Friday, February 25, 2011

LK Madigan, and the Question of Why

A brief timeout from regular programming: 

If you are tuned in to the YA twitter scene at all, you may have heard that the YA world lost an author a couple of days ago. She was 47 years old.

The YA writer community is uniquely small. I didn't know LK Madigan (Lisa Wolfson) personally, but I know her books, Flash Burnout and the Mermaid's Chair. And I know her dear friends. My heart is aching for them right now.  

And I know her disease. Last month, Lisa announced on her blog her diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer, the same disease my dad is fighting right now. 

The question everyone seems to ask, and never get an answer to, is, why? 

Why her? Why my dad? Why so young? 

Does everything really happen for a reason? Are we supposed to learn some greater lesson? 

I can't think like that. I can't believe there is some higher being up in the sky, ruthlessly moving us around the earth as if we were pawns in some chess game, strategizing the fallout of each decision, waiting for the moment of checkmate. Will we be the Checkmator, or the checkmated? It's a toss-up. I can't think that we are dominoes, set up only to take a fall, in the hopes that with our bruises we will "learn lessons".

I don't believe those brave warriors who share space with my family in the infusion room week after week are there because someone flipped a coin, pronounced a verdict and sentenced them in the name of gaining wisdom. 

No. If there is a God (and I believe there is), I prefer to think he is watching over us as perils of this world take their course. 

And when we fight the things that threaten our mortality, he fights with us.

And when we lose, he feels that loss.

And when we cry, he cries for us. 

There is no Why.

I don't write this post as someone who was in Lisa's circle of friends, or someone who could presume to speak for any of them. 

I'm writing it because these thoughts have been occupying my mind, and I couldn't write about anything else today, even though I tried. I had a post about bowling with Kid C all ready, but the darn thing refused to be written. Sometimes being a writer is about writing the things that demand to be written.

So, in honor of an author who I admired but didn't know, and in honor of all the books she didn't get the chance to write, let's follow Lisa's own instructions:

“The main thing is to WRITE. Some days it might be 2000 words. Some days you might tinker with two sentences until you get them just right. Both days belong in the writing life. Some days you may watch a ‘Doctor Who’ marathon or become immersed a book that is so good you can’t stop reading. Some days you may be in love or in mourning. Those days belong in the writing life, too. Live them without guilt.” (via Colleen Lindsey)

Her family has set up a trust fund for her son's college education. You can find out more about it here.

Let's hug our loved ones, pray for Lisa's family and friends, and focus on living life. Buy a book. Buy Lisa's book. Write a page. Take a breath. For me, I think a Dr. Who Marathon sounds great right about now. Who's with me?

Don't leave me hanging in the comments. I feel nervous enough putting this post out there. Tell me what all y'all are doing this weekend. And if you're new to the blog (I've gotten a bunch of new followers lately) please stop by and say hi and introduce yourself! 


  1. I've always been iffy on the "everything for a reason" theory, because of all of the points you mention. Bad things can happen to good people. Good things can happen to bad people. A "why" can be futile.

    It's a sad week for the YA writing community. Hugs all around, and to your family as well, Brodi. Very thoughtful post.

  2. Boo to cancer. Boo to all of things in our life that suck.

  3. i agree with you 100%. i do not (not! not!) believe "everything happens for a reason" either. i think "life happens", this mortal world happens and then God steps in to hold our hands as we walk the sometimes painful, hard and bitter paths. He cries with us when we weep. This is on my mind too brodi--my very own fathers diagnosis of "living until the end of the year" just got shortened to "he may now make it til the end of March".
    (sorry my comment is so depressing...but its how i feel right now) :O(

  4. Sam- It does indeed bite the big one.

    Dorien- Wise words. So sorry about your dad. Anytime you wanna cry together, let me know.

  5. Sam did an excellent, concise job of summing up what I had to say.

    And as for writing what demands to be written, I just did a post on my struggle with infertility for that exact reason. The words just fell out. Sometimes things suck, but the people who rally around us can make it suck a little less.

    And I still managed to be long-winded, even when I only intended to agree with Sam.

  6. This is a wonderful post, Brodi. You are right, this world is what brings perils and trials upon us. But God watches over His people, and He is there to lift us up and fight with us.

    My thoughts and prayers are still with you, your dad, and the rest of your family. And they are with the family of LK Madigan. I have not read her novels, but I sure am going to.

    Thanks for the post.

  7. It's been so neat getting to read all of the lovely things Lisa's friends have written about her. I just found her books about two weeks ago. She sounds like an amazing woman! (Who was greatly loved.)

    Tarl and I were having this conversation last week about how everything we do isn't already planned and God wants to see how we'll deal with it, but instead He's there to buoy us up and give us strength. I love the way Dorien put it too. The world happens and then God holds our hand.

  8. Gina- I can't stand short-winded people, so please lengthen your wind anytime! :)

    Kristin- Thanks so much.

    Debbie- I loved how Dorien put it too.

