“Treat every goodbye as if it were your last one.”

Tough times in my little town.

The much-loved minister of religious education at our Unitarian church saw her house burn down a few weeks ago.  Everyone got out safely, although she was slightly injured. Her family was just settling down from that trauma when her five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer.

What’s up with that, God?

Meanwhile, the much-loved captain of the high school hockey team went to the doctor for a checkup and found out he had advanced testicular cancer.

Last year, a graduating senior was fatally injured in a freak car accident.  The parents kept him on life support long enough for everyone to say goodbye to him.

The class speaker at this year’s high school graduation reminded us of another event that happened fifteen years ago. One evening while the family was visiting their grandparents on Cape Cod, his mother kissed him good night, and he went to sleep.  He never saw her again.  Suffering depression as the result of injuries suffered in a car accident, she apparently abandoned her car and walked into the ocean. Her body was never found.

“Treat every goodbye as if it was your last one,” her son told his fellow graduates.

They cheered him to the rafters.  The town has held fundraisers for the hockey player.  The school started a scholarship to honor the memory of the kid who died in the car crash.  The church has raised money for the minister, organized meals for her family, visited the little girl in the hospital…

One of the benefits of Unitarianism’s theology-free approach to religion is that it doesn’t have to tie itself into knots explaining how God could allow a five-year-old girl to come down with cancer, or a loving mother to feel she had to walk into the ocean to rid herself of the demons in her brain.  Theodicy is stupid and unnecessary.  What matters is how we all — in our church, in our town, in our world — join together to help ease the suffering that is part of the price of being alive.

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