This can become the Deathbed Conversion thread I've been plotting for over a month now.
Oh my god, my heart is aching for you right now, our lovely Sabine Louise, and Hubby and Dude. I am thinking of you, and crying, and sending you love and comfort and peace.
sabine louise said:
This can become the Deathbed Conversion thread I've been plotting for over a month now. I grew up in a Lutheran church. In fact, THE LARGEST LUTHERAN CHURCH IN THE FREE WORLD. That must be done in all caps. Sorry.
I grew up believing. God was the main focus. Jesus was accepted, but not the main focus. His self-sacrifice was examined in small group bible studies. Church was a big part of my life. I was there at least twice a week for choir rehersal, a youth group meeting or 2 and singing in 2 services each Sunday. Faith was personal. The things that reverberated in my soul and connected me to something greater than myself were those transcendant experiences with music when performing with the choir, hiking in the northwoods at church camp or doing community service projects.
Then I went away to college and truly encountered fundamentalism. I tried to become involved in a campus Christian group and was so repulsed by their intolerance. They were the minority on a very liberal campus. Maybe they adpoted an aggressive defensive posture since they felt persecuted and singled out. Don't we all see that now, even when the Religious Right has no reason to need the defensiveness? That's part of their genius! We're persecurted! Stay strong! Circle the wagons! Root out the infidel! But I digress.
I learned that I can still have these sacred and deeply idiosyncratic experiences (the music, hiking, yoga, volunteerism, etc) that lead to deep connections with what is sacred all around me in the allegedly profane world. The connectedness is with the physical world and the people in it.
I've struggled a little bit with what I want to pass on to my son. He attends a Jewish preschool (because it rocks) and he is getting some Old School, yet age appropriate, monotheism along with a moral code that hubby and I like. I kept wanting to find a uber-liberal church, just this side of Unitarianism. Something with which both of us could be comfortable. Husband was raised Catholic and still feels that he's culturally Catholic, but agnostic and socially progressive.
So there I was and I was good with that. Then this last July they found a brain tumor and I faced surgery. Husband laid in bed praying the Rosary and I was up before dawn reading the my favorite verses in Isaiah from my confirmation Bible. Then I recieved a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, for which the mean life expectancy is 3 to 5 years. That's how this plays out. 3-5 years is the mean survival prognosis for my stage, grade and type of tumor. Those 2 terrible numbers are the middle of the bell curve, when the Dude is 7 to 9 years old and when my husband is still in his mid-40's.
We have many things working in our favor to push my years of survival higher: pre-op symptoms mild, post-op recovery excellent, came through surgery neurologiocally intact, young, otherwise in good health, medically stable, tolerating chemo and radiaiton well. My work now is to push for temporary periods of remission where the tumor shrinks or at least remains stable. If I can do this, I can stay alive for 10, 15, maybe even 20 years and be the statistical outlier. That's now my goal: to become the statistical outlier for my diagnostic group. I want this to be a chronic condition which I manage.
I haven't really gone into the bad things/good people. I'm still stunned that it's happened at all. The recurring thought is, "How did I get us into this mess?" I thought I knew trouble (see: SL's Dad and the Unbearable Life of the Daughter of an Alcoholic; I know I don't have a monopoly on this one). I look back on periods of teen-hood and early adulthood where I sought out the deep & troubled. Now it's on me for real and I couldn't shake it off if I tried.
And I need comfort. And I need to know that my husband and the Dude will have comfort. I need stained glass and hymns and quiet meditation and a place where I know they can have my funeral. I don't know if it can be the same spiritual experience for all of us. I've been stalking a United Church of Christ (the ones who accept gays, not the Kevin Bacon-Footloose-no dancing-no music ones) church a mile from our house and went to a Sunday service with a friend a few weeks ago. They're just this side of Unitarianism. It may work for me and I think the Dude would be happy there. The pastors (a man and woman) are wonderful. They met with me impromptu when I wandered in on a Monday afternoon. They spoke with me as I wept. They showed me their meditation garden with the labrynth thingie you walk . We talked about their congregation's comittment to social causes including NAMI (Nat'l Assoc for Mental Illness), survivors of childhood abuse, the acres of wildflower gardens on their site which they tend to and preserve and their mission to be "open and affirming." They offered me support and a place where I could explore my spirituality with, as the male pastor said, a sense of discipline. Not in the way that one disciplines a child, but discipline as a course of study, an exercise program, intention and commitment.
So here I am, feeling like a sell-out on my near deathbed conversion. It's not being born again or returning to a faith I'd lost. I don't plan to pray for specific lab results or outcomes to procedures. I just need to be still and know that there is something bigger than me that is aware of this, not orchestrating it or responsible for it. That there is some purpose, but I may never know what it could be. It gives others comfort to pray for me, even if they pray in a way that creeps me out. I'll take it. It's positive and it envelopes me in a wash of cosmic woo that I'm not above acknowledging.
I've always though in analogies (rocked that part of the GRE, I bet). I think I'm ready to weave something from my life and I need a loom. This church could become the loom for my warp and weft. Did I get the terms right? I'm still missing part of my brain.
I hope all the things she wrote here came true for her. That she did find that comfort and that her family has that now.
Thanks, mcglory, for thinking of this post and bringing the conversation back to the playground to remind us. I missed this original thread, and it makes a huge difference that I can read it now in light of what has happened. I hope, too, that she found the comfort she needed and that her family is supported by the church she chose.
It wasn't me! It was MM. But apply what you said to her, I was thankful she brought this thread back and to read SL's words. :)
Thank you MM, for finding this. I missed this thread and I'm so sad I wasn't a part of it.
I didn't know SL well, sadly, but I've thought about her a lot as I learned of her worsening diagnosis, and of her family, and have been praying (yep, praying) they have love and support around them right now. I hope she was able to keep that beauty she wrote about with her. And reading her post here reminds me: she was funny as hell.
My best friend and I were talking recently about heaven, and she made the excellent point that there is no harm in thinking about people spending eternity as their best selves, with robes and gold sandals and soft clouds and wings and peace. If I had to say goodbye, the idea of being able to look down on my kid as he grows up, like a perpetually gently smiling spy satellite, is better than any of the alternatives I can currently imagine.
Thank you, MM, for finding this thread. I remember this conversation and can't believe it took place three years ago - though for Sabine Louise's sake, I'm glad it didn't happen more recently. I'm so sorry for her family.
I was pointed to some Philip Larkin online recently, specifically the death poem "Aubade", but it seems so false to my version of atheism. I feel like his An Arundel Tomb is the clearer word on things. Goodbye Sabine Louise. Here is one of the many places displaying the imprint of your love.
Thank you for bringing this back to us. I also hope that she was able to see those wildflowers and find a moment of peace there.
Michael - I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't think your thoughts are out of line. The fact that shit happens isn't pleasant, but I find it infinitely more comforting than "what did I/you/he/she/they do wrong?"