When one life ends, another one begins, or so says the wives tale. This may be true in more than a few ways. Do you remember Fiddler On The Roof? How Tevye thought of prayer as more of a constant conversation with God? Even as a kid, I loved that. I loved Tevye talking throughout the day to God about his worries and things that make him grateful, and it was so incredible to me. So connected and down to earth. Not exalting God to a pillar where we couldn’t imagine him but rather thinking he walked along side you.
I moved so much in school and my parents, despite raising me Catholic were very open to my learning about other faiths. I kept to my spiritual path because, quite honestly, I loved it. But I loved learning about other faiths too. The more I learned, the more I thought, “We’re all in this trying to help people just be better people. Why on earth do we to rank or rate or denigrate faiths?” To me almost every faith made sense because I always tried to view it from a believers sight, not my own.
But anyways. We know there were lots of not great things that went on in my childhood. So I was like Tevye. In my head, I would talk to God, all day, every day, thankful I got through yet another fight, another day where I wandered and my heart hurt, thankful for the days that were bright and shiny too because they were to be treasured.
It was easiest to find God in Nature. I think for lots of kids, it really can be. I could sit very still and watch a doe drink water and sprint away when a leaf fluttered down. I could touch a tree and close my eyes and feel LIFE flowing. When hiking canyons, I could rest my head on a giant sandstone and hear the whispers of the soil as they shifted, hardened, and changed into rock.
I collected rocks. Rocks because they are a reminder of permanence but they are made of the most minuscule particles imaginable. Those particles whirled together and created something tangible. I started to mistakenly think that faith is built into tangible things too. It can be but not entirely.
Some ask very often, if I lost my faith when my father killed himself. It’s true. I found him dead. I also honored one of his suicide wishes, that I sing “Amazing Grace” at his funeral. It’s also true that there is a great deal that he did during my 18 years that I loathe. I’ve kept that no secret. Partly because I want my own children to know how deeply blessed they are to have a good, involved, devoted father. Eva also has a biological father that she builds her relationship with. I didn’t get this.
I would look at the smooth surfaces of rocks, the ripples of water in rivers, and touch trees to remember life. The day after my father died, the dawn was crisp and almost too bright. But you don’t not wake up at dawn after your father has killed himself, no matter how you slept the night before. I walked outside and the air had a bite and something said in my head “You go on.” I generally accepted that his death had been a culmination of misery and it had finally ended.
There were good points. Really good. But so many bad points and bad choices and it seemed that no matter how desperately I talked to God, how I reached for a rock or into flowing water, I found no guidance. Nothing. Alone. And it was terrible. I read and I looked and searched myself. But I kept believing.
I faced insane obstacles. I pushed the reset button on my life and started over. I was faced with more obstacles. I kept my faith and I kept working towards something, anything, bigger, better. We were working so hard, we were trying so much, we were getting…nowhere. Then Nolan lost his job. And we were thrown into a real panic, one of “How do we survive? How do we make sure our kids DO NOT SUFFER?”
That was when I lost my faith in God. No God I knew would do this. No God who loves his sons and daughters would let babies die of starvation with bloated bellies in third world countries nor would he let men with AIDS rape little girls, bringing to life their fear of the boogeyman. Nor would he have thrown debt, health terrors, poverty, and then joblessness at us.
Because we are good people. We do for others, we ask nothing in return. We teach our children this lesson daily- you rule your life with fairness, kindness, and servitude. Think on those things the most. The bitter seed was having to get economic assistance. Food stamps, rent and energy assistance, insurance though the state for the kids, all the while being treated as if we were scum. I spiraled into a low hole. I always have had agoraphobia and anxiety disorders but learned how to keep them at bay. But I got to the point that I could barely leave our bedroom.
Finding my way back to faith has been slow. When I’ve planted our vegetables every spring, I feel the particles of the earth melding together to grow herbs, tomatoes, pumpkins. When I brush my children’s hair back from their brows as they sleep, I look up at the sky and smile at the moon and I say thank you.
But most recently, I got bold.
When my best friend’s fiance was in a life threatening accident I made a vow. I asked, “Are you listening to me? Bring him home to her. Bring him home and I will return to you. I don’t know why all these things happened to me but bring him home to her.” Then I prayed fervently, daily, got on a bus, and got over to her so I could be there. To help as best I could.
When I came back to diagnosis of cancer, I didn’t ask questions. I will talk to God. I will close my eyes and touch the trees to listen for their hum. Listen to a bird song. Watch dawn crack the sky. I’ll be cured. Not just because I wish it but because I know what rocks are made of.
They are made of grace.