I never really believed in God.
Even as a child, the concept seemed unrealistic and odd.
I was raised in the Catholic faith, where my endless questions went unanswered. I remember coming home from catechism on my 6th birthday and sobbing. I had been told that I should love God more than anything else, even my parents. I couldn’t imagine such a thing. To love this mysterious, magical man in the sky more than my own parents, the people who raised me and loved me and tucked me into bed every night.
As I grew older my questions increased and grew more complicated. How could we even know that Jesus was the son on God? Why is Original Sin even a thing? What proof existed that there was a God at all? Why did so many people believe such different things? How could two people with the same beliefs believe such different things? What purpose did this God have? But what about multiple Gods? Why was God a man? Why did we need this concept in the first place?
I was confirmed at the age of 16 to appease the expectations of my family and community. I never considered myself a Catholic again.
For years I explored different religious belief systems. I took religion classes in college. I read books. I talked to people about their beliefs. People told me what to believe. They told me the Universe and God were interchangeable. They told me God was a specific spiritual being that make decisions for us. They told me God is everything and nothing. They told me I would understand one day.
I still didn’t believe in God.
In time I began to believe that the Universe had a plan. Not a specific being. Not a male figurehead, but the collective energy of space and time and life would intersect to give me what I needed when I needed it. I would put my energy into the Universe and trust that I would receive what I needed. I believed everything would happen as it needed to.
I believed in Secular Humanism and the collective power of people helping people. I believed in nature and science. (I still do).
I believed in plans and certainties.
Then Tim had his heart attack, on my best friend’s couch. On our family vacation.
And I started to pray. To anything and anyone. To any force that may intervene. I sat in the hospital through that first night, his sweater wrapped around my body. I waited at the doors of the Trauma unit, hoping for any word. Any improvement. I saw him and rubbed his feet and sang to him. I paced and prayed and hoped.
Tim didn’t wake up that night. But he did stay alive, and I was thankful for that. So they transferred him to Tisch NYU in Manhattan, and I continued to pray. They sent Hospital Chaplains to his room to be with all of us. I told them over and over, “we are Secular Humanists, we believe in people and nature and science. We don’t believe in God”.
I told them “I don’t believe in God, but if Tim wakes up believing in God, I will too”.
They were kind and understanding. But then they would pray to God out loud. And I would rage. And I shouted “THERE IS NO GOD!” in the Tisch NYU Cardiac ICU, and the doctors gathered outside Tim’s door scattered.
But I still hoped, inside. That maybe there was a God.
And maybe Tim would come back to me.
But he didn’t. His body would likely not survive. His brain would never come back.
And I knew that I needed to let him go. And he died in my arms, surrounded by loving family and friends.
In the days and weeks and months following Tim’s death I have raged at a God I don’t even believe to be there. At the Universe. At these plans and assumptions and trust that we have that everything will work out. At “Everything happens for a reason” and “He’s in Heaven now.” At all the bullshit we tell ourselves to give us the illusion of safety and security.
Because it doesn’t always work out. And Tim isn’t in Heaven, because Heaven is HERE, with his loving wife and his beautiful babies and the beautiful, wonderful life we were so happy to be building together.
Sometimes young fathers die for no reason. Sometimes flood and mudslides and hurricanes and earthquakes destroy cities and communities. Sometimes angry men open fire on innocent people. Sometimes people die. And God, the Universe, whatever it is that’s supposed to be in charge doesn’t give a shit. Because it’s not even there in the first place.
But I will tell you what is there, my friends. PEOPLE ARE THERE.
People have been there to help me through every step of this godless process. People have been there to drive me and feed me and comfort me and draw me baths and take care of my children and help me pack and drive my moving truck and love me and support me and protect me in every imaginable way. God isn’t there. People are there.
And so I’ve slowly learned to have trust in people. And the cycles of nature. And the innate goodness of human beings.
I’ve learned not to plan too much. Not to trust the Universe so much. I’ve learned to take care of myself more. I’ve learned to trust in the consistency of change.
I’ve learned that death is just as natural as any other part of life. And life continues after death, for the survivors. And that’s just something we have to be ok with.
I’ve learned that prayers don’t work, but the love and support of people can get you through anything. And sometimes thats kind of the same thing.
I believe that Tim is still here. He is everywhere. His energy expands the Universe (that doesn’t have a plan). He is in my thoughts and my heart and my memories. He will always be here. He will always be everywhere. He is StarStuff.
And I believe I will be ok. Because I have people. And the cycles of Nature continue.
And as long as I am alive, I will live. And that’s enough.