Whenever I hear about someone beloved dying too soon, my reflexive thought often is, “And yet, [redacted] is still alive.” How unfair, right?
It’s not my finest thought, to be sure. It doesn’t match my beliefs about vengeance or about humanity in general. But it is something I think about on occasion. I suppose such a thought is part of what makes spirituality so attractive — the idea that there’s a plane where these karmic injustices get ironed out. “Your friend is reigning in heaven forever, exactly as you remember her, whereas Johnny Jerk had to live as Johnny Jerk until he was 95, and now in the afterlife, he’s paying interest.” It’s a nice thought.
But on Earth, at least, there’s always the chance that someone will die too soon for no good reason, and there’s no guarantee that this isn’t all there is. On one level, it makes perfect sense — of course a deranged person with an instrument of death can kill someone who is not expecting it. And health problems can befall anyone, because we are frail, living creatures. In other ways, it never will make sense. Why is death so arbitrary? Why do mentally ill and hateful cranks get to take away decent people? Why?
I didn’t know Jillian Johnson, but I knew of her, because she was often in local media and in mutual friends’ Facebook conversations. I remembered her name in particular because I knew a Jill Johnson in high school, and I would always check to see if they were the same person (they weren't). Many, if not most, of my friends knew her. Her husband and I once ran in the same journalism circles. By all accounts, she was a force in the Lafayette business and cultural scenes, and was also a fun person to be around. The more I read about her and her impact on my friends’ lives — and, for that matter, just glance at pictures of her in her element — the more it feels like I lost someone I know.
Mayci Breaux was also tragically taken down well before her time. She was slated to begin radiology school, was engaged and seemed excited about the future. Nothing feels quite like knowing something big is ahead for you. It gives you an energy and purpose that I’ve never quite felt at any other time in my life. She’ll never see it come to fruition now. That isn’t right.
They’re dead, why? We may never know for sure, but we do know that the guy who did it felt very insecure about his standing in the world — and that he had a history of mental-health issues. And, on that night, he had both a gun and (apparently) a feeling of nothing left to lose. The deadliest combination.
What can you do?
That question isn’t rhetorical. It has answers. We just have to have the courage to face our shortcomings when it comes to mental health, poverty, firearms and prejudice. Maybe you can never stop all such tragedies, but we can cut into them, at least. And to the degree that we can, we should.
It’s not fair. Life isn’t fair.
Death, even less so.