What does a theologian do when death is in the air? I’m not there yet. But in the midst of death, when it’s fresh on my mind because it’s affected the community around me due to the loss of a dear individual, it’s in this space that the artist in me becomes alive, not the aspiring theologian (and philosopher). Here’s my emotional response with prose out of that space.
When God Dies and Where People Live
One of my last memories of my dad is him picking scabs the size of the palm of his hand off his cancer ridden body. The cysts formed on him like his skin was forming un-scalable mountains that looked like mole hills. The radiation treatments did in fact make them worse, and despite the fact they usually lift people from the deepest trenches of illness. My father’s must have been deeper still. The scabs though. Why the scabs?
He held one in the whole of his left hand once. He looked at it. He looked at me. He smiled. I don’t remember my response, but I think we both died inside, no matter what my young child’s face did. Sure he’s dead. But in these experiences with him I’m a little dead too.
Since then I’ve grown very contemplative. Theology and philosophy have become my hopeful future aims. Nightly I sit here on my couch, with books, prayers, thoughts. And all this was triggered because I’m haunted by many things like these memories of my dad, and more so by God.
Honestly, I can almost feel God like the air is thicker for me, with his great immensity all around me. Most of the time it’s pleasurable, but it’s never not a little weird.
Anyways, put it all together and I always think about God, but I don’t think about my dad much anymore. I don’t know why? Certainly I’ve lost God more than a few times in life. And in some ways more so than my dad. Like all, I’ve had my doubts. In a sense we’ve stared at each other and have died inside, like me and my dad did once together. At least that’s how I imagine these rare but many times the air is empty of his presence.
So, here’s to today. Another good one has died. I’m reminded of my dad. I’m contemplative of Jesus. God is heavy but an easy load to bear. And here I am. A man now. Far from the scabs. Full of life, and that life is full of itself. How did this happen? How is there so much death, and pain, and thoughts, and life keeps on being alive despite its constitutive nature that is made of so many negative things? (If such a thing is possible?)
At some point in our lives God dies. He dies for all of us. That is not a loss of innocence, or naïveté, but an exodus. Death gives everyone an opportunity to pick an infected scab. But I have a hunch that no matter who has the scabs the greatest things are the ones with them.
I want to be with him again, as much as I am with God now. But I’m alive. Maybe despite death we are just picking the scabs off our bodies and smiling? Maybe this is the space to be human? To put up a smile in between the death inside and the scabs others see in our hands. Certainly having my dad in that moment, with a smile, is better than now.
I must go back to my books, my prayers, my haunted thoughts.