Well, dear readers, if you’ve tuned in today for a bit of a laugh, you’re going to be a tad disappointed. I realise blogs these days are supposed to be market-driven, strategic and written geared to a certain audience. But mine has just become the contents of my mind finally finding an outlet, a desperate smoke-signal whilst lost at sea – searching for other like-minded people. It’s the closest thing to a diary I’ve ever had (but a diary I leave open on the table for everyone to see).
I may portray myself as somebody who doesn’t give much of a toss, but that’s all bluff and bravado. Actually I don’t enjoy conflict and I would be mortified if I’d knowingly upset somebody (or unknowingly). I only tell you that because this post at least has the potential to offend someone – or at least their belief-system, and I can only promise that is not my intent. I wouldn’t exactly say I’ve led a charmed life, but I’ve always managed to land on my feet. I come from a poor, working-class family with very few advantages handed to us and although my life has had its ups and downs, things generally turned out okay. From every negative came a positive; I learned from the tough times. Sometimes they were blessings in disguise. My glass was always half-full, not half-empty. Everything would turn out okay in the end. I was raised as a Catholic and although I didn’t attend church terribly often, right into my adult life, I believed there to be a God. And the reason I believed this with such certainly was that I always had this funny feeling there was somebody unseen looking out for me.
I know I keep on about this, but if you allow that this is pretty much my diary, you’ll forgive me. As you may know, my sister died in 2011 at the age of 42. She was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in 2010 and the family were advised that the cancer was too widely spread throughout the bowel so her treatment would only be palliative. She didn’t smoke, she exercised, she lived a healthy life – they said it was just ‘bad luck’. But of course, being that there was ‘somebody looking out for me‘ (and mine), I refused to believe this. So I prayed. I made bargains. ‘If you let my sister live I will do this, if you let her live I will be that.’ I have a medical background; I’ve witnessed death throughout my working life and although it upset me, I toughened up because I couldn’t do my job with any professionalism if I didn’t. And even though I had that experience, even though I knew her prognosis to be worse than poor, I prayed for a miracle. Because you see, she was my sister and this sort of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to us.
Two days before her death, as I lie next to her on her bed, that familiar smell of disease in my nostrils – she looking like a prisoner from Auschwitz, me listening out for her every breath and wondering if that would be the last, well it was then that I admitted it to myself. God wasn’t going to save her at all. Nobody had been listening to those prayers and pleas. And at six o’clock in the morning when the telephone rang and the news that she was dead was passed on, that was the moment I lost my religion.
Good, innocent people die every day – children are murdered, human beings suffer unimaginable, brutal deaths. I knew that, but my whole life I believed my God had made us free and didn’t intervene. However, this injustice had touched my life – and my rage knew no bounds. What God would allow somebody so kind and blameless to be eradicated from the world? What God would leave a grieving husband and child of eleven who needed his mother behind; their lives utterly broken? What God would take her from our family, a family that imploded after her loss? The universe was a far better place with her in it, her existence was important – so why did she have to cease to be? But still that little dreamer in my head wouldn’t be quieted. There would be a sign. She would contact me from the afterlife…there had to be an afterlife, right? How could somebody so energetic and benevolent and so loved just stop existing? But no sign ever came. There was no afterlife. And our lives would never be the same; the hysterically funny telephone calls, the cards and presents on Birthdays and at Christmas, the weekend visits we paid to each other; everything stopped – because she just wasn’t there anymore.
You may think I was stupid to hang on to my faith as long as I did. ‘Haven’t you heard of Darwin?’. I wasn’t a simpleton; I didn’t believe in Adam and Eve, I knew that evolution was fact, I didn’t believe the bible to have any real credibility. I just had this sense that there was somebody else, that the little voice in my head telling me what I should do wasn’t always mine. There’s nothing I dislike more than people who poke fun at other’s religion. I can’t stomach that popular media thinks it has the right to totally dismiss people of faith as fools. Some say that all religion ever did was start wars, but mass murder can be at the hands of believers and atheists. There are evil people in every faction of life. I know good people who are very private about their religion, they don’t shove it down your throat – it is a comfort to them. And who are we to say that’s wrong? Recently my family and I were out for a walk in the country and got lost. We happened upon a church, it’s congregation just leaving the service. As we went in to ask for directions, they invited us in for coffee – not to brainwash us, just because they were nice people. But we didn’t stay – partly because their God was now remote from me and I didn’t belong anymore.
So believe in what you will – whether it be in God or some other deity, whether you be of standard religion or spiritualist or something more new-age. Whether you be atheist, agnostic or just hedging your bets. And if you believe that this life we have – here and now – that’s all there is, well you may just be right. I hope whatever you believe gives you comfort because there are rough times ahead for all of us – and those times are going to shake your perception on life. And me? Well, I don’t know where I stand now; maybe I no longer believe in a higher being. That voice of reason in my head might have been mine after all. I just don’t know. But if you do trust in a creator and you have an unshakable certainty of it; then I hope you’re right…and that I have been very wrong to doubt it. We’ll just have to wait and see.