Two weeks ago my brother-in-law, who suffered unmercifully at the hands of the evil CANCER, finally passed away. It was a relief for those who watched him suffer, but it was also cruel and brutal.
He had three children from a first marriage, my two nieces and a nephew, all grown, and my two very young nieces, from his marriage to my sister. They are six and nine. We attended the funeral at a mortuary, which was Paul’s choice, because he wanted ALL his friends to be comfortable and feel accepted, not just his Mormon friends.
But, of course, being a believing Mormon, he asked two of his spiritual leaders to speak. One was okay. He seemed to realize he was going to lose some of us if he read from the Book of Mormon, and so he spoke from the heart. It was Mormon speak, but it was okay.
The second speaker should have been marched out of the building, covered in duct tape and left in the snow because he was reading from the Book of Mormon, and quoting it, and saying the same thing over and over. Now I was sitting in the front row, being family and all, so I was like a target. His eyes met mine, and he was determined, DETERMINED, I tell you, to convince me of the truthfulness of what he was talking about. He was trying to convince ME and probably all the other non-believers, of the TRUTH of what he and Paul and my sister, and all the Mormons around me believed. He kept meeting my eyes, and I tried to be nice. Finally, I gave him the cocked head, “Are you KIDDING me?” look, and he got worse. I turned to my daughter and said, “Do you have a buzzer on your phone, because Paul wanted this funeral to be short, and this guy has gone WAAAAYYY over his quota.”
She laughed. No buzzer. More eye contact, more Book of Mormon, more “This is the only true thing.” The more antsy I got, the more personal he got. He was going to convince me, because he KNEW I was a non-believer. I guess it’s my fault he went off on his repetitive tangent, because I probably even rolled my eyes, even though I didn’t mean to do it.
Finally, he gave up, probably because he realized there was going to be an uprising if he didn’t. Not from me, but from everybody else in there, including the Mormons.
When you asked people afterward what they thought of the funeral, the best parts were his older children speaking, my sister speaking, and the bagpiper playing his final lament.
They also loved the six white doves Birdman released and the 52 blue balloons (Paul’s age) that were released. My niece Fluffy wore her dad’s tie to both services, and told me her favorite part was that she got to count when they released the balloons.
RubySue, who has Asperger’s, spent a lot of time holding her dad’s hand and stroking his hair, which was creeping people out so they sent her with someone to get ice cream. But in her world, this was probably normal behavior. She was saying goodbye. She said she would miss his kisses on her cheek.
Death is something we don’t understand. My granddaughter Peanut was quite fascinated by the dead body in the casket, and would have crawled in if I let her. She was not fearful. Neither was RubySue. But the adults… oh we fear death.
And why? Because we don’t know what waits for us out there. And people of all religious ilk constantly say they do. “I know…” “I know this church is true.” “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet.” “I know we will see Paul again, and we will live together where there is no pain.”
To know something means you understand it, it is there, tangible, and you can prove it.
The truth is, these people KNOW nothing of the sort. They BELIEVE it. There is a huge difference. And why they cannot accept this is something I don’t get.
I respect their beliefs. I respect their right to BELIEVE what they want. I respect it a whole lot more than I ever used to, probably because I am getting older and I understand…. I understand loss. I understand that you will believe just about anything when you are grieving and need comfort.
My father is still grieving my mother, who we lost six months ago, and he clings to the Mormon theology like a dying man clings to a lifevest. Is this wrong? Nope. Do I understand it? Yes.
I walk away from theology arguments with him now, but not for the reasons he thinks. I walk away because I don’t want to argue his belief with him. I don’t want to take away the one thing he is clinging to, that is getting him through every day. I don’t want to argue it, because I am not out to destroy a fragile old man who misses his wife of 52 years EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don’t need to prove that he is wrong. I don’t WANT to prove that he is wrong.
Of course, he still wants to prove to me that he is right. My sister, also very religious, is also clinging to her religious beliefs, and who the hell can blame her? She lost our mother and now her husband, the love of her life.
I suppose what it comes down to is brain matter. The way our brains work. Because the thought processes of some people are VERY different from others. I have a friend who is an atheist. She is very comfortable with this. I consider myself agnostic, because I DON’T know. I am very comfortable with this. I have many friends who are deists. They want everyone else to believe what they believe because they are terrified that it is not true and they are going to die and to go into nothingness.
Validation is what they seek. A bedtime story that will soothe their fears. But it doesn’t work that way. The truth is, NO ONE KNOWS. They only “believe.”
The day after the funeral was the “blessing” of our newest granddaughter. Which means it was “I KNOW” day in the Mormon Wardhouse (otherwise known as Fast and Testimony Meeting). The day where everyone stands up and tells you just exactly what they KNOW TO BE TRUE, and what will happen to you if you don’t believe it, too. We stayed for the blessing, which was first, and then slipped out. I had pants on. I might as well have had a bullseye on my butt.
We got while the getting was good. Sooner or later, someone is going to get wise and put the baby blessings at the END of “I KNOW” day. Please do not suggest this. In fact, if you KNOW the church is true, go ahead and call me anti and run away, because I will never sit through one of those again.
They are painful, and sad, and filled with empty promises of a life beyond that people desperately want to believe is there.
I am not telling you it isn’t there. I’m also not telling you it is.
We don’t know. Maybe one day we will find out. Or not.
I KNOW this is true. Paul, you will be missed. And I hope you’re right. Hope I catch you on “the flipside.”