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For Jared

I apologize in advance if this post is outside the norm for me. This week has been surreal. Monday morning started with a phone call from my father. He was calling to let me know my cousin, Jared, a seasoned dirt bike racer, had been out riding near his home in Montana on Sunday evening when something went wrong. He made a jump he'd made many times before, but this time he landed improperly. Though his friend he had been riding with rushed to his side, Jared passed away.

I'm still processing the shock of this news. Jared was only 21. Fifteen years separated us and I'm haunted by the reality that I don't think I knew Jared as well as I could have--should have. Maybe it was my introverted personality and self-absorption or maybe the miles between Montana and Massachusetts these last several years.

My heart aches for my aunt and uncle and my cousins who were Jared's siblings as well as the other cousins who shared a much closer connection with Jared. For someone who writes, words sure have failed me this week thus far.

Jared's sudden passing is a powerful reminder to me that this life is fragile, precious, and fleeting. While it might be tempting to push the pain away with well-meaning statements I have heard fellow Christians make throughout my life at such times of great tragedy like "God needed another angel in heaven," and "everything happens for a reason," I think these sentiments do nothing to heal permanently broken hearts. They also paint God out to be ... well ... an asshole. Really? God needed another angel in heaven, so he took my cousin, who had his whole life ahead of him still? Really, there's some profound reason all of this had to happen exactly this way and no other way? As one of my best friends from my rather unconventional church would say, "cut the shit."

Why are we so uncomfortable with uncertainty?

Here's the thing: human beings are wired for narrative. Even this week I'm reminded of this reality as I finish reading a neuroscience book as part of my research for my next novel. David Engleman's The Brain: The Story of You, details well how our brains are constantly at work seeking to assemble mass amounts of information we're exposed to every day into some semblance of meaning. Our brains work hard to craft a narrative that makes sense of what happens to us. But sometimes, things just happen. The incredible complexity (something studying chaos theory and physics has given me an appreciation for) of reality and all it's many variables rears its head, and tragedy finds us. And we're left here trying to sort through the broken pieces in hopes that there's some meaning embedded in the emotional shrapnel.

As a storyteller, I think stories help prepare us to navigate loss and heartache. They also help us process our grief and uncertainty. But I also think that we're always in the process of crafting a meaningful narrative of our lives. Losing Jared so abruptly reminds me that unlike the completed manuscript of a novel, we live our lives in the present and engage in the act of composition with every breath. Jared may be gone now, but the narrative he crafted of his life remains with us. And the meaning we discover going forward is ours to grasp.

While I don't believe in grand designs, predestination, or a God who has a detailed blueprint for our lives, I do believe in a God who is actively interested in grieving with us and transforming every tragedy into a eucatastrophe. I've discussed some of that in the past already. That's the God I run to when the frailty of life collides with reality's inherent chaos.

And for the moment ... I just can't believe Jared's gone.

For Jared Wisler 1996 - 2017

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