“I got a story ain’t got no moral, and the bad guy win every once in a while .” So sang the great Billy Preston in the song “Will It Go Round in Circles” in 1972.
Without warning, I sometimes find lyrics, lines in poems or novels, or random snippets of conversation bringing Oliver to mind. So it has been for a long time with this line from Preston’s song. It is the juxtaposition of the “bad guy winning” with idea of “no moral” that captures me. A “moral,” as Preston is using it, refers to a lesson we learn from a story and it is usually meant to be a lesson about what is right.
But what about a story where “the bad guy” wins and there is no moral, no positive life lesson we walk away with. We are a culture raised on looking for the silver lining, for the good thing that comes out of the bad. Would I say anything good came from Oliver’s death? Yes, many things. I think about life differently and more deeply than I did before. I don’t take the love of another for granted. I’m able to reach out more to others who are in grief.
But none of that makes Oliver’s death acceptable, and sometimes when people see something positive come out of tragedy they grab onto it as some explanation for why evil has occurred. Christians are especially adept at this because it is hard, if not impossible, to reconcile the idea of a six-year-old boy suffering and dying from cancer with a loving God. And we want it to work so we hold onto anything we can to make it right when we just need to acknowledge that his death was wrong and we don’t get why it happened.
Unfortunately, nothing makes up for Oliver’s death. If this was a scale, the side with “Oliver’s death” would be on the ground and the side where we piled up “good things that came from Oliver’s death” could be filled up and that scale would still not lift the other side one inch. You could put a “cure for cancer” on the good things side and it would not raise Oliver’s side at all. The scale will never balance. Oliver’s death means that life is never in balance.
As far as I’m concerned, this “story ain’t got no moral” and “the bad guy won.”
Does that sound like anger? It is not. Perhaps frustration with almost hiding anything positive I’ve taken from Oliver’s death for fear that it will be misinterpreted as either not missing Oliver or, at the other extreme, that Oliver’s death is okay since now we’ve learned something from it.
And so I’m inspired to leave this entry just as Preston says happens some time. I don’t have any moral today, no life lesson. Let’s just acknowledge somethings have no lessons and the bad guy won. Maybe someday I’ll understand. That day is not today.