Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Former Catholic struggles

My father says that it seems like a long time since mom died and it will only be two weeks tomorrow. I agree and I wonder if it's because we had become so accustomed to talking to her everyday, seeing her and wondering about the situation when we were not with her. She's dead now and there is no new information to be experienced. The status reports, the stories about her complaints and humorous remarks, the results of doctor appointments and medication changes have all stopped. Caput, story over.

Dad came to dinner a couple of nights ago. He talked about our second memorial service held for Mom. We had accidentally forgotten to invite Mom's side of the family to the first memorial service (truth! I couldn't make anything up this weird.) So, thus the second memorial service. One of my cousins, an unusual woman (graduated from medical school as a doctor but never practiced,) talked to my dad for about fifteen minutes. She had told Dad that we would see Mom again - after our own deaths we will be reunited and our bodies will be restored to us. Dad cannot resist to set things straight. (He once encountered an old nun who was hunched over and walking near him. He said to her, either you have back problems or you have something really interesting to look at. She answered that she had suffered from spinal problems since she was a young child. The discomfort did not bother her as Jesus Christ had suffered and died for her on the cross. Hm-m-m, Dad continues, doesn't seem fair, you suffered your whole life and Christ for only three hours. Oh no, said the little nun. Christ began suffering at 9:00 the morning of his death and it was especially difficult at the end because the temperature dropped severely and the Roman soldiers had to light a fire near his cross to stay warm but Christ had only a loin cloth on and he was cold. Dad decided to cut his losses at that point and he excused himself.) Dad told my non-doctor doctor cousin that this was not his belief. When we die, he said, that is it. No afterlife, no heaven or hell, no reincarnation. He reported that she had found this strange that he had no religious connections. I know my dad. He is logical and thinks in a very organized, orderly pattern. He knows that truth must be verified by sight, sound, touch, smell, taste. Facts are based on observable events. Faith is an invention of the human mind and has no foundation in fact.

There are so many different belief systems in the world over the ages, he had told her. What if you are in the wrong one? The Indians, for example, believe that the earth was carried on the back of a massive turtle emerging from the sea. I always liked Indian beliefs, myself. Some tribes worship the sun which makes more sense than the adoration of an invisible being. The awful power of the sun is observable and penetrates all areas of life. And this is just the beginning, he reminded her. Think of the Asian philosophies - thousands of years older than Christianity and based on the individual person - the growth, the circular patterns of life and death, the constant struggle to gain knowledge and the inner calm. I say that I have studied many of the great religions of the world thanks to a college advisor that was never in his office to help me plan a real class schedule which might have resulted in an actual graduation. Yeh, right, it was his fault. And Christianity is one of the finest: an entire philosophy based on love: love your God, your neighbor, yourself. Nice. But the the bloodiest wars have been fought for religious reasons and continue to be, we remind each other. Your brother believes that those who do not subscribe to his particular fellowship's liturgy will be destroyed at the end. You know, the end? How can that be, ponders Dad, if I am God's creation why would he destroy me? It doesn't make sense! Neither does what you just said, Dad, if you do not believe in an eternal being. Suddenly, he is shouting. I want to see these miracles! I just don't want to hear about them or read about them. I want to see them! Yes, I shout back. I want to see televised reports by 60 Minutes of 20/20 to air on this very subject. No, no, he says. I want to see it right here! Right in front of me! Yes, I agree, I want to see lepers get healed! I want to see the sores disappearing from their bodies. No blind man seeing again, no paralyzed man walking! It could be a set-up! I want the lepers! And then as if exhausted, the conservation stops and we sigh. Nothing to be gained from all this. Are we angry because it won't happen that way? Mom's not coming back and why should they have the comfort of their faith and not us? Some sects believe that faith is a gift and I have not been given that. That's all right by me. Lack of faith frees up brain space and my personal schedule as I do not need to send time on prayers or liturgy.

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