September 24, 2009


Loss, bitterness and renewal

Last Friday toward the end of my shift the owner flagged me down and told me that my wife had called. She wanted me to call back before I left work, he said. "I'm not real good at discerning these things, but I think she had been crying."

Of course I was worried right off the bat, but I knew if it had been an emergency that obviously Jen would have asked to speak with me right away. I only had a few more things to finish up until I was done for the night so I made haste with that and called home. She was upset because she got the news that a former co-worker of mine, not a very close friend but much more than an aquaintance, had just lost her husband, her 10-year-old daughter and her brother in an auto accident. "I just wanted to hear your voice and to tell you that I love you and to be careful on your way home," she said.

After clocking out I numbly walked to the car and broke down. I was stunned by the news that the lives of two people that I knew (I had never met her brother) had been instantly and violently ended and by how her life is now so painfully fragmented by the loss of not just one or two but three loved ones.

The typical "public" events that follow death were in this unusual case augmented by a candlelight vigil two nights after the accident. Despite this area experiencing some of the heaviest rain seen in years, 300 people attended the ceremony. Forces beyond our control (lack of babysitter) had Jen and I decide that only one of us could go, but then forces of nature (flash flooding) caused us to opt out altogether. All things considered it was a wise decision, as a mutual friend posted Facebook updates on being stuck at the church until 2 a.m. due to the high water. I heard another former co-worker's account of attempting to navigate a flooded road on the route home and nearly losing his vehicle in the current.

A funeral home visitation took place two nights later, but as I was scheduled for work Jen decided she would make an appearance, if only a brief one because of the necessity to have child in tow. I am grateful that she was able to talk with our friend briefly to express sympathy and say simply that when the storm abates a little in a few weeks or even months (I envision at least partly cloudy skies for the rest of her life) to give us a call and we'll get together.

I was only able to attend the funeral service at the church today. This is the one event I would have chosen last, for the selfish reason that I am not comfortable among those trappings. I had to breathe deep often to counteract the swelling grief in me for this wife and mother and her remaining 6-year-old daughter (an anchor that is surely keeping her sane). There were such unfathomable sights today - of a little sister too young to fully grieve, of the slightly older friends and school mates, faces red and streaked wet, who have little to no context in which to frame their intense feelings of loss. I was heartbroken by the thought of them having to deal with something so incomprehensible, by a "why?" so far beyond a relatively normal death like that of a grandparent.

This all has left me in a tough place because, although my life experience has caused me to eschew religion, I am still a "want to" believer in the grand purpose of our race and our space. I consider myself basically an agnostic deist - I have zero need for dogma yet I am hopeful that a benevolent, laissez-faire higher power has something else in store for us beyond what we perceive in this life (and that "beyond" should not be obsessed upon). The funeral left me struggling with bitterness at the raspy-voiced old fire and brimstone preacher who turned from that tack and proclaimed that "this is the day that the Lord has made - let us rejoice and be glad in it." It's bitterness toward what BS I think that is but also somewhat toward having lost the faith of those who can comfortably lean on that B(lis)S. Actually, I am glad to have been released from what I see as ignorance in many instances, but I think I need to allow others their faith, free from my prejudice, so they can do the good they are capable of and I can release the bitterness that only hinders me from doing the same.

I haven't found the perfect happy medium where I can just let go of my anger toward religion and pursue that peace that passes all understanding, to paraphrase Paul née Saul of Tarsus. I know that internally I've got work to do. Being a father is beyond a doubt aiding this work very positively. As for externally, well it'd be a tough row for Jesus to hoe, since he (and/or his representatives) have burned me no less than twice. But I feel like there is a corner to be turned up ahead, and it's like Jen told me, "don't begrudge anyone praying for you - it can't hurt."

Ask for a burning bush or a Virgin Mary waffle.

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I just prayed for you Tim.

I still am a believer. I do not attend church because, like you said, I feel a good amount of the people there are either self rightious, judgemental of others, or have hurt many people and know that they are guilty of being bad actors in society. Like any social organization, there are bad apples.

That being said, as a frequent traveller who has plenty of time to read the Gideon Bible to while away the time, I hope, like you, that there hopefully is a positive force for good in the universe. All you have to do is look at Max and you can be sure that miracles are possible.

I also know that evil is a real force. If you don't believe it ask a cop about it and see what they say. That is what is responsible for those deaths, not God.

I am a Christian, but there are many roads. At the end of the road all will meet thier God.

It's easy to say some cliche like "they are in a better place". But really there is no way to know this for sure. Faith is all a believer has. It's futile to try to understand it rationally.

I am sure that you have read "Footprints". I hope that right now Christ is carrying your friend and her child through this horrible, horrible tagedy.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."-Psalm 30:5
Thanks, Cap'n. You're one of the good ones (I think it's a Tim thing).
Beautifully said.
"I think it's a Tim thing"

Timothy-To honor God. From the Greek Timotheos.

St Timothy was a companion of Paul, and the recipient of the two letters to Timothy, contained within the New Testament.

It is your destiny. Embrace it.
I was never able to believe, but I can't see a point in belittling other people for their faith. My only issue is when the faithful want to codify their belief into law for all of us.

I can't say that were I that mother, sister, wife's position, I wouldn't need something to hold on to, as well. How heartbreaking.
You put it very well. I too have a hard time swallowing religious platitudes. If they are what gets my friend through this, then wonderful. I will gladly bite my tongue and embrace anything that helps those in need through. Yet when something as horrible as this happens it strengthens my non-belief in the Christian god and I admit, makes me a tad angry at what often feels like the hypocrisy of religions in general.

The thought of a higher being that wants what is best for us is a lovely thought, the thought of a lesser being that wants to harm us is not. Yet the higher being in Christianity has never struck me as a kind, just deity. Those who disagree must be reading a different Bible from the one I've read.
Dawnia-Sometimes we say more by saying nothing at all. For you this is one of those times.
Tim, I've been really slow about reading blogs lately, but I just got to this one. My heart goes out to you in the loss of your friend.

I'm in the same boat, as I have taken years to own up to the fact that I never believed in a god, though I was raised in Catholicism. I think I would have felt the same way about the preacher's words.

And I think Jen's right, since people have good intentions and want the best for you, no matter what they or you believe!

Peace, man.
I've been slow around the blogs, myself. I blame switching browsers, not procrastination.

Last month was a real eye-opener for me in a number of ways. I lost my grandmother at the ripe old age of 93, which is about 30 years longer than her doctors expected her to ever reach. Grandma was a deeply religious woman, of the Nazarene persuasion, very old-school Southern fundamentalist. But the woman had such love within her and such a beautiful "life force", for lack of a better term, that her loss has left a bit of a hole in my heart. I have never been particularly close to her, only seeing her every several years since my late teens. On hearing of her death, I made quick arrangements to travel to Arkansas for the funeral. I knew my Mom was going to need some support, and I hadn't seen some of the extended family for 25 years or more, so I felt it was worth the trip.

Long story short, the visit was transformative in a number of ways. I have a new relationship with my family, a new respect for my own mortality, and possibly even a new career opportunity in a new city. It is one of those rare times in my life that I can actually feel the hands of whatever force is out there pushing me toward what I can only assume is where I should be going in my life.

For a number of reasons, I am not a religious person. Which is not to say I don't have faith. I do have faith, in abundance. What I don't have is dogma, and happily so. I can call this the tide of the universe, the hand of God or the noodly appendage of the FSM. All I know is there is a synchronicity at work that is more than just a Police album. I can fight the tide if I want to, but to me faith is about knowing when to surrender to those nudges and outright shoves.

This is one of those times.
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