Friday, February 18, 2011
Religion was always on the milder side in my waspy family. We did Sunday service, provided it was followed by donuts on the beach. We worshipped in a non-descript wood-paneled room. We were quiet about our religion.
Naturally, like my holy roller sister, I grew attracted to the exact opposite. Loud, glaring religion. The multi-hued glass windows, jewels, and gory reliquaries of Catholicism. Dancing nekkid, widdershins, during the full moon, as I read from my Llewellyn Wicca Handbook. Making a metanoia and lighting candles in front of golden icons in the Greek Orthodox cathedral. Ooo, and stigmata! Stigmata was the very pinnacle of ostentatious cool.
As I aged, I developed my own personal religion, flamboyant but lighthearted. I studied religious history, and decided which bits of the bible made beautiful, wonderful sense, and which bits were essentially political propaganda centuries out of date. Love is love, whether you’re gay, straight, asexual, or poly, and I dismissed any words to the contrary as necessary growing pains for an ambitious religion - the best missionaries are 12 little versions of yourself, right? I felt guilty about my presumptuous take-it-or-leave-it attitude, but I couldn’t help think that my Buddy Christ™ roadside shrines were my own modern way of proselytizing. And a much healthier way, at that.
It got a bit harder to laugh about my faith when Mom got sick. Mom was the one that took me for doughnuts after Sunday service. Mom insisted on the advent candles on the dinner table. Mom sat with me in Maundy Thursday services, where we shared muffled, inappropriate snickers when the pastor would awkwardly duck behind the teeny lectern, his skirt-clad rear sticking out, so that no one would see him whacking a saw to mimic the sound of the nails being driven into Christ’s feet.
I tried to blame it on oxygen saturation and medication side-effects, but near the end, when she couldn’t communicate anymore, religion sure didn’t seem to be a comfort to Mom. She was scared, and confused, and visits from the pastor or reading aloud from the bible only made her more so.
I can’t express what a hit that was. Mom was the model for all of my religious beliefs. If in the end it meant nothing to her, what on earth was I doing with my life and soul?
It wasn’t until recently that I realized it wasn’t her religion that was challenged in that moment, it was my own. Her responses were difficult to interpret, at best. It was all about the meaning I laid on them.
I can’t know for certain what she felt when she died. I can only believe that her faith was with her, and that my fuzzy, loving, it’s-all-sweetness-and-cherries God was with her. And I do believe.
Buddy Christ™ is back on my dashboard now, by the way, and we’re spreading the good news in a Ford Van, reaching out to my quivering brethren. But it took a while to find my way back.
Bethany Herron is an urban fantasy writer, freight-train conductor, and RWA Board Member living in the Bay Area. She has the blessed fortune to be connected to the Pens by blood, and blogs at http://jujuwiz.wordpress.com.