Home > Balance, Evolution, Humanity, Philosophy > The Randomness of Things

The Randomness of Things


In Little Gidding, TS Eliot wrote, “It would be the same at the end of the journey, if you came at night like a broken king. If you came by day not knowing what you came for, it would be the same when you leave the rough road…”

Is there an inevitable order and fate to our lives? Or is it a random universe?

My son Matt works at an IT help desk and got a small cut under his fingernail while removing the battery from someone’s blackberry. Hardly the drama stories are made of. Yet, there was no way to know that whatever was on that phone would slowly infect him, swelling his hand with something so toxic that he would later find himself in the ER with sepsis. The visible red path of the poison in his veins was making its way up his arm in a frightening road map of where not to go. The IV antibiotic drip wasn’t working. Out of time, emergency surgery was the only option.

Waiting anxiously on the chairs near the elevator bank for what seemed like eternity, the lift doors opened and two post-op attendants wheeled out the gurney. Matt was groggy, though sitting up, his blue paper cap askew, his hand wrapped in a cloud of gauze. He had one eye open, one closed. He acknowledged us, and even made one of his signature sarcastic remarks.

Once he was in his room and resting, I went to get him juice. The elevator doors opened on a floor below, like stage curtains revealing a scene from a play. For a brief moment before the doors closed, a distraught family was huddled on the chairs near the elevator bank, crying and saying, “he was so young”. Who was he? Was he ill? Did he die? The story forever remains a mystery, but their sadness, and the timing of what I witnessed in the opening and closing of the doors, was striking. Life is unpredictable.

During Matt’s stay in the hospital, one thing was constant: a circle of friends and family surrounded him. It was an amazing and steady flow. He had his parents by his side. Emily, Turks, Rachel, Eric, cousin Eric, Annette and Pamela visited. Alex brought him a daily stash of sweets and made us all laugh. Alex’s folks, Tatiana and Igor, sent over artisan sandwiches they made. Sean brought an iphone filled with videos and stayed late watching them with Matt. Sean’s mom, Diane, stopped by with gnocchi. Rebecca came by. So did Mike. Sarah and Eric brought flowers; Sally brought healthy food. Ana was there, and left every day to look after his cat. The space, at all times, was filled with spirit. It occurred to me that whether there’s a randomness or an order to things doesn’t matter. In our precarious human life, this is what matters.

  1. March 4, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Given all of your kindness, your uplifting words of encouragement and support, and the incredible amount of love and goodwill that abounds from you, Toni, it is absolutely no surprise that your son and your family received who and what you are in return.
    Wonderful story.

    • March 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      What a nice thing to say Charles! Thank you so much.

  2. Rose
    March 4, 2012 at 10:06 am

    That was a beautiful, heartwarming account. Yes, what matters is, basically, that there is a social support system in one’s life when things go crazy. And that we have to live & move in the present moment.

    The Buddha taught that suffering is part of life & we should try to “rise above suffering.” Not easy to do in this crazy hustle & bustle world of ours. But when someone is by your side during a crisis, that makes the suffering a bit more bareable. It also, however, promotes healing.


    • March 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      Thoughtful comments Rose, and so true. Support definitely helps.
      I couldn’t ask for a more supportive cousin than you. Love you xo

  3. March 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Toni, you and I are attracted to some of the same passages from the same poets. So glad your son has you and so many others. I understand the feeling of gratitude for an abundance of love. It’s tempting to feel guilty sometimes. Instead, I hope to share as much love as possible with others. Your post has encouraged me to remember to do so daily.

  4. March 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Little Gidding is a beauty, isn’t it?

    As far as these harrowing experiences go, it was jarring, but it was also a time of gratitude and abundance.

    You share love through your work, Shirley.
    Looking forward to your Mennonite Memoir — Congratulations! http://www.shirleyshowalter.com/

    Thank you for coming by.

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