Many of us know what it means to grieve, to feel the shuddering sense of loss that comes when we lose someone we loved. It tears us open, rips away all pretense, showing us what fragile and temporal creatures we are.
We seek comfort in different places, and grieve in our own distinct ways. This is ok, this is natural, yet what about those of us who are without faith? What comfort can we reach out for? Where do we turn?
As more and more people leave religious belief behind this has become a pressing question. I can find no comfort in lies, and even if I craved an afterlife I know too much about the origins and history of religion to take it seriously. No, I must live with the knowledge, perhaps the burden of accepting that what we see is almost certainly all we get. Does that leave any room for hope? Are there comforts from which we can draw?
Absolutely yes. Passionately less. Emphatically yes. First, why does lying about the nature of reality make things easier? Who could gain anything but the most meager solace from the fairy tales of religion? No, when I grieve I want to do so honestly and genuinely. Those people are truly lost to me, forever gone, and imagining them somehow ensconced in some celestial theme park cheapens the precious memory's that remain. My father is dead. He has ceased. I cannot change this, as much as I might ache to. I'd love to share a pint, to see him smile, to laugh at his daftness, yet that door has closed. One of the things that helped me, and helps me still is the awareness that something of him does indeed live on in me. His genetic code, his DNA, that incredible recipe that makes up all living things. Whilst his body has decayed, his atoms are free and now he is of a different substance. He was stardust to begin with, and now once again he is dispersed. Note, there is no appeal to the supernatural in any of what I say.
The other comfort I take is from those around me. The people I love and trust can be a precious strength, and all they need to be is themselves. I don't want your prayers or to be told that the deceased is in a better place. I just want you to be you. Come as you are, no pretense. And beyond this, I'd do well to remind myself of just how lucky I am to be here at all? My existence is a stroke of phenomenal good fortune; I've won the lottery of life against astoundingly absurd odds. I am here. I am alive. What better way to pay tribute to those past than to live with double the passion, treble the intensity. Our world, our solar system, our Milky Way galaxy, our universe is the most incredible canvas. Immense, imposing, inexplicable. As we learn more and more our gratitude should increase. We should glow, we should be radiant, we should wring every last drop from our time under the sun.
I know what you're thinking. He's said all this before. Yes, perhaps, but it's a drum worth beating. We are authors of our own destiny, and we are the one's that can expand our own horizons. How many of you are in a rut at the moment? Or bored? Or lonely? I beg you to believe that your journey can get better. Know in your depths your true value, place a hand upon your chest and feel your heart beating and your chest rise and fall.
You're alive. This is real. And there's a whole world out there. Seize it, squeeze it, leave your indelible imprint upon it. And above all, treasure the privilege of being here at all.