A Death in The Family and What it Means to Me.

An in-law, well actually, an ex-in-law, the uncle of my ex-wife, died today. I’m still close to my ex-wife’s family, closer, in fact, than she is, so when my daughter called me today to tell me that she had called her grandmother who told her of her great-uncle’s death, I was very saddened. His death was no surprise as he had been in declining health for several years and had been going quickly downhill in the past few months, to the point where they decided to remove his feeding tube last week and let nature take it’s course.

Harold was a difficult man to know. He could be selfish, callous, opinionated, and often treated those closest to him badly. But, he could also be generous, kind and fatherly. Basically, he was an imperfect, flawed human begin, as are all of us to various degrees.

He was especially kind to me after my father died, and even more so after my mother died. He was a wonderful grandfather figure to my two children, who’s own grandfathers died before they could even know them. Since I’ve always been one who tried to be forgiven and to see the best in others, I accepted his kindness and encouraged his relationship with my children.

When I heard of his passing, my first thought was that I should say a prayer for him. But I quickly reminded myself that I didn’t believe in praying and haven’t for quite a while. Then I started to think that at least he was in a better place, but remembered that I don’t believe in an afterlife anymore. So I finally settled on consoling myself with the fact that he was no longer suffering and that his family, who suffered due to his suffering, could start to find some relief from the turmoil that these kinds of situations can bring.

I’ve been calling myself an agnostic for a while now, sitting on the fence as to the existence of God. But with Harold’s death, or should I say, my reaction to his death, I finally had to admit what I’ve been avoiding admitting to myself for a while, which is: I don’t believe in God anymore. I don’t believe that anything supernatural exists that created everything. I don’t believe that we go anywhere after we die.

I had been clinging to my agnosticism, not because I truly believed that knowledge of the existence or non-existence of God is impossible, but because I’ve been afraid to let go of that final last vestige of my Catholic/Christian upbringing that I clung to not out of true belief, but out of fear; fear of the unknown, fear that I’d been wrong all my life, fear of not being in control, fear of death. It took dealing with a death, which I’ve dealt with in the past as a theist, now knowing that death really is the end, and that sort of makes me afraid. And that’s ok.

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3 thoughts on “A Death in The Family and What it Means to Me.

  1. I applaud you’re courage Jay. Although I do believe in some kind of God, I never claim to know if there is or is not a God. Each person must come to their on personal answer. So much anguish is cause by denying what you finally decide. My own answer is that I believe in God and a afterlife, however, I have no idea what it is or what it will be and I refuse to waste anymore of my life worrying about it. And yes, it is scary but that doesn’t mean it is good to hide or lie to ourselve.

    • Thank Jim. This has been a life long struggle for me. I was raised Catholic and was very involved in the Church until I was a teenager. Even then I used to drive the priests crazy with questions about God and heaven and hell and stuff and for every answer they gave me I’d have three more questions.

      I think what’s important is that being brave enough to face your fears by relying on your own strength and the support of friends and loved ones. The other important thing is to always respect others, even if you disagree with them. We are all human, after all.

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