On and off throughout my entire life, I have read, questioned, and prayed for answers. I have not received a definitive answer yet, but I’ve realized, I don’t think I need one. I find comfort in the journey-- in drawing conclusions from reading, thinking, praying, and having faith.
I’ll say it “out loud”: I am afraid of contracting COVID-19. I have had some immunodeficiency issues with fibromyalgia over the years, I am prone to bronchitis … Not sure what that would mean if I contracted the virus, but that, coupled with being over 60 is making me very cautious in my flesh. All that said, I am not afraid of what might happen to my spirit if I contract COVID-19 because I believe my soul is immortal.
Here’s why, sort of ...
Growing up we did not discuss faith, religion or the universe in our house. My parents were very busy raising and providing for ten kids. My mother said God was private and my father didn’t mention it. I went to Catholic school from 1st through 8th grade, however, where I found my religion classes fascinating and the nuns idyllic. As a teenager, I was drawn to youth groups and music with themes of peace and love, Blowin’ In the Wind, Turn! Turn! Turn!, The Sounds of Silence, and Let it Be. Religion was always near, but “spirituality” was not a word in my vocabulary yet.
Years later, after moving out of state with my husband and kids, my mom passed away, suddenly and too early. I sought a new kind of church for comfort, and after much visiting, we joined a church where I put down roots and grew with my church family for almost twenty years.
Recently a new friend of mine asked me, “Do the religious texts seem outdated at all or perhaps non-applicable to any extent?” I answered her question carefully, but I am still unsure of my answer. I told her that, for me, in the Bible there are areas that I would say are allegorical, but the lessons are quite amazing when read in the spirit of the text as opposed to the letter of it. Later, as I thought more about it, I realized there are parts of the Bible that have seemed irrelevant at different times in my life, but that was because I was unable to see their relevance in that moment.
My friend shared, “I was raised Catholic and very much honor the moral basis it gave me, although I never really actively participated in the religion itself. I enjoy learning about all perspectives and have found all religions intriguing.” I think this is such an honorable way to speak of this topic, and I feel much the same way.
When I left the church, it was for a number of reasons, but mostly I think I stopped growing there, and I stopped asking questions. Everyone still there with me after twenty years seemed to think we had the answers already, so there was nothing left to wonder about with them. I began using all my free time to work more, sleep, and repeat. Church stopped being a fascinating priority.
Since then I’ve retired from teaching and lost some loved ones. My spiritual health journey re-started right before retirement, when my sister died in January 2018. Eight years younger than me, she, like my mom, went suddenly and too soon because of a heart attack.
I started asking all the questions one in my shoes might ask:
Why won’t she get to read her son’s next short story? Why won’t she get to meet her daughter in Italy while she studies abroad? Why did this happen to our brother-in-law, who I watched grow with her from a young guy to a middle-aged man?
How could she be gone?
Why not me?
I wish so much that she was still here. These memories of questioning are painful, and those questions could not be answered in a way I could understand in that moment.
So, I started seeking again.
I began practicing mindfulness and meditation. I joined a healing group into reiki and yoga. And I think I have found a new “church family,” among other spiritual people who also like to question and who also don’t need to have the answers.
Now, over two years since her passing, I remember other things, too, when I think of my sister. I can see my sister laughing when I think of her, her pretty smile hiding an adult tooth chipped years ago (because of a fall I never heard the story behind, I’m sure one of my siblings knows what happened). I see her in my dining room sitting at the table, pregnant with her first child, proclaiming that only good words and thoughts would cross her mind and lips from here on. I see her at age 9, so small with bowed legs and uneven bangs she either cut herself or with the help of a sister or brother. I remember her talking about angels, often. I see her crying as we float in the pool in the backyard of another sister’s house tears of pain running down her grown-up cheeks, saying she only wanted her son to be happy.
And I see her now, elevated above her sorrow, knowing so much more than I know here. Remembering her this way is spiritual.
In this time of crisis and pandemic, like it has in other times of fear and loss in my own life, my spiritual leaning and my continuous questioning is somehow keeping me grounded. God is much bigger than any one person, group, or religion can fathom. Each religion, like a piece of a giant puzzle, is part of the truth. Education, provided in books and sacred texts, affirms options. Indoctrination denies them. We are here to seek. We are here to learn. This life we are in is transitory. If we learn what we need we will transcend. I encourage you to try to find comfort, instead of fear, in the unknown.
In love and health, Lorna
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