Missing You

There are days when I don’t know how to feel. Every other pain in my life I’ve gotten over. Breaking up with a boyfriend, a friend, a husband; losing jobs, unrequited love, feelings of inadequacy, etc. Those feelings were fleeting. I knew that they would be replaced with a new joy: a new boyfriend, friend, husband, job, requited love. But how does one get over the loss of one’s 24 year old child? Death is not reversible. A child can never be replaced. Death is permanent, unchangeable, the only true thing in this life. The only thing we all have in common; the only guarantee in this life. For the first 27 years of my life I did not know Nick. I felt no void then. But now that I had the joy and privilege to have him in my life for 24 short years, I could never ever feel the same again. That’s why I never understood the whole concept of the story of Job: after losing all ten of his children, God blessed him with more. A million children more in my life could not fill the hole in my heart left by Nick’s passing.

I remember when my sister told me about her sister-in-law not being able to get over the death of her 16 year old son. At the time, I felt bad, but could not understand exactly why she couldn’t just pick up and move on. You see, the idea of losing a child was foreign to me and subconsciously so far removed from me, that I didn’t even dare imagine what she was feeling.

And now here I am. And I have no clue how to feel. Most days, people would think that I’m ok. Most have called me strong. I get up; I go to work. I joke; I smile, even laugh. I search the internet and post everything I can find that would help in the fight against addiction. I try to get anyone who would listen to me to change laws in how we deal with drugs and addiction. I tell people that I know that Nick is in a better place. The truth is I don’t know. I have no clue where Nick is. And not knowing where your child is horrifying. All I know is that on February 11, 2014, my son Nick was at my house, kissed me goodnight and told me he loved me. The next morning I woke up to find his lifeless body, blue and cold to the touch. In front of me was just an empty body. And I don’t know where Nick is.

I know the body is at Maplewood Cemetery. I imagine that it is slowly rotting away. Notice how the body of the dead is referred to as “it”. It is no longer human. It is no longer Nick. So where is Nick? He was Christian, so I’m supposed to believe that he is with God, or Jesus.  But the truth is I’m like Thomas. I need to see to believe.

What I know is that I’ll never see his body moving again, that his lips will never again kiss my cheek. That there will be no more hopes that maybe next Mother’s Day, we will go out for lunch. No more hopes that he will get his life together, beat this disease, get married have children. There are no more daydreaming of him surrounded by a loving family in a backyard firing up a grill, watching a Yankee game. No daydreaming that he would come to my house and take care of me in my old age, as he had promised.

My mom always says that hope is the last thing you lose, but she didn’t tell me what do to do when you lose that hope. Sure, I hope to see him again when I’m no longer walking on this Earth. I guess that is the only hope I have left. But forgive me if I’m bit skeptical. Now I know that hope can be lost, how can I be certain that I’m hoping for naught?

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Life is Not Beautiful

Life is beautiful. I’ve heard this statement so many times, often nodding in agreement, because it seemed like it was the expected thing to do. To accept this statement at face value is to bring hope; to squelch my feelings of quite the opposite: that life is anything but beautiful. When someone tells me this, I look into their eyes to catch a glimpse of that sentiment. I want to feel for a moment what they are feeling; to see through their eyes what they are seeing, wanting to believe that it is me who sees the world distorted whose perspective misses the “beauty” who wants to deny the reality of what my eyes and ears perceive.

But is it really me who’s in denial about life’s beauty? I guess it all depends on how one defines beauty. Oh sure, life has many beautiful moments: the birth of a child, a sunrise, a sunset, a beautiful landscape, a blooming flower, falling in love and have it be requited and many other joyful, awe inspiring occurrences in a person’s life. Those are all beautiful moments, but they are individual moments enjoyed by the ego, or the individual. For me to grasp the beauty of those moments, I have to deny the existence of every other evil/ugliness that is occurring at that precise instant. While I hold my baby close to me and kiss his sweet cheeks and hold his tiny little finger and thanks the heavens for this gift, I choose not to acknowledge that another child in another place is suffering malnutrition, or abuse, or has lost a mother or father to war or disease or accident. I choose not to see that a mother has lost a child to death by whatever means. I choose to deny that almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. Or that there are currently fifteen African countries involved in some kind of war or that death by terrorism worldwide has increased 83% since 2013. While enjoying the miracle of my child, I do not want to know about, poverty, addiction, disease, decay, crime, wars, terrorism, pollution, natural disasters, accidents and every other worldly calamity. My mind refuses to go there and only sees the innocence of my child and my senses experience only joy when holding my child. And for a moment, I feel that life is beautiful. The experience of beauty in our lives acts as an emotional anesthetic, dulling the collective pain of the world.

