The day after my father died, we drove down to LA, as we had planned to do when we thought he’d still be alive. I was reluctant to go, I did not want to face his death straight on, but my sister said she needed me. It ended up being a good thing. I wrote this last night.
Coming to my father’s home ended up helping me. I still feel him here, making him not quite gone. Being with my siblings helped more than I thought.
I’m glad that coronavirus prevents us from having a funeral. It’s much easier that way.
My dad very much did not believe in the resurrection of bodies. Growing up Protestant in a Catholic country, he was almost militaristic in his rejection of Catholic dogma. I know he believed his body was a vessel and it mattered little what happened to it after he was dead. He will be buried with my sister, however, to whom he dedicated his whole life and that feels appropriate. I imagine him in heaven, asking her if she wants her tea and whether she has taken her medicine.
It’s comforting for me to think of them two together.
My brother and I grew up Protestant, we chose the religion of my father over that of my mother perhaps because we liked our dad more, perhaps because he cared about his religion more than she did, and perhaps because we liked being contrarians. We took our Protestantism seriously. We did not, for instance, participate in the annual masses celebrating our school’s birthday (though we did attend a mass in honor of my dead grandfather). For me, promising the flag in third (or was it fourth?) grade brought about a whole crisis of conscience, which was finally resolved by being somewhat talked into agreeing that promising the flag was not the same as swearing it. Still, I think when the moment came I just stood silent and didn’t voice the promise, just like I skipped the line juremos during the daily recital of the Argentine prayer to the flag, our pledge of allegiance, a disgusting militaristic pledge that our military masters forced upon us through our school authorities to say. Many years later I would find out that our school principal was responsible for turning suspicious students to the military to be disappeared. But I digress. Stream of consciousness and all.
Once in college, my brother and I shed our religion at the first encounter with a class on evolution. We became militant atheists and for a long time I blamed my father for lying to me about God. A long time. He took it rather stoically, as he took my latter accusations that he had to know about the disappearances in the factory where he worked. Eventually, with time and age, I dropped it. Life is hard. If believing in God helps you, do it. As long as you don’t force it on me, more power to you. My dad never forced his beliefs, my mom was never clear as to hers.
As anti-Catholic as my dad had been, sometime in the 90s and, I think, against my mother’s beliefs, he actually made a trip to Mexico to buy some miraculous water that had appeared around that time. “What is it going to do?”, I recall or imagine (memory is so treacherous nowadays) my mother saying, “grow her a new kidney?”. The water didn’t work, my dad went back to his quiet Protestantism, and I got a souvenir he bought at the airport, a glass pyramid I still have somewhere.
When I last saw my father, in February, he confided in me that he was losing his faith. All those years of my brother and I challenging it had apparently taken their toll. “How do I know God really exists? And why does he allow all these bad things to happen?” Reasonable questions for a man who had spent most of his adult life caring for a sick child.
“You have believed all your life.” I told him. “Are you going to stop now at the end of your life, when you need religion the most? No. Why?” None of us know for certain, so we chose to believe or not. Religion, at his age, would be a comfort. He could look forward to reuniting with my sister and his family, he could feel there was sense to his life, to ours.
My mom told me that he had become very religious in recent months, he would wake up in the middle of the night and watch a televangelist. I hope it gave him comfort. When I imagine him with his family or with my sister, it’s just a story for me, day dreaming, but it’s comforting.