There is a subtle change, or maybe it is a shift in how I feel. Perhaps I am just getting used to the weight of this loss. It is a part of every day, every hour. Perhaps I am being forced to change, or perhaps I am just being more like I really am. The grinding pain of the loss has stripped away some things. It has also caused me to learn some new behaviors.
I continue to struggle with what has been labeled faith. In a book club I have joined we are discussing “The Heart of Christianity” by Marcus J. Borg. I have only started reading it and so far I like it. I continue to struggle with the idea that Faith as prescribed by my particular tradition is “primarily a matter of the beliefs in your head-of whether you believe the right set of claims to be true.” (Marcus J. Borg) My set of things to believe, upon which my claim to faith was built has shattered.
In some places I am learning to keep my mouth shut. It is for self protection. I am unwilling to expose my soft underbelly in some situations. Yesterday during my pottery class a man in the class started talking about Cooper’s Hawks. Eight months ago, I would have had to flaunt my knowledge. Having lived through the falconry years with my son, I remember the days spent looking for a nesting pair of Coopers. It was an obsession. Every stand of tall pine trees were searched. Pole climbing gear was purchased in preparation for scaling a tree in hopes of taking a young hawk to man.
The facts my fellow student presented were correct concerning the bird. He talked in that way that some people do when they think that they are the expert in the room. I let him continue to think so. To my knowledge the man knows nothing of me except that I am another student in the class. I don’t want to talk about why I know the things I know about hawks.
With things concerning my beliefs and God however, I am perhaps overly vocal. I have been taught things concerning God my whole life. Some things I accepted rather childishly without question. The death of my son has caused me to question many things. I have not run a poll, but I would almost wager that most parents who have lost a child have a lot of questions for God to answer.
One of the ladies in our book club said, paraphrasing something I had thought earlier, “I think the Bible was written by people who intended to glorify God.” I agree. I think the Bible contains God’s words, but it in it is not like the tablets of stone handed down to Moses. Man keeps trying with each generation to create God in his own image.
Part of my grief with the death of my son is the demise of some of my former beliefs.These are things that were mine before I ever had my son, or even the idea of having children. It is grief over learning that some things I held as true were nonsense and fabricated by man and not at all from God.
In the tradition I grew up with here are some phrases I grew up hearing.
“The hope of heaven” In the Bible that I have, heaven is a promise. Nowhere in that book does it tell you to make sure you get all your check marks in the right boxes. In my Bible there is a God who is a god of grace. Grace was something we were never taught about in church.
I have heard “if it is your will, Lord, please heal . . .” God’s will is not involved with your health. Remember, if the words in the book are true supposedly He is the one who allowed death to exist. God isn’t wanting you or anyone to be sick. His will is for you to love other’s as you love yourself. His will is for you to have a good attitude throughout your life, an attitude that stops you from objectifying others. God’s will is for us to treat everyone with love. When Jesus in his brief prayer asks for God’s will to be done – on earth – AS it is in heaven – do you think there is illness in heaven, if it exists? I picture heaven being a place of infinite love. God wants us to do our best to bring as much of that into this world as we can. Loving each other despite ourselves.
I have heard people say “it was your son’s time.” I am looking to see where the expiration date is stamped on my own body. I can’t use the word that comes to mind when people say that to me. I have decided to simply state. “I don’t believe that,” and exit as quickly as possible.
I don’t believe in providential care. I am astounded by those individuals who think that their own good behaviors bought them a golden ticket. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. The weeds grow up among the shafts of wheat.
I am learning to be thankful again. I am thankful that if my son suffered at all, it was not for long. I am thankful for the people who ministered to him there in the woods because so many benefited from the organ donations that would not have been possible without their efforts. I am thankful that when I got to see him, as horrific as that was, he was warm and appeared to be asleep. I am thankful his beautiful face was unmarked. I am thankful that he has so many friends who have blessed us with their kindness and love. I am thankful that he was such a kind, thoughtful, generous son and friend. I am thankful I was able to be there when he was finally pronounced dead. I am thankful for my family, both biological and spiritual who have ministered to us. I am thankful for my daughter and husband and that we can talk and talk and talk.
I keep my mouth shut a lot more than some probably think I do, while in my head and heart so many things rattle around. I am angry at the tradition that I grew up with. I am angry at its exclusivity and the injustice it contributes to. At first I thought I was angry at God. I am slowly realizing that my anger is misdirected. I am a blunt and direct person. There are some who know me who are probably glad and a bit surprised after somethings I have said that I am keeping anything to myself. But I am.
I prayed for my son every day, several times a day. When he was in town I lay awake waiting for his car to come up the driveway at night, to make sure he was safe. I called on the weekends, panicking if he did not answer, worried because of the dangers where he lived. When he traveled we checked in often by phone and when he went to climb in remote places, he would find a place to get a signal and call to reassure me. I trusted my prayers to protect him. I thought I had God’s favor and that it would provide blanket protection for my family. I do have God’s favor. It just isn’t what I thought it was. And because it isn’t, it gives me hope that other things I wrongfully feared to be true are not true either. My hope is that God’s mercy is much, much bigger than my own. I pray for wisdom to seek wisdom;I pray for mercy and clarity. Death will come to us all. Making the most of the day is all we have. Gifting just one someone with the hope that they are of as much value as everyone else is the goal.
My son knew he was of value. Both of our children have great confidence in the tight places to avoid the rub. If God is love, then He has been ever present in our family. For this I am thankful.