But life is not beautiful. Life is chaos. Life is threatening. Life is a struggle. From the moment we are born, we are merely trying to survive. Some survive better than others. But in the end we all lose the race, for none survive. To live is to die. And no one makes it to the finish line unscathed. Some of us have more beautiful moments in our lives than others. So life may be the quest to experience as many beautiful moments as possible. But life itself is not beautiful.

What is beautiful is the human spirit. A spirit that since time immemorial keeps searching for beauty in its purest form. A child takes his first breath and like an addict taking his first hit, gets a glimpse, of what could be. And for the rest of our lives we are chasing that vision. Isn’t this what our founders intended when they gave us the right to the “pursuit” of happiness? That’s what we all do. We are in constant pursuit of that elusive, ephemeral beauty. We hold on to those beautiful moments life offers us and we cling to the hope of making those moments eternal, real, the norm rather than the rarity.

I think the movie “Life is Beautiful” expressed this excellently. While in a Nazi concentration camp, dad shields the child from all the cruelty, savagery and ugliness of the place and the humans guarding it. His love for his child created a fantasy world (a beautiful world) in which the child to live. He did not allow the ugliness to squelch his spirit his hope that while life was not beautiful for him, it may be for his son. He passed the dream/hope on to his son the way a relay racer passes the baton.   If we all keep on holding on and keep pursuing it, someday, we may win the race and attain a beautiful life.

relay race

Am I an Atheist

In my 53 years I’ve gone from being ambivalent about God, to believing in a god, astrology, new age, Buddhism and even almost becoming a fundamentalist Christian, to finally realizing that there is no god.  Now to come to this conclusion, I had to do a lot of soul searching if you will, a lot of questioning and thinking.

First I had to ask the right questions: i.e., do I not believe in the existence of any god or god-like thing, or do I not believe in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God.  Well, the latter was easy to answer:  No, I do not believe in the “existence” of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim God.  So by this I mean, I do not believe he’s real.  I think he is a mythological character concocted by the Israeli people and adopted by Christians and Muslims just like the Greeks had Zeus and the Romans had Apollo.  Yahweh, Jehovah is as real as those two.  And although Christ may have been a real character, he was definitely not born of a holy spirit and a virgin.  Nor do I believe that he died and resurrected on the 3rd day and rose to heaven.

But does this make me an atheist?  The  American Atheist organization defines atheism as a lack of belief in gods, which is no the same as disbelief in gods or a denial of gods. Agnostic, on the other hand, is defined as a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.  So an agnostic does not necessarily claim to believe that there’s no god, rather, they don’t claim to believe god is as it’s defined by the different religions; i.e., if there’s a god, an agnostic does not necessarily believe that this god answers prayers or does miracles.  They’re on the fence.  Maybe God is real, maybe he’s not.  Who knows, and basically, who cares?

So based on this I’m not an agnostic.  I can emphatically state that I don’t have a religious faith.  I don’t pray and I don’t believe in divine intervention.  And I believe that the gods of all religions are nothing but mythological characters.  But just because it is my belief that these gods are not real, does it mean that there’s no possibility for the existence of something greater than ourselves.  After all, no one (not a scientist, an atheist, a Buddhist, Christian/Muslim/Jewish knows with certainty what happens when a human being dies.  No one!  We know the body dies.  But does the mind die too?  We know the theories and we know the religious beliefs.  But the theory has not been proven, nor have the religious beliefs.  There’s all these quantum theories, which I cannot explain, much less claim to understand.  But a lot of those theories are as mind-boggling as believing in a celestial heaven.  It’s hard to grasp the concept; to wrap your mind around it.

Now, my belief in the possibility of an after-life, or the possibility of the existence of something greater than ourselves does not mean that were these to be true that they are necessarily better than what we have here on Earth or that this power is something that is there for us to summon for its help or comfort.  I just believe in the possibility that there could be something more beyond this Earthly life.  There’s so much that we humans yet don’t know or understand about life, our universe, our cosmos that to discount the possibility of some kind of existence beyond human death is disingenuous.  Now I know this could be my wishful thinking because the idea of going into nothingness is something that our human instinct of survival refuses to accept.  But at the very least, I want to  believe in something, cling to the hope that we do continue somehow.  Were this to be just a fantasy, well, no harm done.  If we die and become non-existent, I won’t feel the disappointment that there was nothing there after all.  And non-existence after life is better than the alternative.   I hope the atheists are right and indeed there is no god and no after life.  Imagine the horror were we to find out that Yahweh, Jehovah, Zeus, Apollo and the like are real.  We would all be at the mercy of fanatical, totalitarian, blood-thirsty, racist, sexists dictators.  And I’m talking about heaven.

So am I an atheist?  Maybe I’m a pseudo atheist.  I believe that there is no god as such, but cling to the hope that something better than this exists beyond this life, this earth, this world.  And that somehow that something is within our reach.  Is not faith..it’s hope.