Yes, my friends, finally we’ve come to Part 3 of 3 in this the most depressing series of posts I ever hope to blog. What a bunch of troopers the remaining two of you are for continuing down this morbid little path of mine. 😉 You’ve heard how it started (sick dad), you’ve heard where it went (dead dad, and possibly some form of silent psychotic break on my part), and now I’ll finish up with how it ended. Or, rather, how it’s ending.
After my dad died, I did what I do best and disappeared into myself a little bit. Together with my family I did the business of cleaning up dad’s “estate” (a truck, a boat, some clothes, pictures and knick knacks, his huge collection of books from which I scored October Sky and Winnie the Pooh, some truly fabulous Playboys – which I signed “Love Tone-man” and gave out at what passed for a memorial service, and seven empty Patron bottles which now house my dry goods in kitchen).
I slogged through the memorial service held at his favorite hang-out in town, saw a few old faces (some I happily embraced, others I fantasized about punching in the throat), wished for a few others, and sort of said goodbye to my dad and the life I lived on the island. Because, after all, what’s there for me now but memories? And a life I can never reclaim.
And after that, when there was no more work to be done and nothing to keep me busy and distracted, I fought with myself and my restlessness. I fabricated reasons to get out of the house and drive, I sat in parking lots alone, I got lost in the ocean, and I thought about why and – possibly more importantly – what now?
I was never raised to be particularly religious. I went to church for a while so I could be in the choir, and I had a step-dad for a while that was your typical hypocritical bible-thumper. God seemed like a good idea for a while, especially overseas where there are no atheists in foxholes. And I’m definitely no theologian. I’ve not studied the bible. I studied world religions (topically), I’ve talked to people, I’ve read parts of the book, I’ve listened a lot, I’ve even read the Left Behind series and got into it at one point, and I like the principles of love, acceptance, compassion, kindness, etc. But very few of the religious types I see actually practice the good parts of the bible.
So the way I hear it – and, yes, I’m still working this out – there’s a Heaven (fluffy clouds, white light, and robes?) and a Hell (I think of everything from Dante’s Inferno to Adam Sandler’s version where Hitler wears a French maid’s uniform and has a pineapple shoved up his ass every day), and the “believers” go to Heaven and the “non-believers” go to Hell to suffer in torment and damnation for all eternity. (That’s the gist anyway.) I’m a logical person, so my dad – who I have no idea if he was a believer or not – ostensibly lived an emotionally tortured life, suffered a physically and emotionally tortured death, and now gets to spend eternity (whatever the hell – no pun intended – that is) being tortured some more because…Because…? Oh, just because. He (potentially) didn’t buy into an unproven worldview developed 3500 years ago and subsequently twisted and tortured to serve the perverse, selfish purposes and agendas of a society who, today, idolizes such magnanimous figures as Michael Vic and Miley Cyrus. Nothing says deity like a man who can throw a ball and a lost little girl who foam-fingers herself in public.
But I digress. The fall of western society and degradation of the human race as a result of the evolution of pop culture is a different blog for a different day.
Back to my dad roasting in hell.
Here’s the deal: I’m not okay with that. I can’t reconcile the idea of a merciful, loving deity who died for the salvation of his creations who then also allows torture to be an option. If you’re God, then be God and make that shit NOT OKAY. Oh, I’m sorry, you say Lucifer made that happen? Well then where the fuck were you, and why can’t you wink him out of existence or something? Either you’re omnipotent and all-powerful or you’re not. I’ve seen some sick shit in my day, but even for the worst of the monstrous people I’ve encountered, I’d never choose to spend my life making their existence a constant agony. You don’t get to have it both ways. So the Christian version of God I’m not so hip to. Logically it does not add up. The argument is invalid.
Because if it was valid, then I’d have no choice but to spend my life figuring out how to breach the walls of Hell, fight off legions of demons, and drag my dad’s toasty ass back to earth (or somewhere better because, if I can get into Hell, then wouldn’t logic dictate there’s also an entrance to Heaven through which a mere mortal such as myself could pass?) to finish up this eternity thing we all keep hearing so much about.
And for a little over a year that’s as far as I got. But then I let myself reflect on the things I’ve seen and done, the good people I’ve met, the love I’ve experienced, the friends and family I can’t live without (shout out to my mom who hasn’t gotten a lot of play in my blog series, but hang in there, Mommy, I’m just getting started), the work I do and the people it surrounds me with, and the home that lives in my heart, the places waiting just behind my eyelids when I look for my happy place:
So now I’m here: there’s something.
There’s something bigger than all of us. The thing we’re all made of, the thing that connects us, and makes us special and different, the thing that gives us gut feelings and tugs at our heart strings, the thing that inspires a person to run into a burning building to save a stranger, or cry when they hit a deer. The thing that tortures us with hope and makes us want to believe in superheroes.
Well…it makes me want to believe in superheroes. I’m partial to Captain America.
It makes me want to believe in the good in people.
But people keep disappointing me and reminding me that the good isn’t always there. And, somehow, it breaks my heart anew every time I stumble upon this very apparent fact. I just can’t seem to harden against it, no matter how many times I re-learn the lesson.
But here’s the thing: When I was sixteen, my dad sent me a card (sadly it’s long lost in the detritus of a divorce, following a marriage that started three months after my 18th birthday) out of the blue, for no reason at all, with this quote:
“It is easy in the world to live by the world’s opinions. It is easy in solitude to live by one’s own. But the great man/woman is he/she who in the midst of a crowd can keep, with perfect sweetness, the independence of solitude.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
And he wrote, “Never lose your attitude, Bug.” (Yes, he called me Bug. We can all have a good laugh now.)
So I guess I was born with my religion already in my DNA. My religion is to try and be the good. To act with love, kindness, and compassion. It’s not easy. I can be a real stone cold bitch (or a “pit viper” as my ex used to call me – I’m actually slightly flattered by that categorization), especially when I’m hurt or trying to avoid getting hurt. But it’s the only thing that makes sense to me anymore. My religion is what it seems it always has been – with my “attitude” dad was referring to, my stubbornness, my bullheaded approach, my tendency to shy away from yielding – it’s to live in this world and not let it change me.
So, I’m not sure about Heaven yet, but now you know why – for me – Hell is for Real. It’s not some deep pit at the center of the universe, it’s here on earth. It’s here where we get to watch loved ones die, where time marches mercilessly on and we get no second chances, where people prey on one another, where hope leads to hurt, and trust leads to pain, and where we’re all powerless to do anything about it.
Except to try and be the good.