There 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.
When 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.
When 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?