Friday, February 29, 2008

Visiting 'Myles'

As an atheist, I've begun to wonder why I go to my son's memorial. I've been a little short with my husband regarding the way he talks about Myles in front of DD. We are not, in fact, visiting Myles. We are visiting his memorial. It is a ritual, one of remembrance, one of bonding and sharing our loss. A ritual for us, not for him. I don't see it as more than that. and I don't want my daughter to think it is more. I don't want her to think we are visiting 'him', because I think she could get confused by the fact that his body is there but that he is not his body. I don't want her to think, for example, that he is cold, or lonely, or experiencing things there where he is buried. So I think language makes a big difference but DH isn't as delicate as me.

My husband is a deist, and I wish I could say our views haven't clashed over the years a little. In general, I'm disappointed completely with how Myles' death has been discussed with our daughter by most of my family. I was gone for five hours after he had died. When DD was around our family and they all had Myles' body and were telling her all sorts of things. I'm just worried she is confused. I've always told my family, by all means, share your beliefs with my daughter. But please, preface it with, "I believe . . . ". Don't treat your beliefs as fact. I don't think she should be under the impression that this is factual, that everyone agrees. Because we, as a world, considering all of our religions, don't agree. So I want her to hear the beliefs of many people, but I want her to first and foremost realize that belief is subjective.

So, it does kind of suck that I didn't get to help guide those discussions at the time. Because now she has all these set things in her mind, things that aren't 'weird' (that Myles is an angel, that he's in heaven) but that I wish she didn't believe on a physical level. She was looking at this beautiful sunset the other day, and she said that was heaven but noted she didn't see anyone there. Very astute. I don't tell her either way, mostly when we talk about these things, I ask her more questions than I tell her what to think.

I've always thought that if religion brings my daughter peace, I'm glad for her. It has never brought me peace. The idea of my son being somehow conscious and in some alternate reality is actually disturbing to me. I guess I could talk about it further, but I don't want to make moms like me, who do believe this, upset or offended by my misgivings. As I said, whatever brings you peace and happiness is what you should do. I find peace in knowing my son is at peace, and that he never learned the cruelties of this world, only the warmth and love of my womb. And I guess that's all I have to say about that right now.


c. said...

I certainly don't find that religion brings me peace, not with its boundless hypocrisy or mindless provisions. I guess I do find some peace, though, in believing my son is somewhere else, living peacefully in some alternate universe. I don't know if I want to call it heaven or not, nor do I whole-heartedly believe that something else is out there. I'd like to though. I'd like to think/believe/count on the fact that we might meet again someday, that I might hold him again and feel him. The rational side of me says that's so fucked up. My broken heart hopes that my rational side is wrong.

I like the idea of prefacing comments to children with "I believe". I find that approaching this subject at all with children is so very difficult...mostly because I'm grappling with it myself.

Lyndsay said...

I also like the "I believe..." preface. Children should know religious beliefs I think but not as fact. Perhaps children are more likely to get peace from some religious beliefs. They seem to have an easier time believing unlikely things and a better imagination than adults.
--lyndorr from feministing

charmedgirl said...

personally, i don't believe in telling children anything about religion. it's the same way i don't want them to see outdated notions of a woman's place (cinderella/"romance"), or horror movies. even beyond what they watch or read, i just don't think they are able to grasp the concept that people they are taught to highly respect believe things that probably aren't true. i'll most likely start teaching them about world religions as they hit school, but it will be like any other subject. the whole thing just creeps me out, how people think nothing of telling little kids religious/emotional stuff...probably about as much as i would be if someone told my kids their beliefs about sex.

anarchist mom said...

You have an interesting view, charmed girl. You'd think beliefs would/should be a private thing, but most people are born into a religion. And it seemed like with Simone, people felt like the had to offer these 'ideas' up to her. She didn't need them. She didn't question much. We were just very straightforward and loving, and there was no fear of worry from her. She asks questions and I answer and it's just very honest and open.

It almost seems like to me that when adults are fearful and worried they tell children what they want to believe, projecting their fears onto them. I wish I'd had a little more message control, to at least mitigate the barage of wistfully spoken words by saddened family and friends gathered at the hospital that day.

Oddly, I feel fortunate that our dog had to be put to sleep earlier this year, it allowed us to talk about death at length. It was horrible at the time, but those discussions hopefully also helped her to cope during this time. She has had a lot of questions, but they're the same questions all of us have. 'Why?', 'What happened, 'Did he hurt?' , etc. Questions I ask myself.

Ahh, what sad lessons to have to teach a child. Lessons nobody knows the answer to. I just want her to find peace wherever she goes, however she needs it.

anarchist mom said...

Oh, yes, and if you believe, like I do, that God is Santa Claus for adults, then you must admit that a portion of the parent/child relatioship is based upon falsities and make believe. That's what parents are used to, storks bring babies, santa brings presents, virgin births, etc. I just think religion is an extension of the rest of the fantasies we tell children. And they are primed to believe it. To them, parents are all powerful, all knowing. We are like Gods to them, they think we control so much, but we control so little.

anarchist mom said...

Kids are born believers. I love that about my daughter, I thrive on it. I remind her tangentially about the difference between reality and pretend, but her imagination is amazing.

c. said...

Just checking in to see how you are doing? You've been very quiet. Hope things are okay. (I mean, as okay as they can be.)