I called him at home, but no one answered. “Strange,” I thought, “someone always answers.” He lived with his mother, after all, and she had long since been retired. I waited a minute more and called again. Three rings in, someone picked up; it was a stranger. I was caught off guard, so I asked in my most baritone voice if I could “please speak with Norman?.” He hated that name, but it sounded more official, like I was calling for business reasons; that, oddly, seemed appropriate in these circumstances. The stranger told me that “he’s busy” and that “he’ll call back later.” She spoke quickly, only thinly hiding her anxiety. Later was no good for me, especially after an apprehensive stranger answered his phone. I called, then, a third time, revealing to the stranger that “this is Norm’s son,” and that “I need to speak with him very badly.” She quieted. After a tense moment, the stranger answered me, “you might want to come over here. Your father…well, your father has died.”
Yes, my father died that year, 1995, and his mother the next year, (she died soon after some construction workers found her laying in a mud-pit with my football picture); and his brother and sister the year after that (I couldn’t bear going to the former’s funeral and I vividly remember uttering a last “I love you” to the latter as I left the hospital in which she would die). I don’t bring up these stories to evince pity, though. No, I bring up these stories because, through them, I’ve gained insight into what is my life’s most important lesson. Death and absurdity are identical.
I can make no sense of death, the anxiety it creates, and the havoc it wreaks. Death creates a chasm of absurdity in me which no explanation can bridge. What I have learned through death, however, is to squarely face the absurd, to confess against every inclination that the absurd, revealed in the meaninglessness of death, truly is. And while this sounds rather depressing, I’ve found that when I confess the absurd, and confess it with the same certainty that I confess, say, gravitational pull, a strange phenomenon takes place. In this moment of confession, in this instant of despair, my heart is opened to a hope beyond what, in this age, is; my heart is opened to a way things could—no, ought to—be. My heart opens to a world without death.
So I believe that only by accepting the absurdity of my father’s death am I able to find real hope in human existence. For in the dizzying vortex of the absurd, I am able, at last, to see the logic of the resurrection—its judgment of death, its promise of life; in the face of death, I am able to believe in the real, physical possibility of this foolishness. And the foolishness of life I have chosen to believe over the absurdity of death.
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