My De-Conversion: What Sealed the Deal
The “best” Christians I’ve ever known were my grandparents. They were active in their church to the point of beatification, and positively affected the lives of many people.They read the Bible in its entirety every year. My grandmother became very upset if someone ate anything without praying and giving thanks. I am having a hard time trying to capture their spirit and their faith as I write this, so perhaps I won’t even try, but trust me they were inspirational.
They died in a car crash.
One very tragic night that lives with me forever, two people who meant the most to me in this human world gone forever. No matter how much time elapses, the raw pain of this ordeal does not seem to decrease.
My life has never been the same. In some ways, it was the best thing that could have happened to me, which sounds odd and certainly twisted. They were my best friends on earth–a 60 year age difference did not matter at all. As soon as I got my own car aged 16, I started driving the 60 miles to visit them more often. I brought all my puppy-love boyfriends to meet them. They served a unique purpose in my upbringing–my parents were pretty unstable and frankly unsuited for the task at hand, so my grandparents were in some ways more like my parents.
When they died, my parents became more religious. When they died, I walked away from Christianity.
When they died, I learned how to live. The cliche is to live like each day was your last, and that I really believe and I feel that I learned it the hard way. No regrets, no qualms, embrace this opportunity we have been given. Now I live enthusiastically and encourage others to do so because the alternative is the place that I come from. I used to be frightened of so many things. Of flying, of strangers, of walking around alone at night. I have learned to embrace the fear as part of the sensation. Recklessness is bad, but overly cautious behavior is equally diabolical.
The best Christians I knew died a horrific death and left behind a huge mess. Although for me, the mess has been the most beautiful thing I could imagine. It was this even that catalyzed my getting out of an abusive marriage and embarking on life with a new spirit. Without such a shake-up I would likely still be where I was, or dead myself as I sank lower and lower into depression.
Music saved me in some ways. They loved music and our shared passion carried me forward. Gardening helped too, they were farmers in the early days and my tending to my plants also felt reverential.
But it was also ironically enough the death of my beloved and most admired Christians that probably at least a little bit caused me to question Christianity. And not in the manner of “if God could let them die like that how can we believe?” but more generally in the sense of questioning everything when the senseless takes place. I don’t blame God directly for what happened, but I do see a random, human element in the world that did not appear to me before. And I don’t feel the need to attribute all, good and bad, to God.
I had odd premonitions that someone close to me would die in a car accident, although in my childhood dreams it was my father, not my grandparents. I was very upset when a plane would crash, that being similar, and I was oddly distracted by the death of princess Diana even though at the time I had never stood on English soil. The element of sudden-ness, of surprise, was a constant fear and theme in my life.
When your worst nightmare takes place in the flesh, and is worse than you actually feared, then you learn to move on. You find solace in the fact that you are still alive, and so are many people around you. You reassure yourself that your grandparents knew how much you loved them even if you missed their last phone call before their death. You cling to a voicemail message from a voice that no longer exists, a letter from someone who can no longer put pen to paper. You move on with your life but you’re changed forever. You no longer see the world as intrinsically good.
When I found the courage to leave my ex-husband, and get out of a nasty abusive situation, even though my grandparents were gone it was their legacy to which I turned. I spent four months living in the basement of my uncle, another in the family who had been divorced and eventually found love and life again. He had stayed in the spare room at my grandparents’ home when he got divorced, so it was strangely comforting to me to know that they would have understood what was going on with me and supported my staying in my uncle’s home.
I miss them. I know that, they being old when they died in the car crash, I was spared seeing them decline and die the way that most elderly people do. But the rational knowledge of that does not make it any easier. Yes, their lives influenced me profoundly when they were living and again in their demise, but I would give back some of the knowledge I have now to have them back again.