THE ANGEL OF DEATH
Once the Angel of Death gave the champagne service a pass. Slouched in a first class seat on the nonstop flight to his next assignment, the Angel of Death might have been expected to feel quite satisfied with his performance in the most recent natural disaster. Not for a long time had he brought destruction on so many and struck with such force that the message being delivered to survivors must be unmistakable. And yet, the enormity of the latest mission had stunned and depressed him. Even him. How many more of these errands would he be sent on, the Angel wondered? How often would he have to sweep away countless souls to impress upon believers once more the value of their faith? When would enough be enough to guarantee that? A hundred thousand dead in a day? Two hundred thousand? Three hundred? A million? When would one death more become one too many? The chief attendant in first class, Donny Pangloss, was just starting his round with champagne for passengers when he noticed something was bothering the Angel of Death. “Can I pour you some of the bubbly?” Donny asked with a practiced smile, filling a glass out of habit without waiting for the reply. “Excuse me for saying so, but you look a little down. Is there any way I can help?” Meeting only a cold stare in response, he added, “I have some experience with volunteer grief and life-transition counseling, if you think that might improve your mood.” “I doubt it.” “You just never know. Sometimes having a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to lean on is all that’s really needed to weather even the worst of life’s little storms. Everything is actually for the best, you come to realize, in this best of possible worlds.” “Is it?” “I’m absolutely convinced of it. None of us is asked to bear a burden that is too great for us. What sense could there be in that?” Again, the only response from the Angel of Death was a chilling stare. Donny Pangloss set the champagne bottle down and assumed as reassuring a tone as he could. “We must assume, you see, there is a good reason for any trial or tribulation we have, one that can explain even the inexplicable. In other words, there is an unseen plan to our lives that we must believe fits in with some higher purpose, even if we can’t quite grasp this plan or purpose.” “You never find yourself questioning that confidence?” “Never. I’ve been through a lot personally, I can tell you, but I always keep my sunny outlook and my belief things must be as they are because a grand design guides all our lives and every hair on our heads is counted in that grand design. Nothing can’t be explained in this way.” “Even the mass death of the innocent?” the Angel asked. “Yes, even that.” “Are you serious?” “Couldn’t be more serious. Even something as apparently shocking as the slaughter of the innocent or the orphaning of thousands must be part of the grand design somehow, or else it wouldn’t happen, would it. And if it is part of that design, by definition it can’t be unjustified, even if our limited understanding fails to see any justice in it. So personal misfortunes like these actually add to the greater good of all humanity in unfolding the overall plan for this best of possible worlds.” “How’s that?” “Why, just think of the outpouring of generosity these disasters bring in their wake, the unlooked-for opportunity the rest of us are given to show the very best in ourselves. Then I believe you’ll have to agree even the disappearance of entire communities, tragic as it seems on the surface, must be a necessary cause for the inspiring display of goodness in the rest of us as a response. Look at it as a kind of test of the strength of our spirit. It follows, logically then, that the more personal misfortune there is, the more chance we have to play our part in the overall plan. Without disasters, none of this could take place, could it? Just repeat that to yourself whenever you’re a wee bit down or unsure of yourself, and I guarantee you’ll be feeling more upbeat again in no time.” These and many other assurances that even the most devastating catastrophe was ultimately for the greater happiness of mankind if viewed properly rolled off the tongue of Mr. Donny Pangloss as he did what he could to cheer up the Angel of Death. While the latter continued to stare silently at his untouched glass of champagne.
Copyright © 2005 by Geoffrey Grosshans