Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Tragedy Or A Statistic

My brother Jim got some sad and shocking news last night. A friend of his was killed up in Edmonton yesterday. The police are listing the death as "suspicious" and homicide detectives have been called in. When I got home from being out last night, Jim told me, and said he was heading home today to be with his community in their time of grieving.

He tells me that he has lost a friend to violence about once every ten years, and that this kind of death is more common on the gay community than for the rest of us. Jim believes it is because the community is more open and more willing to accept people. He also suspects drugs or alcohol may be involved. Regardless of all this, he has lost another friend. There is another hole in the fabric of his life.

Joseph Stalin once said "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic." Of course, he would know, being an expert on the subject. His totalitarian regime was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 43 million of his own people over the years when he was in power. However there is ample research that suggests his observation to be more than just a little true. That research suggests that the death of one person affects us more than the death of a hundred. After a certain point, we become numb to the humanity of death, that is until it touches us personally.

Jim and his friend are a great example of this. I am touched by the death of someone I don't know, touched because he was someone Jim cared about. Even though I am removed by one degree of separation, I was saddened by the news, sharing Jim's sadness. Over the years Jim has lost many friends to the AIDS epidemic of years gone by and to the tragedies of life. I didn't know many of them; to me this death is real and tangible. It is a tragedy for me, and a statistic for others.

I know my death, when it inevitably comes, will be a tragedy for my family, for my friends. That tragedy will lessen as the circle grows and the ripples spread, becoming smaller with each ring outward. Eventually I too will simply be a statistic, another person who died from ALS, part of a small group yet still part of someone's research.

We all die. Perhaps there is no tragedy in death itself, but in the untimely death. This is the sadness that Jim and his friends now face, the early loss of someone they loved. The tragedy is not that life is lost; this is simply the statistic. The tragedy is that death, especially untimely death, leaves us with a hole in the fabric of our lives, and we have nothing in the passing to fill that hole.

No comments:

Post a Comment