NOTE: This post contains religious context and my own personal beliefs. If you are sensitive to the topic, please consider not reading this, as I will not approve negative comments on my posts, and more importantly, I don’t want any of my readers offended! Thanks, Maggie
I’m finding it difficult these days when my facebook friends post requests for prayers for loved ones who are suffering. I’ve found after the last 5 1/2 years with Jaime that I am a much kinder and compassionate person than I ever have been, and I always want to offer words of comfort. The only problem is, I cannot in good conscience and without hypocrisy offer up prayer for their loved one. I don’t pray. I am an atheist.
The difficulty comes with a desire to offer to pray, out of force of habit. Having been raised Catholic, and been considered an adult in the Catholic church after receiving my confirmation, I have always called myself a Catholic. But I am not. I am not in “communion” with the Catholic church for several reasons that don’t need to be discussed here, because that’s not really the point of this post.
And of course, the difficulty comes from the fact that I do not believe in God, nor any other deity. It is my own personal belief and I do not harbor any ill-will toward all the others who do, no matter how strong their faith. I do not tell people not to love and have faith in their God. I have friends of the strongest faith in God, and I respect their faith and conviction, and even admire their dedication in following the teachings of Christ. That being said, I do not tolerate anyone forcing their beliefs on me, and it is a great way to get yourself banned from my life. I do feel honored when someone says they will pray for me for whatever reason, because it is to that person an important way to offer comfort, and I feel blessed that they would offer that to me.
Anyway, back to my point. I want so badly to say, “I am praying for you.” But I can’t because I will not pray to a God in whom I do not believe. I have many reasons for not believing in God, but it is not something I choose to discuss, because I prefer not to have my reasoning questioned. It is mine and mine alone. So how do I offer words of comfort to those who are suffering when I don’t pray?
Lately I have found my own words to offer that comfort or to show empathy for their grief. I choose to “send” thoughts of strength, comfort, and peace to all of the loved ones of someone who has died. I send healing thoughts to those who are in bad shape, but it is within reason to expect that they will recover. I hope that they all find these things surrounded by their loved ones. To me, these are the important things to have when dealing with loss or sickness or tragedy. You surround yourself with those who know your grief, you give each other strength, you comfort one another, and you find peace together.
Many people are familiar with what is often called an Irish wake, which involves the consumption of much alcohol, dancing, and singing. In my family, we go through our grieving process and mourn our lost loved one, and we have a proper ceremony and burial. Then we truly memorialize the dead. There is, of course, often a lot of drinking which leads to a lot of singing (many times old Irish folk songs, depending on the guests). But through the drinking and singing, and still some tears, we dredge up the strongest and best memories we can to share with all who are present. Many are so funny or endearing, that you cannot help but laugh. We remember the deceased at their best and we remind each other how lucky we were to have him or her in our lives. This is where we find comfort and peace.
There is an actual quote that I love, but I always forget to whom it should be attributed and I never get the quote just right. But here is my version, and if you know where it came from, please feel free to remind me:
“Do not despair that a great man has died! Rejoice that such a special person has lived!”
A final thought on my point: I put a lot of meaning and sincerity into my thoughts of comfort and they are genuine. I would not share them if I did not believe them. I hope that people recognize this and are not offended that I have not offered to pray for them. In my opinion, it would be an insult to you if I offered to pray for you, because it would be a lie. So if I ever offer these thoughts to you, know that they come from my heart and my whole being.