|BWS Stories - "My World is Empty Without You Babe"...Losing Loved Ones|
"My World is Empty Without You Babe"...Losing Loved Ones - Taking It on Faith
T. J. Banks is the author of Souleiado and Houdini. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Soul Menders, Their Mysterious Ways, The Simple Touch of Fate, Chicken Soup for the Single Parent's Soul, and Guideposts' Comfort from Beyond series. A Contributing Editor to laJoie and a columnist for cleverkitty.com, she has received writing awards from the Cat Writers' Association (CWA), ByLine, and The Writing Self.
Taking It on Faith
We sat atop the cemetery knoll, my old friend and I, and stared disbelievingly at the newly made grave. “What am I going to do, Jenny?” I sobbed, crumpling against her shoulder. “What am I going to do?”
I was 34-years-old and just widowed with a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. I felt as if someone had ripped my arm off and beaten me over the head with it. And I was more than willing to rip the other one off if doing so would end this terrible pain. I wanted reassurance -- what a well-known local jeweler used to call “P. O. M. G. -- Peace of Mind Guarantee” -- that some day I would have a nice, safe everything-colored-inside-the-lines life again. I couldn’t bear to say that I didn’t know what was happening next, any more than I’d been able to tell my 3rd-grade math teacher when I didn’t know the answer to a particular problem.
So, like a lot of people who find their lives suddenly, inexplicably derailed, I went looking for answers. I had been raised in a Reformed Jewish household. I was not a practicing Jew: I observed a few of the religious customs and had an abstract belief in God (as a small child, I’d imagined Him looking like Dr. Benton Quest, the all-knowing scientist father in the “Jonny Quest” cartoons), the soul, and an afterlife. Looking back, I’d say that I had a textbook sort of faith. There had been deaths and tragedies in my family, but that faith had never been tried. Not as it was being tried now.
In the wake of my husband Tim’s death, I did past-life regressions and soul retrievals and consulted psychics and tarot cards. I tried to believe what I was told along the way, no matter how fantastical it sounded, because I needed desperately to believe in something. What I didn’t see was that I was giving away my own power piecemeal because I was no longer listening to my soul’s own wisdom. I had forgotten the need to consider my sources -- which were, after all, humans and, by their very nature, flawed narrators.
About a year after Tim’s death, I was visiting Prince Edward Island with our daughter, Marissa. We took a few wrong turns on our way to the B&B and didn’t reach it till long after dark. When I regaled the owner with our misadventures, he smiled and said, “It’s impossible to get lost in Prince Edward Island -- you just turn around a lot.”
Well, that pretty much came to describe this long, strange spiritual trip of mine. During it, however, I did encounter two things that rang true: Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s books with their emphasis on prayer, perseverance, and positive thinking and Reiki, a form of energy healing brought to this country from Japan. On the surface, it hardly seemed likely that the two could share any common ground. But take away the Christian and Eastern overlay, and there was the same belief in a universal or God-energy that each of us could draw upon to heal and enhance his or her own life.
I traded in my tarot cards for prayer, meditation, and a few of Peale’s books. I disconnected all my psychic hotlines and took a couple of Reiki workshops. I won’t say that my whole life became aurora-borealis-bright and beautiful all at once; but a lot of things did turn themselves around, and I found myself stronger, better able to make it through those dark nights of the soul when they came. And I could draw upon this spiritual power or energy without any psychic’s help. I think it was the difference between hope and faith. Hope is a fitful whistling-in-the-dark kind of thing. It requires externals. It’s very good in its place, but it’s not the stuff that gets you through the storm itself.
Only faith can do that. It is the flame lit from within, and there is no explaining or denying it: it just Is, and no psychic or astrologer can give it to you. If anything, relying on them only blocks the channel for real lasting miracles. If you’re busy gawking at the golden calf (or whatever its New Age equivalent is), then you’re going to miss what rings true. There is also an addiction aspect to many of these ologies and practices: it’s all too easy to go running to a psychic or reader and get a “quick fix” instead of doing that dark-night-of-the-soul thing. But only when we stop clutching at what is trivial and hollow can we receive the grace that’s on the other side of pain.
Faith, as I slowly learned, is living with the questions, not knowing the outcome and still persevering. “I don’t know about that,” Puddleglum, the deprecating but valiant marsh-wiggle, says in C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair. “Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do….But that doesn’t let us off following the Sign.” Or, as another friend of mine put it, “People want to have the miracles, and then they’ll have the faith. But you’ve got to have the faith first, then the miracles happen.”
Almost ten years have gone by since that day in the cemetery. I have written and published a book; moved my daughter Marissa and our herd of animals to a new home; and worked my way through a number of situations that felt unbearable at the time. I still don’t have a clear idea of what God looks like (although I’m pretty certain it’s not like Dr. Benton Quest). I do know that there is what I can only call a God-power, a Force of infinite goodness because I’ve felt It and at times when I’ve least expected and most needed It. But, most of all, like Puddleglum, I’ve learned to say I don’t know what’s going to happen next and still hold on to my faith.