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Life, Death, and Mario Kart} ?> “That’s not fair!” And with that, at the finish line I was passed by Mario, Daisy, Yoshi, and the entirety of the Mushroom Kingdom. In frustration, I tossed the controller aside.
I had run the perfect race, drifted every corner, hit every question block, collected every coin and abused every item, but in that final straightaway, the dreaded blue turtle shell came. With the finish line in sight and first place victory secured, I spun out and was passed again, and again, and again. Another turtle shell, red this time, and a Bullet Bill power-up ensured that I went from first to absolute dead last.
Anyone who has played Mario Kart is familiar with that reprieve.
The truth is, the Nintendo racers cheat. No matter how far ahead you get, no matter how perfect your race, the A.I. will unfairly adjust the speeds of each of the other racers to ensure that every race comes right down to the wire. And nothing could be more frustrating.
Life, like Mario Kart, isn’t fair.
I write this as I sit at the bedside of my mother in palliative care, knowing that there are only hours left in her life. In the same hospital six months ago and five floors below, I witnessed the birth of my son. And today we try to make my mother as comfortable as possible with warm blankets and happy memories.
Three weeks ago, the doctor had broken the news. We all knew it was coming as she had been fighting a losing battle to Stage IV cancer for a few years already. The oncologist’s were quick, like a band-aid being torn off. “We are looking at less than six months.” There was no longer anything curative medicine could do and all that remained was to keep her comfortable.
“It’s not fair!” she cried out.
For the last three weeks we watched the cancer progress at an alarming rate and today we know, for her, there will be no tomorrow.
“It’s not fair!” This time the cry was mine. And there was no mistake about it. It wasn’t.
For her entire adult life she has taken care of people who have made very questionable health decisions. On paper, there is no reason she should be survived by any of them and yet here we are. Despite a few bumps in the first few laps of her life, she ran a near perfect race.
“It’s not fair!” cried her sister. “She was the one who took care of me!”
Three years ago, almost to the day, my father passed. A man who’s history was marked with years of alcoholism and awfulness. While he lay dying he was held by a wife who stayed by his side and loved him to the end. He took his last dying breath in her arms. “Where is that for her?” I ask and know there is no answer.
“It’s not fair!” cried her mother, wondering why she has to stay alive and watch her children die before her.
During the last few months, we prayed for a Retcon. We prayed for things to be different. We prayed for things to be fair. We prayed for our miracle. And at 6:19 am, we prayed for peace to finally come.
I wonder if life is more like Mario Kart than we’d like to admit. No matter how far ahead you get, no matter how perfect your race, life seems to unfairly adjust the speeds of each of the other racers to ensure that every race comes right down to the wire, and there is always that threat of a blue turtle shell that can take us down at any moment.
There are some challenging thoughts that you have at the bedside of a dying loved one. You ask “Why?” a lot. There are so many others who should be here instead; why her? When my two kids are older, they won’t remember how much she loved them; why did we wait so long to have kids? If there truly is a loving God of miracles, why hasn’t this miracle come?
Most of these questions are directed at an ethereal void, but one is directed at God. Yes, you, God. Why is life not fair?
As I wait for an answer that doesn’t come right away, I am reminded of the greatest evidence of a broken world: the death of a loved one. And with that, my mother takes her final breath.
Life isn’t fair. Life was never intended to be fair. Mario Kart was never intended to be fair. For all intents and purposes, life, like Mario Kart, is broken. I’m coming to understand that fairness is, no matter how much we pray, never the point.
So what is the point?
I stared at the blank page after writing that question for days. I scribbled out thoughts, and erased, and scribbled again in the attempt to figure it out. It wasn’t until I stood up at my mother’s funeral, with her ashes in front of me, that an answer finally (and perhaps pinely) came to me.
Life is only unfair if we believe that death is the end.
If all of our existence is what we see, feel, and experience in the short time we have here, then our lives really are awful and absolutely unfair. Life does suck and it doesn’t always make sense. But even if this is “all there is,” I just cannot go on living in this unfairness.
Instead, no matter if I am wrong, I choose to believe that death cannot be the end. Believing it just feels like a better way to live. Believing it means that there is a hope. Believing it means I will see my mother again one day.