tehuti: (Tehuti)
[personal profile] tehuti
Early Friday morning, my last maternal uncle passed away. He had and fought cancer for a long time, and it finally proved too much for him. Of all of my uncles, Tutsy was my favorite, and I'd like to tell you why.

I've told the story I'm about to tell before, but I don't think I've ever included Tutsy's role in it. I'm positive I've never told it to anyone in my family of origin, so to any of them reading this, it's new. And for most of the rest of you, this is likely your first time hearing it as well. In order to fully tell this story, I have to go back to my first experience with death.

I was 15 when my uncle Shelly passed away. He was my mother's oldest brother. Shelly also fought a long battle with cancer, and his fight was no less heroic than Tutsy's. He fought until he had nothing left to fight with. We watched the disease slowly eat him alive. He was a wonderful man, generous and kind, a talented musician, and a loving father. Everyone that knew him thought highly of him. He wasted away to nothing, fighting a body that betrayed him.

I couldn't understand what had happened. I'd been taught all my life that God loves us, and takes care of his Chosen People. How could God let this happen to such a good man? It didn't make any sense to me. It still doesn't. I couldn't resolve this crisis of faith on my own. So I did the only thing I could. I asked the experts.

Our rabbi (wish I could remember his name now) gave me a bunch of the standard lines. God moves in mysterious ways, blah blah blah. But one of the things he said to me really stuck, and really pissed me off. He said that everything in life happens because it is part of God's plan. None of his answers satisfied my questions, so I kept at it. I talked to a priest. Then a minister. And they said the same things. God has a plan, we are not meant to know it, and all things happen because God made it this way.

What a horrifying thing to say, let alone believe! This God, who supposedly loves us, intentionally inflicts pain and suffering on the undeserving? This deity allowed a good man to slowly die in such a horrible fashion? I knew there was no way my uncle deserved to die like that. Which could mean only one thing. God doesn't really care at all how you live your life. God had a plan for you, and it didn't matter if you were a mensch or a murderer, it was going to happen how God arbitrarily decided.

This was no deity I could believe in. He turned his back on my uncle, so I turned mine on him.

But I did not turn my back on religion. I started reading everything I could find about other faiths. I discounted any faith that looked to Jehovah or Yaweh, since I'd already covered that and found it wanting. But that left plenty of avenues to explore, most notably Hinduism and Buddhism. And it was there that I began to find the answers I sought. A book about modern pagans (and by modern, I mean a book written about 1960s pagans) made the greatest impression upon me. Multiple divinities, an acknowledgment of the female force in the divine, and the beginnings of an answer as to why bad things happen to good people.

I was past 16 when I made the mental commitment to be pagan. It would still be some years before I formally dedicated myself to my path, but I began to incorporate my new faith into my life.

This did not sit well with my mother.

We've fought over a lot of things, my mother and I. Some of them were stupid, some were extremely important, and some are much less important with the passage of time. Some of them cost us time we can never get back. But of all the things we've fought over in life, this one was top three.

She was scared for me. She didn't understand what was going on in my head, and I didn't know how to tell her. It's tough, being a teenager, on mothers and sons.

This is where Uncle Tutsy came into the picture. At my mother's urging, he took me for a drive one day, to talk to me about my crisis of faith. I don't remember how long it lasted, nor do I remember everywhere we went. I do remember ending up parked on the beach road to Nahant, sitting in his car while we watched the waves, talking about faith, spirituality and the divine. I told him about my doubts, and what led me to where I was. He listed, asked intelligent questions, and admitted to me that he too had doubts, and had done the same kind of searching I was doing. And he said something to me that I have never forgotten. Tutsy said that we should never stop learning, never stop asking questions, and never stop seeking the truth. He said to me that we had to be brave enough to follow wherever it led, even if it scared us, or other people didn't like it. You had to always be true to yourself, to live the life you were meant to live.

I have carried that advice with me ever since, and have added to it. The day you stop learning, questioning and seeking is the day you stop growing, and that is the day you truly begin to die.

That wasn't the only conversation about faith that he and I shared, but it was the one I still remember. His words that day gave me the strength to follow my truth wherever it led. His truth that day allowed me to find mine. His admonition to never stop seeking remains with me still. Although I do not talk about my faith very often, it is the bedrock that my entire life sits upon. And without my Uncle Tutsy's words, I might never have found it. If that first conversation never happened, I might not have had the strength of conviction to dedicate myself to the path I walk today, and the man I am now would not exist.

Of all of my uncles, I loved and respected him the most. And of all of them, I will feel his loss most keenly. Rest well, my uncle. Speedy return.
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tehuti

January 2012

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