Manuel Sibila and I entered his Rambler, dialed WKIZ/AM, and prepared to start celebrating the end of another school week by listening to tunes. Instead, we heard chaotic reporting of an ongoing event that shook the world. As a high school freshman and a recent arrival to this country, it seemed inconceivable to me that the President had been shot and killed that November afternoon. The loss of JFK was a reality check for baby boomers. All of us would always remember where we were when we heard the news; it would never be the same again.
Tradition, transgression, and tragedy
The Kennedy family is steeped in tradition, transgression, and tragedy. The latter is well-documented and extremely disconcerting. Both the President’s sister and brother died in separate airplane mishaps. His brother Bobby was assassinated and Ted’s bid for the presidency disappeared with Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick. Bobby’s two young sons died of a drug overdose and a skiing accident respectively. John Jr. and his current wife and sister-in-law died in a plane accident just after his ex-wife committed suicide. Nieces, nephews, and grandkids likewise passed due to heart attacks, drug overdoses, and drownings, among others. Coupled with the alleged infidelity, infighting, and intrigue, it is safe to say that this extraordinary family has traversed through substantial grief.
What can we learn?
What can be learned from the Kennedy family tragedies? Was this an example of the retribution theory, where suffering follows sin? How do we handle life when it all seems to collapse around us? Do we lash out at others for our misfortunes, or do we consume ourselves in guilt and pity? Do we check out emotionally? Or do we go the preferred route and blame God? As Christians, we are usually taken to Job when facing grief in hopes of finding suitable answers to these questions by scouring through the interminable sufferings of the famous patriarch. Unfortunately, although this wonderful volume thoroughly discusses affliction at great length, it does not answer the basic query we are hoping to decipher… why do they just suffer?
Why do they just suffer?
Job never got an answer from God, and I strongly suspect we will also be left wondering until we get to commune with Him in Heaven. But there are several hints here; although the book has a suffering theme, its main emphasis revolves around a painful faith lesson and how Job ultimately reacted to it. He learned, as we should, that our adoration of the Almighty is not dependent on our circumstances. The patriarch found reason to rejoice in the midst of despair. We should know that although the evil one is still the Prince of this world, he can only act within the boundaries of what God allows, unknown to Job but presented to us in Chapter 1. And the main revelation, in my view, is found after the loss of his family and fortune. This man of God fell to the ground, worshipped Him, and admitted that he came naked into the world and would leave in the same fashion, that The Creator could give or take away, but regardless, He was Lord and worthy of all praise. A life lesson learned.
Tragedy and comedy
Shakespeare wrote extensively about this issue. His tragedies, including Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello, dealt with internal struggles and supernatural events that led to affliction while The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew, and Much Ado About Nothing were basically comedies where a favorable ending was contemplated. A friend and theologian recently brought this to our attention as he explained the inner workings of the Bible. The central thesis of Scripture according to him is the confluence of tragedy and comedy, as suffering followed by glory dominates all 66 books. Whether perusing Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Ruth, or Paul we find that glory is only attained after suffering has ended, and not absent pain; when the Son’s suffering concluded, it was followed by the glory of the resurrection, and ultimately to my salvation strictly by grace. I have endured suffering before and assuredly will again, but it will end in glory. As a result, when He calls me Home… it will never be the same again.
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