Thursday, April 06, 2006

Jeezezzuh

It all begins, like it always begins, at a funeral.

***

“Hi Aunt Sandie,” I said. She held the hug longer than I did. Her face was gaunt and her eyes were slightly puffed and red; and I could tell she had been crying.

She held my face between her hands. “Do you need a drink, a beer, vodka?”

“No thanks.”

“I have anti-depressants,” she offered.

“I’m ok, really.”

“Don’t hold it in Scotty. You’re going to need something. Are you sure you don’t want a beer? It will take the edge off.”

“Everything I need is right in here,” I said, pointing to my heart.

***

We sat in the waiting room—waiting. My aunt and uncle doubtless wishing they could have a smoke. But the god damn liberals had taken over the world. My cousins Tracy and Trisha were there too, looking about them like snared hares, wild eyed, fidgeting—nervous.

The doctor was East Indian, stoic and cock-sure. He pronounced, “Your mother’s cancer has spread from her lungs through the esophagus and into the brain, and down into the pancreas and liver. She will not wake up again.”

Tracy and Trisha burst into tears while I stared at the doctor. The news was expected, as my mother was in ICU with a tube through her mouth and into her lungs, artificially injecting air that she was no longer capable of processing without it. The doctor was numb to the histrionics.

I met his unaffected gaze with one of my own. “She was a three-pack-a-day smoker.”

Tracy stopped crying as if a switch had flipped. “My mom and dad both smoke. Could they get cancer too?”

The doctor replied, “Yes, of course.”

“But, but, but w-what if they quit now?” Tracy asked, looking at her mother now.

“It might already be too late.”

***

“Have you accepted Jeezezzuh as your personal savior,” Chaz asked, as if Jesus was Texan.

Not a hair was out of place. He was blonde and of medium build, and quite handsome in that Houstonian way. I wasn’t ready to lay it all on him right now. “My faith is a personal matter that I do not wish to share.”

His eyes seemed to become perfectly round as they misted over, as ice will do on the first day of warm weather. “I know that it’s hard for you to understand right now, but God has a plan for your mother, just like he has a plan for all of us. She is with Him now, and she couldn’t be in better hands.” He glowed like Captain Kirk in a love scene.

A little ball of hot butter rolled in my chest, and my teeth clamped together. “Frankly, it’s of no comfort to me that God has a plan for my mother or not, because I think it stinks. My mother is dead, so she is no longer involved in my plans, or those of her grandchild’s. My personal salvation is not the issue, and I’ll thank you to keep your focus on my mother’s eulogy. No disrespect intended.”

“I understand,” he said with a kind smile, but I could hear the disappointment in his voice, and the resolve.

***

“Hi Scotty, its Trisha!”

Her husband’s name I saw on caller id, but I acted surprised as I always do when someone calls. “Trish!”

“Wow,” she said, “how long has it been?”

“I know. Hey, I heard about your dad. I’m sorry.”

She didn’t say anything, so I continued. “I talked to Tracy, and she said that he has lung cancer.”

“When did you talk to her last?”

“It seems like a month ago.”

“Ohhh.”

“How long does he have?”

“The doctors give him one year, two at the most.”

“How did he take the news?”

“He was very upset, and was crying all the time. But now he feels a lot better because he found God.”

Internal groan. “I’ll bet he did.” There are no atheists in a fox hole I thought to myself. “I have to say Trish that you and Tracy seem to be taking this very well.”

“Well, I know this is going to sound funny…”

“Ok.”

“Tracy has been sending dad some tapes, and he came out here and met with Chaz. Chaz put his hands on his chest and felt the cancer inside. I know how it sounds Scotty, but Chaz healed him.”

“As in your dad doesn’t have cancer anymore?”

“I know what you’re thinking, and I would think the same thing, but yes, I truly believe it. When my dad goes to the doctor, the doctor is going to tell him that the cancer is gone.”

“That does sound a bit far fetched, but I hope you are right Trish.”

“I know it won’t prove anything to anyone, as the assumption will be that he was misdiagnosed, but I already believe.”

Maybe Chaz can bring my mother back to life.

***

Any plans of moving to Houston have been cancelled. I love my family, and there is nothing wrong with faith in a deity, but God rests within me, and he is me, and he is my children and my wife and my friends, and sometimes the man who isn’t lying when he says he needs money for a beer. He was my coach the congratulated me for scoring my only touchdown, the one who laughingly told me to jog as I almost tripped over second base in my haste when I hit one into the weeds. He’s every bit of joy and sorrow in my life. He is me, and he will die someday too.

17 comments:

Kathleen said...

I know many people believe that faith is to be shared (even people in my very Catholic church), but I'm like you and believe it's in my heart. I hope your uncle was misdiagnosed, but I'm not sure I believe that Chaz healed him. But I'm a bit skeptical of those overly religious types.

jenbeauty said...

Writing is so theraputic. Keep it in your heart, that is where it is important.

{{hugs}}

magnetbabe said...

Jen expressed my exact thought. Writing can help so much. I know it helped me. Zealots like Chaz do not seem to get it that after watching someone die of cancer, having faith in "God's plan" can be of no comfort whatsoever. I am agnostic (which isn't the same as atheist) but I can imagine even the most devote find themselves in a crisis of faith witnessing something so horrific. The best way to honor your mother at this point is for everyone in your family to quit smoking!!!

Moni said...

If one believes in the Christian faith then one believes that Christ died for our sins and through him is offered eternal life. To understand why it is so important for Christians to share the "good news" we've got to look at that fact.

