Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Finding the Story that Makes Sense of Our Losses

“What’s your story?”  That was the only question a boy who lost his father in the 911 attack could ask in order to make sense of his father’s tragic death.

What is the sense of flying an airplane into a building to kill thousands of innocent lives?  What is the sense of such brutal hatred?  How would a young boy deal with the death of his beloved father who did nothing wrong to anyone?  Difficult times of loss force us to ask the sometimes dreaded question of why, because if we knew why it would offer us some measure of healing.  People are good at doing life, living out the Monday through Friday, making the money, buying the toys, and drudging through the mundane until something far from mundane happens that shocks our world.  Sudden, tragic losses always shake the orderliness and sensibility of our worlds.  In those times, we stop just doing and ask the crucial question of why.  And honestly, the direct, expository answer that explains reasonably why we went through something isn’t available to us (at least not now).  But we can find meaning to experiences, events and even regrettable choices within our overall story.

I think we look for stories in our lives and in the lives of others not just because they are nice sentiments, but because we find purpose through them.  Stories have a beginning, middle and end.  Stories go somewhere.  They string together the pieces of events in our lives and make sense of what may otherwise strike us as randomness.  The stories provide the overall arch to the happenings we experience.  The sense that there is a story helps us to understand that our successes and tragedies are not meaningless.  A story even gives us a sense that perhaps maybe someone is in control, that in the back of our minds and in the recesses of our souls, whether we subscribe to certain doctrines or not, we want to believe there is an Author.  Something inside of us tells us there must be one.

For this young boy in the film, he craved to hear other people’s stories because he was searching for his own.  What I appreciated about this film was the value it brought to sharing and hearing one another’s stories to be enriched by them and to help us learn our own story.  I think we do need to take more time to hear each other’s stories, to learn from the distinctions and fellowship in the commonalities.  We need more moments of sitting with each other over a cup of hot English tea to listen to the recent chapters we lived.  We need to call up the old friend to catch up on the last few years.  And sometimes we need to have parties where we can go over our table of contents and revisit our entire stories again from childhood because it’s likely we see something now we hadn’t seen before.  And what I loved most from the film was how there is often times a special person who intimately helps us realize our story but we may not notice that person having been there.  We all need that person.

As we celebrate and cry through others’ stories, it helps us to realize our own and to appreciate that every life is a unique story lived.  So don’t just do.  Live out your story.

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