Chad served a mission in Russia; I met him there first as he was being shipped out to the city of Ekaterinburg. He passed each other in the office of the mission. I was going to meet the mission president, the kindest, most rational, most compassionate Christian I have ever known. He was going to a city with a big tower in the middle of town that lets people know when the atmospheric radiation in the town is too great and, therefore, the schools are closed.
Chad's mission president was transferred in from Spain. He was, by all accounts, a big fat jerk (at least compared to our mission president). He was hard on his missionaries and on the members. Nobody apparently liked him (and his wife was universally hated). He never learned Russian. Chad became an AP and clearly considered the man arrogant and self-absorbed. Rumor had it that back in Spain, his mission had been riddled with sexual immorality and the president apparently saw missionary sexual conspiracies everywhere. Nonetheless, Chad left the mission field with a testimony of that man's divine calling because, idiot that he was, he was inspired when necessary.
I really got to know Chad when we moved in together at BYU. I moved in just after his girlfriend (another friend of mine) had broken up with him. Prior to this, Chad had come down with appendictis. It had been misdiagnosed twice and, as a result, his appendix ruptured prior to his arrival at the hospital. Chad was able, through a lawsuit, to get the hospital who misdiagnosed him to pay his hopsital bills, but he had to pay his lawyer's fee, which sucked up most of his resources. Just prior to that, he had been praying about this girl in the temple and had received a strong confirmation that she was "the one." She broke up with him shortly after he got out of the hospital.
A few months later, Chad came to discover that the original surgery on his tumor was unnecessary. The tumor had been benign and and had stopped growing before his original surgery. He had lost the hearing in his right ear and a large chunk of his skull due to a misdiagnosis. He had grappled with his own death as a teenager as a result of a doctor's error and nothing more.
In the midst of all of this, Chad and I were talking one day. He said (paraphrasing through dim memory), "The church tells me that I am supposed to grow or to learn from trials. That is absolute crap. I haven't learned a single thing from all of this, except to not trust doctors. I'm not a better person because of this. I'm not any more humble or holy. I haven't been refined; I've been crapped upon."
I suppose that I could have pointed out that he had survived, that he had friends and family who loved him, that the tumor had stopped growing (it was never entirely removed), that the surgery hadn't resulted in brain damage. But, really, what does any of that matter? If you are in pain, you are in pain. One doesn't ameliorate pain by pointing out the sky is still blue or that bunnies continue to hop. All things that don't deal directly with the pain are incidental and, frankly, arrogant. "My wisdom should reduce your feelings of abuse" is not the posture of a humble person.
To be honest, I don't know what I did. I probably commiserated and tried to say something funny (humor as emotional defense). Chad hurt, blamed human error, and moved on.
Tragedy, like most mortal experience, has no meaning for us beyond what we give it. God's motivations usually remain inscrutable and, for whatever reason, if we don't choose to see his hand in some event, random chance is the fallback position for causation. Searching for the motivations behind tragedy may be fruitless in any case, like debating the problems of the Weimar Republic in 1940. Tragedy must be dealt with immediately because the pain and the sorrow are immediate.
For me, the greatest tragedy in all of this is that I have lost touch with my friend. There was a time when I valued no-one else's opinion higher. However, as I married, I became super self-involved and lost touch. We ran into each other occasionally, but we stopped hanging out. Then he got married and moved away. Last I heard, he was in law school. In my ending to his story, he spends the rest of his life suing incompetent doctors. I would like to know his and feel the lack every day.
I miss my friend.
Posted by John C.