I grew up in a religious household. Naturally, I believed in everything that I was told about Christianity. I believed the proverbs, the prayers, the theology, absolutely everything and I believed in being a good Christian so I could go to heaven. If you noticed the past tense, it’s because I no longer believe in Christianity. None of it. I do not believe in God and I do not believe in anything that comes associated with God. I’m cool though if you want to believe in God, any of them, I just don’t. Much like I don’t believe in alcohol free beer…it just doesn’t make sense to me. If this is a turn off for you, I’m sorry. My life’s mission is not to push my beliefs on other people, just as I would not want others beliefs turned onto me (although it seems to be happening a lot with the election coming up).
The hardest part for me about not believing in God, after believing for 25 years of my life, is deciding what happens to a person’s inner being after they die. Because while I don’t believe in the Christian aspect of “the soul”, I do believe that every living thing has something in them that makes them special. Something more than the sweaty bodies we carry around. Wether it be energy or gelatinous magma or even just a small thought of inner self…something. So the question is, what happens to someone after they die? Many religions give the believer hope that their inner being continues to live on in paradise. That is of course, as long as they accept fault for their actions, repent if needed, accept “God” into their lives or are “good” people (although I could make this side comment with more length and give much more in depth opinions on what makes a person “good” or what it means to believe in the religion they attempt to consume in order to hope to get them into the paradise after life rather than all damnation). But for a non believer, we have what? The ground? The oven (if you’re into that)? This is a quandary that will probably plague me for the rest of my life. I think I’m ok with that though. I’m comfortable enough with my own death that I don’t need to know. When I have to transpose my beliefs onto tiny humans that I’m helping raise though, that’s where the difficulty of explaining death and all his friends becomes even more difficult.
Amazingly enough, Alaina and I had talked about this after Jude was first born. What do we tell him when someone dies? Telling him that a person is in Heaven when we don’t believe that to be true would just be…hypocrytical. When neither one of us could come up with a good explanation of death, I used my most famous line “We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.” I honestly hoped nothing would die until he was old enough to form his own decisions.
HAHAHA, I’m an idiot. Of course life never goes as planned! Shouldn’t I know that by now?
Last week, we had to say goodbye to our beloved cat, Marla. She was just about as old as Jude (3) and had a very unfortunate situation bestowed on to her. She was our first pet that wasn’t confined to a cage. She was, for all intense and purposes, another one of our children. We loved her. She grew up right beside Jude, and then beside Margot.
And then, she was dead. And then I was busting through clay soil in my mother in law’s backyard so we could bury her (Which I just have to say, digging a hole for a cat was hard enough on my back, I don’t understand people who murder and decide to dig a grave. Fuck that. Based on the labor of digging the hole itself, I wouldnt kill anybody). And we were stuck with this bridge to cross.
What do we tell our children? They knew who Marla was. They loved her every bit as much as we did. They may have even loved her more. Without having to clean her poop out of a box, their love for Marla would always be greater than mine.
On the morning Alaina and I decided that Marla would be better off not suffering, we had the kids say goodbye to her. I brought her over to Margot and Jude and asked that they say goodbye to her and pet her. Honestly, I don’t know why. That was probably more for us than it was for them. They had no clue what was about to happen.
I always assumed because a cat is so lazy I would never notice if it was gone.
The morning after we buried Marla, I woke up with the kids.
The house felt different. There was a member of our family missing and all of a sudden, the kids felt it just like I did.
“Where’s Marwa?” Jude asked, heading into the kitchen.
“Marwa?” piped up Margot in her tiny voice.
“Not here.” Said Jude pulling out the chair she’s usually sitting in under the table.
“Marwa?” I heard another squeak from Margot.
“I check the chair. Marwaaaa.” Jude shuffled into the living room, to where Marla would be laying down if not in the kitchen. His sister followed. I watched. I teared up.
“Marla’s not here buddy.”
“Marla?” continued Margot.
“Yeah,” said Jude. “She’s at Meme’s.”
He wasn’t wrong. She was at Meme’s.
I bent down. In a moment of parental brilliance and self reflection, life suddenly clicked. “Jude. Marla is here.” I pushed a finger into his chest. “She’s in our hearts.”
I heard billions of people clapping for this moment of brilliance. They were screaming at me: “YES!! SHE IS IN YOUR HEART! THATS WHERE OUR LOVED ONES GO WHEN THEY PASS!! THE SAME PLACE THE’VE BEEN ALL ALONG!!”
And then, reality hit. As only it can when you’ve explained something to your three year old that is way beyond their pay scale.
“No, Marla’s at Meme’s.”
“Yes.” I woefully continued to explain to him that she was also in our hearts because we love her and she will always be there.
Without a second thought, he was off to play, his sister in tow.
I want my kids to understand everything. I want them to go through life and not have to have really hard questions. I realize that a want like that it complete bullshit. Tough questions usually have answers that form character, that make people the way they are. Tough questions form the magma inside us, or the energy, or the soul, which ever you wish to believe. Without tough questions, our kids and ourselves simply believe everything we are ever told. Without tough questions, we can’t begin to form solid lives.
So here’s to you Marla. The last thing you did, wasn’t annoy me or attack me as I was going up the stairs. The last thing you did was help the people you loved, at least try to understand life a little better than they did before.
Love you kitty.
The next day when we were headed to bed. Jude asked again.
“Where’s Marwa.” He was hanging off Alaina’s back during his usual nighttime piggy back ride.
“Where’s Marla buddy?”
“Marwa’s at Meme’s.”
“She’s in your heart.”
“Yeah, She’s in daddies heart too.”