Wednesday, April 11, 2012

For those who believe ...

American economist and engineer Stuart Chase once said: "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible."

Beloved husband and I just returned from a few days away after the rigors of Holy Week and Easter. I absolutely love the liturgies of Passiontide and Easter ... but they are rather exhausting in the preparation they require. Beloved husband made plans for us to go away for three days to a remote cabin outside Berkeley Springs, WV where we could relax and recover. It was a lovely place and well appointed - including a hot tub which helped take the tension out of my shoulders and back.

The second night we were there, the weather was absolutely crystal clear. Being that far out and away from city lights, we could see many more stars than we can at home. We sat in the hot tub and watched several satellites make their way across the sky - definitely not something easily visible where we live! We were able to lay on our backs in the contoured seats of the hot tub and view the starry heavens.

As we watched the night sky and identified the constellations we knew, I began to think about one of my former hospice patients. His name was John and he was a confirmed atheist. He wasn't sure if he wanted a chaplain at our teams initial meeting. I told him I wasn't there to convict, convince or convert him - my role was to help him work through the moral and ethical issues of dying and to find those things which maximized the meaning of life for him. He told me what gave his life meaning was his family, science (especially astrophysics and cosmology) and music. We agreed to try meeting to talk and, if it didn't work out, he could give me the boot.

My pastoral visits with John were the longest ones of any of my patients. He really was a delightful guy. Sure, he ribbed me about believing in "Santa Claus in the Sky" (his initial favorite moniker for God). I didn't let it knock the cheese of my cracker ... I laughed along with him. As he began to trust me, he also began to talk about the God he didn't believe in - one that was really angry and judgmental. I told him I didn't believe in that God either. "Hey! Maybe I'm really an atheist too!" I said. We both laughed. He asked me about the God I believed in and I told him I believed in a God beyond the right and wrong, the God outside of tribalism, the God who breaks all the rules humanity projects onto God. Later, he told me he could believe in that God too.

John then told me that if there was a life after this one, he would give me a sign to let me know he was OK. "Of course, you could be waiting a long time for that," he said. "I'll take my chances ... and I'll be looking."

John died last July and I've been looking for that sign. I told Beloved Husband about John's promise. As we looked at the sky, he said, "You know, there aren't any known meteor showers going on right now. If a meteor shot right overhead right now, I'd take that as a sign."

"Well, I would too. But you know the Bible does tell us not to put the Lord God to the test."

No sooner had those words left my lips than a meteor shot directly over me following the length of my body from my toes to my head. We both let out a shout! "That was DIRECTLY over YOU!!!" he yelled.

"I KNOW!!! If you hadn't been here to see it too, nobody would believe it!! Of course, some will think we're nuts." We both laughed.

I'm taking that as my sign ... John's OK.

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