Was it my Fault?

Italian CemetaryI met someone a few weeks ago who had lost his daughter recently in an accident. He was, like we all are, distraught over the loss. He wondered how he was going to go on with life, and was at a loss to answer so many questions he had. One of the questions that he focused on and kept repeating was “is it my fault, is it something I did?”

I think we all ask this question at some point, but he was obsessed with it. Let me describe him – 6′ 4′, 260 pounds, leather jacket, tattooed knuckles, black bandanna on his head, and other numerous tattoos on his arms, hands and neck. Heavy leather biker boots, etc. Got the picture? He talked gently and was a very decent person. But he talked about his past. He was not very specific, and I think we are all grateful for that (the less-you-know-the-better kind of situation). He said he was a rough person – did many things in his past that he was now remorseful over. He said he was the person that you crossed the street to avoid, and if you didn’t, you wished you had. He talked about hurting other people, and not leading a very productive life, and about serving time in different places, and taking revenge on people. I think you get it.

pathHe was so concerned that his daughter was taken from this earth to punish him for what he had done, for the life that he had led up to that point. He also pointed out that he had changed his life a few years prior to her passing and was working now, helping out re-building a church, and doing outreach to gang members. But he was convinced that he was being punished for the life he had led. He even shed tears talking about it, and his words had an impact on all of us who were there to listen.

It took us a long time to convince him that it was not his fault. That no matter what he did, or didn’t do, his daughter’s fate was her own, it was not his karma. We believe that there is no almighty decreed correlation between the lives we lead and what fate belies our children or for that matter anyone else. Many people lead very positive, productive lives and still face tragedy. Many bereaved parents are church/temple goers, philanthropists, pillars of the community – and yet their children are taken from them. I am not sure if we really did get through to him, if he found any relief in our get together, or was the thought so ingrained in his conscience that it will haunt him the rest of his life.

A few other interesting points came out in this conversation that led to many other conversations.

If he was right and that his daughter was taken from him because of his personal transgressions – what does that say about the rest of us? Were our children taken because of the lives we lead, or what we said or did, or didn’t do? Did we cause this to happen as well? None of us know why our children were the one’s G-d chose to take early, but we live with the belief that it was not our fault, that we did nothing to precipitate this terrible situation. We have all done some things in our lives that we regret, but nothing worthy of such a terrible tragedy.

And is death of a child the only way we would be punished? If G-d was vengeful (and I have to base this entry around Him because of the concept that our children were “taken”), wouldn’t there be a different way to punish someone – other than the death of a child?

Andrew in PJsThe other point someone brought up was the ripple effect – not only was Andrew taken from me, but he was also taken from his mother, his sister, his grandmothers, his cousins, and countless friends and teammates. If you accept the premise that a child’s death is a result of what someone did – us everyone who suffers because of the loss culpable as well?
No, our children, no matter how old they were, no matter what kind of life we led, no matter what our own personal karma is, were not taken from us because of some fault or transgression.  They were taken from us for some unknown reason that maybe, hopefully, one day we will find out. Was their purpose here on earth fulfilled and now it is time for them to move on? Was there a tragedy, a suffering, that was ahead of them that they were spared from? We don’t know. But we still have to live our lives, we still need to carry on, we still need to honor them.

I don’t know if this will bring peace to anyone, but I hope it does. Especially the crying father in the ragged leather jacket…

Italian Cemetary


7 thoughts on “Was it my Fault?

  1. Barbara

    How very true, I think we all feel this way at some point and then we realize it was not our fault, I hope he finds peace with that. Another well done article.

  2. Robert Brissette

    There are simply things in life that are out of one’s control. No matter how hard we try to avert the possibility, things happen, often for a reason that is forever inexplicable. John Lennon famously opined that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

  3. Ned

    I like what you said, bringing some sanity to a subject where it is very easy to make things worse than they already are.

  4. Lorraine

    I feel for him. We are so used to protecting our children. Its hard to draw the line from when they don’t need our protection anymore (theyre always our babies to us). When they are ripped away from us, many so unexpectely, of course we feel like we didn’t protect them and blame ourselves. It takes years to accept it’s not our fault. Even then there are moments we can’t help blame ourselves. That’s why these parent loss groups are so important. It’s the best comfort we can get…not to feel so alone in this. When I am with other parents, I feel like our children are together also. God bless us all.

  5. Dee Incollingo

    If love alone could save our children, they would still be here. I hope the grieving Dad finds peace because the loss is heavy enough to carry without being compounded by guilt.

  6. Sally Klein

    Your words ring true and have such personal relevance to me, Perry. Thanks as usual for posting such thoughtful and introspective comments!

  7. Patrice Evie's Mom

    I know it is not my fault
    In my brain
    But my heart feels otherwise
    What did I miss?
    What did I do wrong?
    There are consequences for your actions
    That’s what I taught her

    How do you change your heart?


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