I’m not religious. I grew up in the Episcopal church, but my family was really more into the social aspects of that community and never really pushed the Bible stuff on us kids. I remember how happy my dad was eating doughnuts and pastries and sipping on black coffee after the service; we were always the last family to leave because he liked to talk to <i>everyone</i>. They elected him Senior Warden, the highest rank for a layperson…I think it was a matter of no one else wanting to do it, but he was so proud.
We stopped attending church when my sister grew ill, our priorities changed and we instead spent weekends in Boston hospitals learning dire words like “myelodysplastic” and seeing firsthand just how hard a run of chemo and radiation is on the weakened body of a child. My mom moved temporarily into the city, and the church ladies would come by every couple of days with suspicious looking casseroles for my dad and I…this was so comforting to me as meals had become my responsibility, but despite the outpouring of caring my teenage spirit had withered. I grew angry with the Universe and any deity that may technically be able to fuck with the people I loved.
But things happened. I got sober on April 22, 2004 and a lot of talk of God and God’s will infiltrated my everyday world. I resented it for awhile, but I was dying. I do believe in living life based on spiritual and moral principles, but there is no overarching religious belief system that controls my values. I keep that personal to myself. However, while I may not be able hold my own in an analytic conversation about the Bible, I do value community and charity. The old ladies at St. Peter’s Episcopal taught me that without proselytizing, and for that I’m forever grateful. They shaped my value system more than hellfire and brimstone ever could have.
But now I’m alone. I don’t have a community to lean on for support and man, am I misguided and jaded. I never believed in an afterlife, in prayer, none of it. But when Molly died, things changed. I absolutely have to keep believing that I will see her again, that one day beyond planet Earth and all its mundanities I will finally be able to hold her in my arms. My sister will be there too, my beloved maternal grandparents, the friends I’ve lost to suicide and drug overdoses, and all my cats. The fantasy spins out…my little squirrel Scooter, that pudgy friend that used to come visit me on my patio daily so I could hand feed him peanuts; well, he’ll come tumbling towards me like he used to and welcome me to Paradise. Even if I am a sinner. Even if I’ve been right all along about the non-existence of God.
I’m a skeptic, aware that I may be delusional or worse, lying to myself. But I can’t get through my days without this fantasy. I’ve tried, but I absolutely cannot do it. So I won’t.