I've never been interested in figuring out which religion is correct in their stories about God. I do believe there is a higher power at play in my life and in yours, and I don't think it matters what we call it. Call it God, call it Uni-verse, call it Buddha, Allah, Subconscious, Coincidence, Synchronicity, Love - call it whatever you want to call it: I believe it will be there regardless of whether you call it anything.
What HAS been a hard pill for me to swallow on my own spiritual journey is the fact that bad things happen to good people. If God loves us and God is omnipotent, then, honestly, God, where do You get off allowing innocent people to suffer?
The very idea of bad things happening to good people pounds my heart with anger and quickens my breathing because it's just one more reminder that, despite the copious amount of energy I've put towards inhaling good news and exhaling bad news my whole life, I really am in control of almost nothing.
Sometimes, God/Universe/Buddah/Allah/Zen is very difficult for us humans to understand.
One year ago today (12/11/11), my radiant 75-year-old grandmother died fairly suddenly, leaving 25 of her devastated family members speechless on the floor of her small hospital room.
A head-on collision with the "everything happens for a reason" statement leaves you mangled by the side of the road, staring up at the heavens, defeatedly asking, "WHY?"
I believe these collisions happen at a fork in the road. You may either go left towards bitterness, anger and defeat, or you may go right and try to find the silver lining.
Sometimes, God/Universe/Buddah/Allah/Zen is maddeningly evasive.
The bitter and angry response to heartbreak is seductive. My grandmother worked her whole life to support not only her own seven kids and my tirelessly passionate immigrant grandfather, but dozens of extended family members too. Her retirement was "supposed to" be spectacular. She was "supposed to" become a snazzy old lady in the Red Hat society. She was "supposed to" teach her great-grandkids to make chocolate breads on her bright blue formica countertops.
She wasn't "supposed to" die. It "could have" been prevented, if only she hadn't been so good at smiling through pain.
But I think that when you love someone, you refuse to allow their death to be without reason. You refuse to allow their ordeals to have been unnecessary.
Memere's death changed my life.
Holding her hand as the clock expired on her time on this earth instilled in me a sense of urgency: How do I want MY children and grandchildren to remember me? What is my purpose and am I living it? Or am I shrinking back in fear of putting myself out there?
And so, over the past year, I've moved towards my fears.
Writing Memere's eulogy about her willingness to love unreservedly forced me to own up to the ways that I have held back from love in order to protect myself. When either I or my husband is gone, I want to know that I held nothing back.
And so, I've taken new risks in love.
It brings me to cathartic tears to consider all of the breakthroughs that have happened for me in the last 365 days, all stemming from epiphanies I had when Mem passed.
So now I wonder: what if her "unnecessary" death was, in fact, necessary? What if she HAD done everything she was meant to do in this life? What if she never wanted to be a member of the red hat society anyway? What if her final mission on this earth was to teach us a few things by leaving it?
They say that everything happens for a reason. I believe that sometimes it's up to US to find that reason.Maybe that decision - that refusal to allow anybody we love to suffer in vain - maybe THAT is where God hides when bad things happen to good people.
Though we cannot control the fact that sad things happen to good people, we CAN control how we respond to those things. In fact, it's the ONLY thing within our control.