It’s been a little over eight months since my father died. It’s been a difficult eight months. Sometimes my grief wells up and spills over into tears when I’m not expecting it but for the most part I find that the wound heals a little more each day.
While I am still healing emotionally and have healed physically (the human stress response of cortisol elevation causes multiple problems for our health), the death of my father has led to significant and permanent changes in my relationship with God and my understanding of the world. As I posted in a previous entry, during his health crisis in his final weeks I researched tirelessly to try to find a way to prevent my father from dying, all to no avail. This failure to control the situation burdened me with immense guilt (what if I had just could have done something different to stop this?) and stirred up irrational anger in me against the doctors (why couldn’t they save him?).
After a time, with the help of others I was able to see reality as it stands: death is real, death is terrifying and death cannot always be stopped. This acceptance allowed me to let go of my anger against the doctors and much of my guilt but fueled an immediate and intense anger against God because it is he who ‘let’ this happen. I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry as in those months following Daddy’s death. Now you have to understand that I have heard stories of parents who turn away from God b/c their child dies and I always shook my head in disapproval sadly at their idolatry because I understood on a rational level that our loved ones do not belong to us and we must let them go and give them up to God when required without a grudge against God, lest we idolize another human over God. That all went out the window though when it happened to *me*. Now it was personal! Besides, I rationalized, this was totally different. I wasn’t mad at God over my father in a fit of idolatry, I was mad at God over the ENTIRE concept of death (which I never bothered to really think through before I was touched by it). To be touched by death is to have some of our childlike innocence and naivety brutally stripped away that we can never restore. We see the reality and the pain of what it means to die and what a horrific consequence it was that God dished out to our sinning humanity. To feel the sting of death and know it’s going to happen again when other loved ones die and even ourselves one day is a crushing blow to the spirit!
So I threw a temper tantrum. Literally. And when I was done crying I took God aside and let him know that death changes everything between us. I explained that when I gave him my life all those years ago that was *before* I understood how horrible death was and now that I really know the power of death and to know that he lets it happen left and right every day it is just too much. So I told God the deal was off, I was taking my life back! And just like that I stopped praying and stopped treating my life and my body and all that I have as if it were his. I didn’t even want to go to church anymore, but I kept up just so as not to make waves.
During the whole time I turned my back on God he was still there, patiently waiting for me to return. He worked diligently to engineer circumstances in a way to steer me away from real trouble over and over again while I was off trying to run my own life without him. I’m grateful for that, even though I did manage to still affect some minor damage to my life and loved ones while trying to pilot my own ship.
At some point in late summer it just sort of occurred to me one morning that by staging my little pretentious protest and abandoning God I was not going to get my way and that I was making life even more miserable. God is not going to dismantle death b/c I staged a protest. Death is still a reality as is God and all the railing against God and his ways that I don’t understand doesn’t change this reality. So I put away my protest signs and turned back to God and made an active decision to stop being angry.
Now, without the anger, I’m just left with a tiny little emotional scar that signifies my brush with death and as I’ve already alluded to, I’ve lost a good bit of innocence that has been replaced with a *personal* and painful knowledge of the consequences of evil in the world. While I am still by no means a true cynic, this newfound knowledge does weigh on my soul and chips a bit away from the unbounded optimism and love of this world that I previously displayed. Of course, the cynics among you will note that I’ve been very privileged in my first world upbringing to be able to hold onto that optimism unfettered for so long into adulthood – free until now from death, other violence, or general hardship that hardens hearts.