  9. What a beautiful post, Brodi. I share your view of God and the Universe. It gives me hope to think that when terrible things happen to us, we aren't alone in our fight. It's tragic to lose anyone to Cancer, young or old. Everyone needs to keep fighting each battle and maybe one day a cure will help us win the war.

  10. LK's last blog post was amazing. I read it a few weeks ago and was so sad to see it making the rounds of Twitter again yesterday. The hardest part for me to read was when she said she'd take a bullet for her son and now she feels like she's the one pulling the trigger.

    I've always been a trials-bring-strength kind of girl, but, well, you're right. God wouldn't pull the trigger on that kind of suffering. He knew it would come when He sent us here, and He has to allow it, but I'm sure he suffers with us. He takes no pleasure in our pain, even if it brings needed growth.

    Great post, Brodi.

  11. It's a perfect post, Brodi. It took a long time for me to comfortable enough with my sister's death to smile politely when people told me it was "in The Plan" (or even worse, give advice on what we could have done right to prevent it). I am right there with you. There is no way God would choose this for us. He has got to be 100 times the parent we are, and none of us would say, "Let's have kid A get sick and kid B... I think He is about love. I am so sorry your family has to go through this.

  12. I'm definitely in the Cancer sucks group. A friend of mine, the new youth guy at my church (I'm a volunteer with the youth), found out that he has cancer yesterday. 10 days ago he was feeling fine. Then he found a lump in his stomach. He got it checked out. There were tests, scans, finally a biopsy. Cancer. Not sure what kind yet, but definitely not the "we've seen this before and, while it's not fun, it's pretty easy to deal with" kind. More the "this makes no sense and we're going to send you down to Houston to MD Anderson where they hopefully can figure it out" kind. He's 26. His little girl turned 6 weeks (yes, weeks) old yesterday. Cancer sucks.

    So, this weekend, I get to help him tell the youth. These youth said goodbye to the previous youth guy (who most of them really liked )just over six weeks ago and the guy before that (who everyone really loved) about 18 months prior to that. They're great kids but at some point it's going to be too much for some of them. It's close to being too much for me right now.

    But we'll get through it together. And we'll fight with Clay (the current youth guy) and pray a lot and probably cry some and hopefully laugh more. And at some point I'll dig out my "How to respond to the suckage of life" Sunday school lesson and we'll laugh some more and pray and go outside and run around and play Ultimate Frisbee until I collapse (cause that's usually about when we usually end the game. But I figure that's okay. I'm twice (or more) the age of most everyone out there. I figure I'm doing good just to get out there and keep up with the slower junior high kids.)

    Cancer sucks.

  13. Robin- Great comment. And that's not to say these trials don't bring about wisdom, because they do. For sure. I just don't think the need for wisdom is why they happen.

    Keersten- Thank you. And I'm sorry about your sister. But I loved how you pointed out that God is a parent, and he hates to see his kids suffer as much as we do.

    Rue- It does suck. But good luck to Clay and his fight.

  14. "Sometimes being a writer is about writing the things that demand to be written." Yes. As you said, some days things refuse to be written. Other days, if you don't bring out what is in you, it feels as if it will destroy you.

    I think your description of God was exactly right. He lets life happen. How we choose to respond to it is the indication of who we really are, but He is right there with us, mourning, comforting, crying, strengthening. I'm so sorry to hear about Lisa. So young. That is hard.

    Thanks for writing this Brod. From Macbeth: "Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break."

    Love you Brod.

  15. Dr. Who sounds like a great idea right about now. David Tennant is dreamy.

  16. Cath- Love you too. Loved your blog about Doug's grandma. So sweet.

    Alyosha- Oh, yum. He's English and brilliant. And on that note, I shall immerse myself in Season 4 Episode 10 the Forest of the Dead.

  17. The vashta narada! That episode is so crazy. I love the girl from the future who knows his name. And poor Donna! Her true love was real!

  18. Alyosha- That's what I love about Dr. Who- they're not afraid to pull any punches. They're not afraid to kill people off.

  19. Wonderful post, Brodi. I read her last blog post a few days ago and was touched by the same comment Robin referenced. My own mother died when I was 14 (brain tumor), and I thought about her when I "died" during trek and had to leave my "family" behind. I cried all the way back to camp. It has to be one of life's toughest trials to leave your family when you're called home.

    My prayers got to you and your family and to Lisa's as well.

  20. Donna- Thank you for the comment. I can't imagine anything harder than knowing you will leave your children behind.

  21. Brodi, I think you're right about God crying with us. That's why I love that story about Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. He totally knew what was going to happen; he knew that within minutes everything was going to be all happy and sunny. But when Mary came to see him and he saw that she was sad, he sat down right there and cried with her. That's the God I believe in, one who doesn't chuck me under the chin and say, "Get over it, kiddo." Instead he bawls with me because sometimes life stinks.

  22. Melanie- That's such a good example! Love it. Thanks for the comment.

  23. Ironically, I was thinking of the same story that the above Melanie mentioned. ^^

    Beautiful post, Brodi.

  24. I remember when her "announcement" post came out. I cried when I read it. I cried again at this news.