Thursday, December 29, 2011
My father passed away two days ago. I posted, "It's over. R.I.P. Dad" as my Facebook status to let people know. It was comforting to receive comments and condolences from my friends. Of course, the people with whom I am the closest have been with me and in contact by phone throughout the past few days.
They all must know I'm an atheist. What they might not know is that my father was one too, and he never verbalized anything different during his two year battle with cancer. He faced it bravely and with more dignity than I thought possible, all the while facing what he perceived was impending oblivion. There will be no service, no burial, no headstone. He will be having a military burial at sea, as was his stated wish.
I was comforted by people's comments, all except one. This one was from a Christian coworker that maintains I am seeking Jesus and just don't know it and/or won't admit it. As soon as I saw her name, I knew she would not be able to resist, and I was right. She said her prayers are with me and my family. I appreciate the sentiment, but she had to have consciously said that instead of the more generic "thinking of you" type of statements made by others. I do realize that people might not know what to say to an atheist at times like these, but most people are obviously trying to say what they think will actually be comforting to me.
This feels petty, and I'm not going to say anything to her, but I felt like saying to her, "Don't pray for him. If you think I'm an atheist, you should have met my dad. Even though he was scared of dying and worried about those of us he was leaving behind, he never wavered in his belief that life happens on its terms, not ours. He would not have wanted your prayers."
I know people will say their prayers are with us and they mean well, but it irks me. I feel petty. My problem with it is the propensity some Christians, including my coworker, have for using times like this to attempt to insinuate their deity into the picture. A kinder thing would be to just say, "Diane, I'm sorry for your loss," and let it go at that.
I hope to express this here and not towards anybody else who will say their prayers are with us or that my dad is in Heaven now. Now is not the time for anger, but sadness and acceptance. Carl Sagan's comment about how we are all made of stardust is comforting me now. Everything is recycled, recreated, reforged into something new. My father's ashes may be part of a meteor shower watched by beings in another galaxy millions of years from now, igniting sparks of wonder in a small creature's mind.
I have been that small creature, afraid of the dark, holding onto my father's hand and watching in awe as the lights streaked across the sky. Thank you, dad, and goodbye.