Relapse

In early February an event occurred which led to a brief relapse in my spiritual journey. The ‘First Lady'(for those unfamiliar with the term it means a pastors’ wife) of a church I briefly attended in my late teens passed away suddenly. She was very young and she quite literally dropped dead. She was out for a walk and collapsed from a brain aneurysm and was pronounced deceased upon arrival at the hospital. Just shy of forty seven, she was the exact same age as my Mom was when she passed in 2005.

When a friend called me to inform me of the First Lady’s passing, I was completely shocked. Though it had been years since I’d seen her, in my mind she was still the same outgoing and bubbly woman. Finding out that she was now gone completely floored me! You always assume that people will live to a ripe old age but sometimes that just isn’t the case. The fact that she was in great health and was so young made me think of death and question my own mortality. It’s so easy to just get up everyday, going through your routine without thinking about the grave. Then someone dies and it makes you reflect.

Before my Mom passed I certainly had experiences with death. But it wasn’t until she passed that my own mortality was finally brought home to me. I can still remember the day of her funeral. Afterwards I laid on my bed in my old room, looking up at the ceiling dry faced and thinking to myself: One day I am going to die too. I am going to die, and when I do my daughter is going to experience the same pain and loneliness in her heart that I am feeling right now! The thought was both sobering and disturbing for me. Sobering because it out things in perspective. Disturbing because it was a reality that I couldn’t do anything about.

So last week I ended up back in the same place I was when I buried my mother: thinking of my mortality and trying to come to grips with it. I wondered about the First Lady-what she felt at the moment her soul left, if anything. And where was she now? Was she simply unconscious, ceasing to feel anything at all? Depending on what one believes in terms of spirituality there can be multiple responses to that question. But none of us can say for sure. It’s all just guessing and we won’t find out for sure until we experience death ourselves.

As I reflected some of my old fears returned. What if there is an afterlife? What if Hell and the Lake of Fire are real? I am so ashamed to admit it, but all of those ‘hellfire and brimstone’ sermons from my time in the church came back with a vengeance. The thought of being thrown into a Lake of Fire and burning for eternity gave me panic attacks three nights in a row. When I’d take a deep breath and calm down, I’d realize that I was being silly and was simply letting my indoctrination get the best of me. The idea of a Loving and Merciful God committing such a reprehensible act as burning His creation for eternity is contradictory and irrational. And my mind knows that. But old beliefs die hard. My experience last week has shown me that I still have a way to go on my road to recovery from religious indoctrination. I’m not free yet, but I will still work at shedding those chains.

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A native Seattleite and recent East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been. I reside in the suburbs of NYC with my husband, daughter, and our two feisty but deeply loved cats.

3 thoughts on “Relapse

  1. Last night I had something like this happen. Not so much the same as what you went through, but just ruminating over the fact that I am going to die. I am going to experience death. It made me start thinking about what I value. What do I value in life? Am I living up to my full potential in life?

    I think the concept of eternity is what always throws me into the unending tide of questions and fears. No matter what our beliefs, death is eternal. Whether we are in heaven, hell, some form of subconscious energy, or just dead in the ground with nothing after, it is eternal.

    Hell never scares me. In fact, I don’t believe in it. I was not raised in any religion so I know this is why the concept of hell has no effect on me. I could never wrap my mind around God punishing us for not following instructions, like praying 5 times a day, for instance. I think our upbringing plays a larger role in how we are as adults, than we can even understand. I keep coming back to the same question: Is raising our children into a certain religious belief, a form of brainwashing? And even if it is, is this largely for the better, or the worse?

    Anyways, I am famous for making comments that go off topic, so I’ll stop here. LOL

  2. Even as a practicing and devout Muslim I never really believed in hell, which is interesting considering how often the Quran threatens it’s reader with the eternal lake of fire. I know Muslims that pray and plead for Allah to save them from the hellfire and I just never got that. It was off putting in fact. At least I THOUGHT I didn’t believe in hell, but since leaving Islam, there have been some specific moments that I’ve felt a real fear. I’ve wondered if “what if” it’s all true and I’m going to be eternally tortured. Of course I don’t really believe that, but as you said, old habits die hard and it takes awhile to reprogam your mind.

  3. Greetings from Western Australia
    Thank you for sharing your experiences like you have. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your entire blog today. I find your insights very helpful. Your honest and compassionate expession is admirable.
    Again, I thank you very much, and I wish you well.
    Sincerely
    Lars

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