12/31/2011 | Share this article:By Carl S. ~
This is going to be different from my previous postings, undisturbed by my usual self-appointed editor, helpful as he has been. There will be no effort involved in trying to be concise and clear so that every reader will understand completely. Free association will reign.
When I say, "my family", I will be referring to the one I was raised in only. There is an impulsive reaction driving me to write as I must: a recent death of my remaining brother's beloved. This was almost three weeks ago. When we were informed, we traveled 800 miles, beginning on the day after finding out, to be with him and attend the funeral.
More and more, my brother's atheism is revealed to me; some- thing I don't think my primary family ever noticed. He had, prior to the funeral, told his beloved's family that they could choose the ceremony. They chose to have a non-denominational preacher conduct it. So - here was this man from out of nowhere, reading the stock obituary from the newspaper, and scripture passages, the same-old, same-old, 23rd psalm at the gravesite. Afterwards, he came back to the funeral home and helped himself to the refreshments. My brother took me aside to tell me how he almost walked out when that man started talking, he was so upset. And we both agreed that when life is eternal, life is cheap. But- the believers have no consideration to ask the bereaved lover if he wants their beliefs over- ` riding his feelings. (The same applies to a woman who told him and me, "I know you two don't feel this way, but she's in heaven".) Why don't the religious-minded realize that such a statement is grossly inappropriate under the circumstances? In fact, why don't they care that all their impositions on a multiple-beliefs, non-beliefs society are inappropriate? Yesterday, a week from when her body was laid out in the funeral home, he told me with scoffing, "She's in a better place now! She's dead. Yeah, right.”
You have to understand my brother. He's practical, caring, loving, no nonsense, outspoken but considerate. He doesn't bother other people's beliefs. He loved his woman with all his heart, cared for her through thick and thin, bestowed his kindness and love on a person who had previously never known caring. From the beginning of their relationship, she told him she did not want to marry, anyone. They were together 35 years; on the ribbon attached to the biggest display of red roses above her coffin, were the words, “Beloved Fiancé." In the last week of her life, he spent each day at the hospital with her, leaving only to get lunch, or let the dog out. (she would want him to do that.) And, when medical science had exhausted all hope, it was his decision to pull the plug, and when this was done, everyone said, "Goodbye Edna,” and Edna opened her eyes and said goodbye.
Now- here is a thought I've had ever since that day: My brother, who is an atheist, could not be a more faithful, loving, man. And yet, the believers will elect a man who is a serial adulterer, and abandoned a wife dying of cancer, for president, because he is a Christian, and NOT one like my brother, because he isn't.
Yesterday, we were on the phone, and I told him about an article I saw in his local paper when we were there, about a pastor who saw "the face of Jesus" in not just one piece of wood in his church, but several pieces, and pointed out that, as WizenedSage said, no one knows what "Jesus" really looked like, which led to mentioning how, as a child, I saw many faces in the floorboards of our house. He grabbed on that right away, to tell me how every morning, he sees in the wood cabinet above his coffee maker, a vagina, clear as day, and that he'd rather see that then the face of Jesus, any day.
My dad was a practical man, in fact he made a very good living finding solutions that others apparently didn't see. Maybe that explains why, as a Catholic, he left religious teachings to the nuns. And why he said the rosary every day, did novenas: Pascal's Wager in action, just in case. (My wife's pastor and his wife's name is Wager, defined as "a bet placed on an uncertain outcome." It fits.) My dad went through all the motions, and must have believed some of it: In the last days of his life, he saw the Virgin Mary. But he was drugged up then, too.
My mother, too, left the dogmatic teaching up to the Catholic school. I thank both of them for not bringing it into the house. I've been told that they let me go into the monastery at the age of 14, not out of religious conviction, but because they "didn't know what to do with you." A teen out of control? Hmmm... My mom sang hymns to Jesus and Mary every day while doing housework or ironing, etc. She liked the smaltzy, saccharine ones the Church banned eventually. Too sentimental for theology. Later, she added Tennessee Ernie Ford hymns to her repertoire. She had small statues of Mary, Joseph, St. Jude, on her dresser. If they didn't answer her prayers, she'd turn them to face the wall, her version of making them stand in the corner, facing it.
My sister, who is Edna's age, 86, suffers from poor eyesight, goes to the Shrine of Our Lady, and has been "cured" by Ernest Angley, a Christian faith healer, even though she hasn't. She wasn't even told that Edna died: she will not go to funerals, even her own daughter's (that one is understandable, and is a primary example of Nothing fails like prayer.) For all the consolation that belief is supposed to offer, I feel that my sister, in spite of her wishes to die and go to heaven, is terrified of death, whereas the opposite is true of my brother and I.
Both of our other brothers are gone, one dying under mysterious circumstance I attribute to neglect and/or, mistakes. They were both VERY Catholic. One was a homosexual who suffered from prejudice, and the other with children of whom I suspect only one follows in their parent's Catholic footprints.
We love and we care in the only life we have, they have, with no regrets. We are happy to make others happy, to love and even lose at times. When that person is gone, we know we have given what we could while life exists. What better tribute could one pay to a lover than to recognize this?
There are other things I could reveal in praise of my "kid" brother, but you get the picture. Like the guy down the street from me, he's an atheist, I found out, and after the death of another neighbor, I asked • his widow if HE was a "Humanist", and she said that yes, you could have described him as that. I found that my good buddy from the army days, 51 years ago (we're in touch), is atheist, etc. I don't think any of us was asked on a poll whether we're believers or nons. How many are there, really, we don't even know about, living like my brother, friends, et al, with love, caring, facts, indifferent to belief systems, because we're involved in living itself, no bullshit?
My brother removed the plaques about "God“ this and that, from the walls. He had left them there because they meant something to her. In their stead, he tacked up, "Nothing Fails Like Prayer."