Monday, February 3, 2014

The month of visitations and what this brings to mind about faith

During the month of January I went to 5 funeral home visitations, which seems an awful lot for a 4-week stretch.

I actually know a 6th person who died in January, but his wake was at the same time as another person's wake so I was unable to pay my respects.

Although none of these deaths made me feel a deep and profound loss, they did impact people I care about, and so in that way they were difficult.  (Smallest font since my sadness is a very, very minor, indirect one.)

My cousin committed suicide.  A mom friend from our kids' school lost her mother unexpectedly.  Another mom friend's dad passed after a long bout with Alzheimer's Disease.  A former neighbor died after a 5+ year battle with brain cancer (he survived over 4.5 years longer than his original diagnosis). My sister-in-law's grandmother died 17 years after a stroke that left her in a nursing home. Two students I teach lost their 45-year-old mother to lung cancer (and she'd never smoked a day in her life).

The death that has bothered me most is that of my students' mom, perhaps because she was a mere 5 years older than me.  Or maybe because I teach these wonderful girls who make my time in the classroom so enjoyable.

These girls and their family have a very strong Christian faith; their parents began a ministry and have a very big following in these parts (which I only learned about after their mother's passing).  I have read articles about the family and the mom's blog and I watched a video she made in which she talked about faith, her cancer and the prospect of her death.

I've mentioned that I feel very weird around people who talk a lot about Jesus mostly, I think, because it is just not how Catholics do it (or it least this wasn't the way Catholics did it when I was growing up), and since I was raised Catholic this is what I know and think of as "normal."  I guess I also associate talking a lot about Jesus/god with being very super-secure in your faith, and while I think a great deal on theological/existential issues, I certainly don't feel secure about faith in any way, shape or form.  Hearing people talk joyfully and securely about Jesus/god only serves to make my faith insecurities all the more glaring.

In my head, I think I've always thought that people who believe very strongly in Jesus/god are just okay with whatever happens in their lives because they know god is on their side, taking care of them.  Because I don't feel secure in this belief, I thought this explained my general nature of wrangling/wrestling/struggling with most everything.

It dawned on me, attending the visitation for my students' mom and watching her video, that just because a person has strong faith doesn't mean they aren't terrified, doesn't mean they are perfectly okay with what is happening to them, doesn't mean they aren't sad and deeply hurt that they are leaving behind the ones they love.  While they might find comfort easier in their belief in Jesus/god than someone like me would, they experience the same human feelings that anyone would experience in the same situation.

Any mother, regardless of her faith or lack thereof, would worry and wonder, "How will my children cope?"  She would hate the idea of missing so many big events in her children's lives.  A mother knows her children need her, and to not be there to comfort her children is a pain no mother would want to experience.  A mother's first fear is that her children will die.  Her next fear is that she will die before her children are adults.

On the day their mother died, the older sister emailed me to let me know she and her sister wouldn't be in class that week, and I was stunned.  A 17-year-old girl, whose mother had just passed away within the past couple hours, had the wherewithal to email her teacher to let her know that she wouldn't be in class.  I'm not sure whether this is a testament to her faith or her extreme maturity, but I, as a 40-year-old, would likely be on the floor curled up in the fetal position following my mother's death rather than taking on the responsibilities of my life.

I told one of the preschool teachers yesterday at church (with whom I sometimes have theological discussions) that I think god understands that any messages to me need to come from way out, indirectly in far left field.  Understanding faith is not going to be an obvious, easy, straight-forward thing for me.  Like the old man at Walgreens.  I'm not going to pay attention to holy speak or anything resembling surety.

I'm dripping in incompleteness, and that is where I find moments of understanding faith.  

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