Scattered Thoughts on Religion

Ever since my world crashed down around me nearly four months ago, I’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering about God. Does God exist? If so, where was God when my baby was dying? And why didn’t God save her? Is God punishing me? Does heaven exist? Is that where she is? Can she see me? Will I see her again? Does she know how much I love her? How much I miss her?

I recall the early days, the blackest of black days, the shades in our bedroom down 24/7. Me, curled in the fetal position in bed, clutching a small purple baby quilt the hospital gave us, repeating the mantra-like words that Jenny prays in the film Forrest Gump“Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here. Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here. Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away from here.” The emotional pain was so intense it crept into my heart, literally, and I felt as though somebody were wringing my heart like a wet washcloth. I finally understood the true meaning of the phrase broken heart.

The minister from my Unitarian Universalist church visited our home after our daughter died.  I recall asking him if I was being punished by God, and this man, whom I do not know well at all, said “a punishment for what? Why would God punish you?” Although I shrugged noncommittally, in my head I was thinking: punishment for abandoning my Christian faith,  for yelling at my 3 year old,  for resenting my pregnancy, for not fully appreciating all that my husband does for me…

I had a laundry list of sins deserving this pain. If something this horrific had happened to me, surely I did something to deserve it.

In the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Jewish rabbi Harold Kushner explores some of the universal questions that humans ask when tragedy strikes. I’ll admit, despite the recommendation that I read this book and the amazing reviews online, I had a difficult time trudging through it.  There is one particular passage that angered me. Kushner presents a hypothetical scenario in which an infant is born with a congenital heart defect. He outlines two possibilities for the child’s life: “If he were to die shortly after birth, his parents would go home saddened and depressed, wondering what might have been. But then they would begin to make the effort to put the loss behind them and look to the future.” He then goes on to paint a different outcome, in which the baby is saved by the advances of modern medicine, survives, and makes a life for himself until, at the age of 35, he dies. Kushner writes: “Now his death causes more than a few days of sadness. It is a shattering tragedy for his wife and children, and a profoundly saddening event for all the other people in his life.”

Let me repeat that: “now his death causes more than a few days of sadness.” A few days. I am on day one hundred eleven. 111 days. Of sadness. Of despair. Of crying. Of “shattering tragedy.” It is not only my husband and myself who have been affected. Our living daughter, our parents, my husband’s siblings and our friends and family have all been affected by the death of this tiny life.  It doesn’t feel right to tell a holy man to F-off.

Many people have offered prayers for me. I’ll take them. If prayers are futile, no harm done. But maybe, just maybe, there is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent deity somewhere “listening” to prayers. Who am I to say? As to what these believers pray for, or how prayer works, I do not have an answer.  I recently was fortunate enough to get a new job, an exciting opportunity, to which the details are not suited for this post. I was sharing this news with a woman I know, who practices the Muslim faith, and she raised her arms in the air, looked to the sky, and sang praises to the God she worships. I guess? But why would God grant me a new job and not save my baby girl? It just doesn’t make sense.

My Christian upbringing implores me to believe in God, an afterlife, a heaven. But I am selfishly, on a daily basis, asking The Universe/ God/ Divine Spirit/ Fate/ myself:

Why did this happen to me?”

“Why did this happen to me?”

“Why did this happen to me?

 

Regardless of your religion, faith, or belief system, I would love to know what you believe regarding your beloved who has passed.  Do you pray? If so, for what do you pray? How, if at all, do you make sense of the nonsensical tragedy you are enduring?