Lightning over fieldsThere is an old saying that lighting never strikes twice in the same place. I guess that is supposed to be a comfort. The idea is that if something bad happens to you, it won’t happen again. Your apartment gets robbed at random, you feel safer because it won’t be repeated. You are the victim of a hit and run. Don’t worry, that truck will never hit your car again. Lightning never strikes twice implies that there is karmic justice. The universe only deals out as much pain as one person can handle. You lose a loved one to cancer. It won’t happen twice. Your sister dies too young. You will somehow be spared from that pain ever again in your life. Hmm, life doesn’t seem to work that way.

San Fran DiversionWhen Jim’s cancer was not responding to standard treatment, we headed to UCSF for an expert opinion. I contacted a friend (an old boyfriend, actually) that lived in the area, and we agreed to meet for breakfast. He pulled me aside at one point and stated, “This is not fair. You have already been through this once in your life. Haven’t you had enough?” His question threw me off guard. He had known my sister. He knew the pain I went through after she died. He called me and regaled me with stories of her childhood that made me laugh and cry. He did not think I “deserved” that kind of pain again. I could not contemplate his message at that time. All I could think about was how I was going to deal with travel in San Francisco with someone with brain damage, and what the MRI and the doctor were going to say the next day. I was in the middle of a thunderstorm and I was looking for a safe harbor.

Jim died of brain cancer anyhow. I did have to go through that pain again. It wasn’t about what I deserved, it was just life. Today I read an editorial written by a friend of mine. He is angry about the injustice he sees. He doesn’t understand why young and relatively healthy people die, or are diagnosed with deadly disease, when other folks get to live. I remember walking around town when Jim was dying. Seeing folks that took no care of their corporeal selves and wondering what luck would allow them to live while my husband was dying. My friend is now contemplating that, and realizing that it could be him or another he loves at any time. He is angry. He would like to throw some punches. I feel his pain, but I have also accepted that life is not fair, we rarely get what we deserve, and that life ends in death. It is the human condition to ponder that.

I talked to another friend today that is suffering the break up of a love. It is not fair. She lost her husband to the same disease that killed Jim. She has had enough pain, the rest of her life should be filled with love and light, not heart-break. She has been a role model for me. She has taught me that it is OK to love in separation, that the love I had for Jim never has to go away, that it will live in me forever. We chatted for a while. She will be alright. She knows what true love looks and feels like. Her heart will stay open, there is no other way to live. Her heart may be breaking, but her body still dances with a love that never dies. She is aware that lightning rarely strikes the same heart twice, and she is lucky, so lucky, to have at least been struck once.

Up Up LookoutWhen the kids were in their middle years, Jim and I rented a lookout in the St Joe forest for an overnight. The lookout was no longer manned, but it was up in the air over 40 feet and perched on the highest spot around. It had always been a fantasy of mine to spend a night in a glass walled lookout tower during a thunderstorm. I got my wish. After 4 hours of watching the same storm swirl over us again and again, we finally had to get the kids off of our laps, and into bed. According to NASA (sorry, I am a science geek), lightning actually does strike twice in the same place. More than we would like to believe. Usually, it is not the 1st strike that scores a repeat hit. There is a 67% chance that the 3rd and 4th strikes will hit the same spot as the 2nd. To avoid a lightning strike, one should avoid high places, open fields, and seek refuge in large enclosed spaces.

To stay outside, to climb to the highest point around, to live with an open heart risks another lighting strike. It is safer to go back inside, or to never venture out to begin with. I like to be outside, I crave the highest spot around, and I don’t know how to live without an open heart. I don’t have a choice about life and death. But, I can choose to live with a heart that is open. Open to love, and life, and the pain of loss.  If I don’t love again, then I will not be hurt. But, is that really living?Top of the Palouse

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4 Responses to Lightning

  1. writerdebh says:

    Kathie, I needed this post right now as my father lies in a hospital bed and we don’t have a definite diagnosis of why he’s in so much pain, of why his belly is filled with air and fluids. He hasn’t been able to eat or drink since Thursday. An NG tube was placed last evening (we’re in CDA at Kootenai). He had a stint placed less than a year ago, do he’s been on a blood thinner, which means no surgery (if needed) until tomorrow. I know in my heart that all will be as it should be. But it’s a scary ride. My mom is not holding up well, but her children are with her. Thank you for this blog. What may happen may not be “fair”, but we know there is always higher ground. Hugs, Deb

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Wendy says:

    This “strikes” a chord! I have been having the same thoughts recently; my sister in law lost her sister in a bike accident, years later my brother died the same way; she just lost her second husband to a massive heart attack. Add that to losing her parents fairly young and a full term baby between her two girls. Too much for one person. Thankfully she has a zest for life that will not be quelled and I know she will come through – it just seems so DARN UNFAIR!
    love, W

  3. Flo says:

    Hi. Just found your blog, and enjoy your writing. It took me a while to be brave enough to live with an open heart.. For five years I ‘managed’ my grief and my life after my husband died of cancer. Then I fell in love, and my heart opened up. No, the fellow didn’t last, but his gift of opening my heart did. I finally cried for my husband’s death with the grief I once feared would swallow me. Instead, I trusted that if I kept my heart open the tears would end and I could fully inhabit my present life. I started writing, and sometimes tearfully, sometimes forcefully prodded myself through the birth canal into a woman without ‘him’. Now I’m daring to count on a life that’s as meaningful and loving and enjoyable as it’s ever been. Heck, life will be more meaningful, now that it comes without the futile demand that it be fair.

  4. Friend in NYC says:

    This is a brilliant post. You gave me an “ah-ha” moment. I’ve been doing a lot of hiding lately, fearful of more hurt.

    Interestingly, my reading this post dovetails with having taken my children to go see The Croods last night. Similar theme: do you stay safe in the darkness of the cave, or do you get out there?

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