Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can't Stand It, Part II

If you've read the blog for a while, you might have seen this one. The blog about the fabulous Carolyn and how she is the person I want to be like. At the time, she was merely sick. But her son Frank, my first "date" for a school dance, had just been killed.

Well, it's not quite a year later and Carolyn is dying. Probably soon. Like tonight, tomorrow, sometime in the next day or so soon. If not, then in a few weeks. She knows it. She told my mama, who was there to take her blood pressure and make the call that she needed to be admitted, that "I think this is going to be the thing that gets me." Whatever the "this" was. Side effect from chemo, cancer, whatever.

And here is the part that breaks my heart. Carolyn isn't scared to die. She isn't even scared of Hell, if that's where she's going. She is afraid that she won't see Frank.

She is so convinced of her child's salvation and so unconvinced of her own that she is afraid she won't get to see him again. You know, if there is an afterlife. Maybe death is just the ending of us. And she won't see Frank then, either.

I know with every fiber of my soul that if there is something more for us than this plane, Carolyn will ascend to it. Everyone who knows her feels the same way. Her own doubt (and I know this, because we discussed it explicitly years ago) stems from the combination of intellect and Southern Baptist-itis.

Intellect forces questions. If you are smart and have any imagination whatsoever, it must cross your mind that religion is merely a construct to protect us from our own fear that we begin and end with our time here on Earth. It provides us with the comforting notion that ultimately, injustice will be balanced with judgment. It serves the spiritual need for fairness. Lives filled with suffering are still worth living for there must surely lie a reward at the end of a life lived by a loving, honorable spirit.

But maybe there isn't and it is only our own egomania that tells us that we are more than the sack of flesh that holds our thoughts and demonstrates our will.

Here's the thing, though. If you're Southern Baptist (or Catholic, or Muslim, or Sikh, or Reformed Jew or whatever the heck you are) there is a belief tenet you can't quite let go of. The common thread is that religion, or more accurately, FAITH, holds you to a higher standard than you will ever achieve.

I don't think that is a bad thing. A stretch goal makes you strive for more than you are. Even if we're all misguided nutjobs (except the atheists), if our faith provokes better behavior than our nature, that is not a bad thing. *

I just wonder if we aren't all right, those of us who believe in something more, in our belief. Where we might be wrong is in its application to our own selves. In my own life, I know so many people that I believe are in Heaven or destined to be there someday but I can't see how I will ever make the cut. I actually believe. I believe in the Bible, Jesus, sin, and judgment. I think the 10 commandments are not a bad roadmap for a life, even if nobody is ever going to make it all the way through without trouncing a couple of them. My belief does not exclude people of other faiths, other denominations, or even other interpretations of the good old Bible, but that is an entirely different discussion.

The point is, in my experience, the people who seek the hardest seem to be the most unconvinced that they are worth the grace of whatever higher power might be running the show. The sins we see in ourselves are mere foibles, human weakness and infinitely forgivable, in others.

If I believe that God loves US, all of us, why is it so hard to see how He could possibly love me? I hope that Carolyn has the peace of knowing a benevolent creator, one who sees foibles instead of sins, before she sees Frank again.

* Please note that in my unqualified opinion, Faith, in its truest expression, in any form, should raise humanity in general and the people that you know specifically. If an expression of faith causes pain or hardship to another, then it isn't divine in nature or spirit. It is an abuse of doctrine.


  1. Good questions Laurel, and obviously with no easy answers.

  2. Well, I have to start by saying I'm so sorry about Carolyn's plight. The mental one, not the physical one. Okay, both, actually. But as someone who deals with doubt in this department more than she wants to admit, I feel for her.

    I could go on about my own beliefs, but I won't. I think the important thing is, none of us really knows anything for sure until it's too late to do anything about it, anyway. Not until after we die. So whatever you believe while you're alive, as long as you feel you have good reason to believe it, should be enough.

    As for not feeling worthy of anything good, I think that's usually a good indicator of someone who really IS worthy. It shows they are aware of their imperfections and have enough of a conscience to feel bad about it. Although, like I said, I struggle with this myself. But it's always the most difficult to apply things to yourself than to others, even if it's something that could benefit you.

    There is no answer to this, unfortunately.

    *love and hugs (times infinity)*

  3. Thank you for laying out your thoughts in such a clear and well-stated manner. My heart goes out to you and Carolyn.

    There is more to this universe than we are able to comprehend. It is so unfathomably large that for us to exist at all denotes purpose. I have seen and felt enough coincidence in my life to believe that it is not just that, that there is a path we are all on. And if there is indeed a path, it must lead somewhere.

    I don't believe in Heaven and Hell, I think they are human creations. I do believe in this and what is next, but fail to offer a more clear definition of either.

  4. Late to comment as I'm working a writing conference this week. Fair warning that I've had about 3 hours of sleep each night and can only hope to be, um, what's the word?, lucid.

    I surprised myself once when I picked up a worksheet I had filled in at some point in my life. The question had to do with whether or not I believed there was something after this life. My answer was a resounding No.

    The surprising thing is I don't remember ever feeling that way. And yet, I wrote it down.

    We are so driven by our fears, the very parts of our psyche that faith should be there to guide us through. I'm sorry to hear she has this fear of not seeing her son.

    We are humans and we are not perfect. We should strive for progress, because perfection is not in our reach. I think far too many of us forget that part and try to be perfect, to live perfect lives, to have perfect faith.

    I truly believe if you enver doubt your faith and/or your religion, you have not truly explored what it all means.

    My heart goes out to you.

  5. Thank you, Sarah. And I feel that way, too. If you have never had doubt, you probably haven't given much thought to your faith.

    Her funeral was Thursday. She was not in pain and at peace when her body gave out.

  6. My condolences.
    I just had to say, as someone who is in a bit of ocnflict in her faith, that this post was o brutally honest, ouching and real.

    You write so well, which is to be expected of someone who isn't a teenager of course, but still. My favourite blog I've found so far.