This I Believe

Sheila - Olympia, Washington
Entered on November 6, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe things happen in our lives by chance. Purely random and usually inexplicable chance. Think of it. How many times have you driven over the speed limit and not been caught? I have almost daily. Then one day, I look up and see red lights flashing at me. It was all a matter of chance. I could get stopped any day, but I don’t and some people never get caught. It’s all a matter of chance.

In 1999 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Within a couple of months it became clear he wasn’t developing as expected. Two long, agonizing years later, my husband and I were told that Arthur has a chromosome disorder. All aspects of his development are affected including language, cognition, and motor skills. We conceived and had a child just like everyone else in the world, and during conception we passed on a defective chromosome that caused our child to have severe developmental disabilities. It was all a matter of chance. It could happen to anyone at anytime.

Now, if by chance Arthur had been born to a mom who lived in a third world country, lack of medical care would have prevented him from living more then a few months. But he was born to me in this country with great medical care and will probably live a very long life. It was all a matter of chance.

My 41 year older sister who led a clean and healthy life, died after several years battling breast cancer. She left behind two young kids, a husband, and a promising career. I was 32, child and husband free with no promising career. She died; I was alive and healthy. Why her and not me? Purely random and inexplicable chance.

I have had people say to me “you were given this because you can handle it”, implying some greater scheme and order to our random world. No, I want to shout. I’m not able to handle this. I wasn’t destined to have a little boy who will never be able to say my name or say anything to anyone. No, I want to shout. I can not handle my sister’s long agonizing death while I remain healthy. But slowly, I learn to cope, and to have some peace of mind over these chance happenings. But it is not because I was better able than someone else to handle them. I have been able to make it through tough times because of family, friends, work, hobbies, music, laughter and time. Lots of time.

If there was some greater scheme to our lives and we were only given life events that we can handle, then why do people turn to drugs and alcohol or even take their own life. Again, chance was that I had the ability to draw on a network of family, friends and other resources to help me through. Others may not. If I didn’t, well, it’s all a matter of chance.