Ryan goes beyond denial that we are finite and vulnerable. Its understandable that we want to emphasize (or make up) ways we are different from someone in a terrible situation. But this particular relative has a deep faith that God does everything with a benevolent purpose. Leaving a pregnant wife and a toddler without the love of her life and not even memories of their daddy is cruel. Therefore, this death couldn’t be ‘natural’, it had to be Ryan’s fault. And God would have prevented it if Ryan hadn’t decided to not be the perfect weight, physical and emotional state (even though he was doing really well on all counts). God didn’t fail- we did.
My relative can go on feeling safe and secure. He is psychologically protected from anxiety and deep remorse or from questioning his view of an all powerful and benevolent god. I hope he doesn’t try and comfort anyone else though. He does a shitty job.
This is a sketch of Ryan and his son taken from a Christmas photo. Looks like they are praying which Ryan would have found funny as he is a joyful, skeptical atheist.