On death and God and stuff…

Last Friday, my brother-in-law’s father passed away unexpectedly. He was an incredibly vibrant, way-too-young-to-die kind of man.  Jerry literally lit up a room when he walked in.  As I stood at the graveside service listening to my nieces tell stories about their grandfather, all I could see was Jerry’s face with that same smile that was contagious to all of those around him.

I am not a religious person.  I rejected the religion I was raised with (Judaism) years ago for a number of reasons.  I found myself reciting things during temple services that I didn’t really believe.  I saw all the evils of the world around me and just couldn’t reconcile them with the God I had been raised to believe in.  I just couldn’t convince myself to believe in a God that would let so many bad things happen to so many good people.  I have always been able to grasp the concept that maybe things happen for reasons that I cannot understand at the time, but I could just never get to the point of blind acceptance that things simply are how they should be, or that I should just have faith that there was some sort of grand plan for my life and the world at large.  Nor could I accept that if I didn’t live my life by the tenets dictated in some book, I may not achieve eternal redemption.  I live my life the best that I can.  I try to be a good person and help those less fortunate that I am.  I treat those around me with kindness and acceptance.  I always thought that should be enough.

At the funeral yesterday, as I listened to the rabbi ask the friends and family to bestow certain wishes on Jerry’s wife, children, and grandchildren, I couldn’t help but notice that the word “God” was in each of the wishes.  And I couldn’t help but notice that it felt right to me to repeat them.  Maybe I was just caught up in the emotion and empathy of the moment.  Or maybe there was part of me that deeply needed to believe, in that moment, that there was someone watching over these people whom I love.  Or maybe I want to believe that Jerry, and all those who have gone before him, are still with us somehow, “watching down on us” so to speak.

I have always had a sense that there is something greater than myself in the universe.  I always felt that the natural world was some sort of enigmatic, amazing, indescribable something that words can’t quite convey.  I always felt a connection to “Mother Nature,” which I guess might be comparable to “God.”  When loved ones have passed, I frequently found myself talking (or even thinking) to them long after they were gone, which must mean I believe that on some level, they are still here.  Does that mean I believe in a heaven?  Does it mean I believe in some sort of higher power, or some sort of spiritual after-world?  I don’t know. And for a long time, I couldn’t even ask these questions.  I’m not sure why, but I just couldn’t.  I’m not really even sure I’m ready to ask these questions now, or that I will ever really be able to, but yesterday got me thinking.

Here’s what I do know.  I know that yesterday, I felt like it was right to ask whatever higher power may be out there to watch over my sister and her family during this difficult time.  I know that when I look at my son’s face, I can’t help but think that someone or something brought him to me, because he is simply too perfect and amazing to have materialized out of nowhere.  I know that there are also incredibly horrible things in this world that I just cannot mesh with the two sentences above.  Where that leaves me, I cannot tell you.  So for now, I will just wish upon my sister and her family, and Jerry’s wife, comfort, loving memories, and peace.

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