I am a believer, and I do think it necessary to share the plan of salvation with others. But there are times and places were it is not really inappropriate, only more like the receipient will not be receptive. Funerals...may seem like a last ditch effort to share God's grace with someone and an open opportunity because the remaining loved ones are staring their own mortality in the face. Not so, the loved ones are frazzled, scared, angry and sad. I think the last they want to hear is that Christ cares for them. All their senses lean to the fact that their loved on is gone. If God is so loving why did he take them? Difficult question to answer indeed.

I'm not a bible thumper and I don't judge another, it's not my job. The person of God and his son is presented clearly in the bible, but it is up to each individual to make the decision of how they will receive him.

As far as the faith healing goes, I do believe that it happens because I'm living proof. If your uncle is healed it will not be because of what Chaz did or did not do. It will be through faith in the fact that we can all be healed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

You seemed to be working through your grief, that's good. The pain won't ever go away but it does get easier. Please know that I'm here if you ever need to talk.

((hugs))

Erin-erin-bo-berin said...

As a Christ-follower, I have a deep and abiding faith. I feel that while God indeed has a plan for our lives, He also gave us free will. He cannot protect us from the very real consequences of what we decide to do to ourselves. I smoked for 11 years before finally quitting. As a former tobacco addict, I know that I might still face cancer one day (lung or otherwise), but I also believe that because I accepted the ultimate sacrifice of God's son, my place is in heaven. My faith brought me through my near-fatal car accident and astounding recovery. I have to give credit to my Heavenly Father. I would not dream of aggressively shoving Jesus down your throat in the midst of your mom's health crisis. Your faith is your decision, between you and God.
{{BIG HUGS}}}

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Hmm.

This is why I am not a religious man, Erin. Despite what you say, I get the impression you are fishing for a convert in the wrong kind of river.

Scott, Did the faith healing really work, or did it only work in the sense that some release is given to alleviate the pain of death?

Faith won't ever stop you dying, and that's one of the few thing I DO have faith in.

My thoughts are with you.

Scott said...

Kat - He seems like a genuine person that believes in what he is doing for the right reasons--but healing?

Jen - Nice to see you back!

Nat - Exactly! And guess what, their habits haven't changed in the slightest. Why? Because they're addicts to more than just drugs.

Moni - Thanks for that. I'm not really working on my grief anymore. In fact, it was never all that bad to begin with. I've come to accept that life is temporary, and maybe my childhood died long before I would admit.

Erin - I'm very happy for you, and for Moni and others, that find solace in faith. To me it's a powerful, powerful aphrodisiac, but like most drugs the effect wears off if you stop taking it. I want to be wrong, and sometimes I doubt it, but the reality for me is that I have to take care of myself and my family, and God in any incarnation would consider that his work, making me his little helper.

Toast - The healing, and the onslaught of overzealous faith have given my uncle a temporary pass. When he finds out the healing didn't work, he'll still cling to his faith, as many dying do, and will be scared to die, but not so badly. I wonder what path I would take if I received similar news.

Scott said...

Oh, and Eve, thanks for the email. I'll hit you back over the weekend.

Bailey Stewart said...

You're still a braver man than I Ghunga Din.

mr. schprock said...

One of your best, Scott. Beautiful.

Toni Anderson said...

I feel like that about God and faith. It is in me and the mountains and the sea. My kids, my husband and my friends. I am uncomfortable with religion. I am also sceptical about Chaz, but good news is good news.

Ashynioki said...

You get better every time I read you, Scott. Cancer is a crazy, terrible thing. Who knows what will really heal it? But for my part, I have more faith in stem cell research than prayer for healing diseases we cannot yet figure out. That's just me.

And like you, I know that God lives in everyone. Some people just need something separate to occasionally blame for everything they are unhappy about. Saves on self-loathing, so to each his own.

About the Jesus-pushers, I totally get it. I don't need to be sold on God, and that's what they are trying to do, market a commodity to you. My faith is worth more than that. I would never try to sell anyone else on it. Also, they always feel so phony. I can never shake this feeling that they are going to turn into crazed white supremacists or try to get me to participate in a suicide pact or something. Creepy.
I get that they dig their beliefs. Hooray for them. But please stop shoving it down my throat!

Claire said...

First off, my sympathies about your uncle. I hope it was a misdiagnosis and he has a few more years of life ahead of him.

That said, if the cancer is gone, I agree with you that it likely was just that - a misdiagnosis. I am a Christian, although I claim no denomination as my own. I do not believe prosteletyzing (sp?) is the best way to find converts. Christianity calls on the believers to spread the news - it doesn't say it has to be by cramming it down their throats. Act in the way you want others to act. Be what your guiding principles tell you to be. Others will see that and it will speak louder than "Have you accepted Jesus?"...not to mention those actions will not offend those of other faiths who believe as strongly or even more so than you believe in God. After all, we do all inhabit this earth together.

Sadie Lou said...

whoo boy. Too many funky stuff in these comments to try and tackle them all.
Man, so many misrepresentations, goofy-quasi Christianisms...( lots of faith-hate too. Fun!)
*moving on*
Your writing is on fire. I love the way you do dialog. You're getting better and better everytime I visit.
I'm glad you don't resent your family over their faith. Just try to remember that nobody is perfect. Christians get it wrong too.
:)

Miranda said...

I'm a Christian. I don't think though that every time someone dies it's a good thing anyway. Death is sad and even Jesus cried when his friend died. I'm a little wary of too much happiness during death.

That said, in response to the line about God dying someday, I think he already did.

Scott said...

Miranda - I'm not sure what you mean that God is already dead. Do you mean the God in me? I hardly think so, as I have infinite love to share for my friends and family, and I see God as being so many things. I just don't believe in the bible and the specific version it lays out, as I don't think God can be understood.

And I don't understand why Jesus would be sad that his friend died if he knew for certain he was going to heaven. If I knew for certain that my mother was in heaven, I would have celebrated.