A few weeks after I returned to Europe, last Spring, I had to send my condolences twice. A colleague whom I barely knew very sadly gave birth to a baby that had passed away in the whomb a few days earlier. Maybe a week later one of my famous organ teachers, Piet Kee, passed away at a very high (but not high enough) age, after a very productive life of (in alphabetical order) composing, performing, and teaching (of course, I can’t speak about his personal life).
I told the friend I used to hang out with at the time about this strange coincidence. I got a bit philosophical about it, more, I think, than the friend could deal with.
“I’m obviously not going to say this to the mother of the baby,” I said. “But the thing is, no matter how difficult, to believe that the baby’s life is not worth a penny less than Piet Kee’s.”
My friend tried to avoid a fight, I think.
“Hm,” she said. “Not less valuable, perhaps. But less rich, no?”
I tried to put it differently.
“I mean, for reasons we can obviously not fathom, it was their time to go. For both of them, their life was complete.”
My friend almost got angry, but not quite.
“It was,” I tried one more time, “meant to be that way. For both of them.”
I’ll never forget what she said.
“Well, I just think it was terribly bad luck, for that mother,” she said. (If you know Dutch, the expression my friend used was “domme pech.”)
“You can call it that,” I made one last attempt. “Or Fate. Or God. I like that better than ‘bad luck’. Don’t you?”
How to measure whether a life is complete? Piet Kee counted on at least another ten years, in the footsteps of his equally famous father. What do we know about the life of an almost-nine-month-old? What do we know about the life that was awaiting him (it was a boy)? But it’s our obligation, I think, to believe that the kiddo’s life was no less meaningful, no less important, no less wonderful than Kee’s. Heck, it’s got to be that way, or the whole universe is a joke.