The holes in my heart

Thirty one years ago today, my late wife was born.  A little over three years ago, she passed away.  Many things in my life have bored holes in my heart, but only one has been a bigger hole that this event.  That is the hole made in my heart when Mormonism died.  I've spent some time wondering why this is the case, and here are some of my thoughts.

Karen was an amazing woman.  Everyone who knew her had only positive things to say about her.  The children she taught at school all loved her and were always excited when it was music time.  The teachers she worked with all complimented her, and her principal would have done absolutely anything for her.  I was continually amazed at her strength--her ability to keep pushing on, even when she was tired or sick or had just been treated with chemotherapy.

During the three years that we were married, we grew very close together.  I got to see every aspect of her personality, and she mine.  We had our spats.  We had our fun. We remodeled our home and transformed it into a palace of love.  I had never had more respect for anyone else in my life than I had for her.  She was inspiring in many ways.  Since my connection with her was so strong, and my love for her so great, her death left a massive scar on my heart.  Now, who would nag me and encourage me to be productive?  Who would remind me where I put my red pen?  Whom would I cook dinner for and make the bed with?

As dear as she was to me, and as poignant her loss was, there was someone more dear to me and his loss was much more painful.  This is someone that I had known for 27 years.  It is someone that I looked up to in absolutely every way.  It was a person who was literally perfect.  I had known him so well, and he had known me perfectly.  I loved him more than anyone else in my life--I valued him more highly than I did my own life.  I would have done anything for him.  I would have sacrificed all that I had at his bidding.  Yes, I am talking about my God.

I spent two years teaching Japanese people about Mormonism because of my love for God.  I spent 4 years attending the university that I believed to be established by God because of my love for my God.  I volunteered countless hours each week driving the missionaries around, teaching with them, and feeding them because of my love for God.  My love of God shaped my life, it shaped my character and my personality.  It defined everything.  And then it crumbled.  God disappeared.  I opened my eyes one day and he was gone.  In fact, it was worse than that.  He didn't just disappear, he never even existed in the first place.

The movie A Beautiful Mind does a very good job at showing the sheer incredulity felt by a schizophrenic patient who is told that some of the people in his life are not real--that people he believes he has spent his whole life with are nothing more than figments of his own imagination.  At first, he may just think people are pulling a prank on him, then he may think that everyone's designed an elaborate conspiracy to make him think that he's crazy.  But all along, the truth is that these people never existed and the only thing other people can do for him is help him see what is real and what is not.  This is very much like what I felt when I came to the conclusion that there are no gods.  This man that I had looked up to my whole life, whom I had revered and worshiped, whom I had dedicated my whole life to, turned out to be nothing more than a myth, a fairy tale.  This was wholly and completely devastating.

The reason why I have so much compassion for people who still believe--when they are offended by things that I or other non-believers say--is that I remember these feelings of pain and hurt.  I remember what it was like to have my belief questioned.  I remember feeling betrayal at the suggestion that god wasn't real.  If there were no god, then that would mean I had been wasting my life.  I didn't want my life to be a waste, so surely I could not contemplate the non-existence of god.

It hurt.  It hurt so bad, I didn't know what to do.  I didn't think I could contain all of the hurt.  I realized that I spent two years teaching people something that really isn't true.  I do not regret having done this.  At the time I did it, I sincerely felt that what I was doing was right, and I think everyone should follow their own conscience and do what they believe to be right.  I sincerely believed in Mormonism, so I have no regrets about what I did.  But I do regret having taught so many people something that is just simply false.  And I feel betrayal at being lied to my whole life by an organization that professes to know absolute truth.

I think one more reason why this "death" hurt me far more than Karen's death is that when Karen died, I believed that I would see her again.  Our parting would only be temporary. After a few short decades, she would again be in my arms and our love and our family would continue to grow.  When my god died, I realized that this was merely a fanciful thought.  I wanted it to be true so badly that I believed it fully.  And so, admitting that it wasn't true was a very difficult thing to do.  I won't see Karen again.  She doesn't exist somewhere as a spirit or a resurrected human.  She simply doesn't exist.  What a horrible, devastating realization.  Someone that I knew personally, loved, and was intimate with.  After spending only three years together, I am consigned to never see her again.  This hurt deeply.

Her family, and most of the people who knew her, all hold on to the belief that she still lives and they will see her again.  I do not blame them for believing this, nor do I think them foolish for it.  I understand why they feel that way.  I understand why it is enticing to believe that.  I understand the doctrine and the reasoning behind the belief. And I do not wish to insult them in that belief.  I wish only to share my feelings and my point of view on the matter.

Some may say, "If it hurts that much, why not just continue to have faith in God and believe that she's still alive somewhere?"  My response to that is that I cannot believe in something simply because it is easy or because it makes my life better.  I need to believe in something because it's true.  I want to seek the absolute truth in all things, as I stated in a recent post.  I have studied the matter carefully.  After hundreds of hours of study and introspection, I have concluded that it is not logical to assert the existence of a supernatural being.  It would be dishonest of me to claim faith in a god.  It would be disingenuous.  I would much rather face reality and accept the universe as it is than to continue to delude myself into thinking something that I merely wish to be true because it's easier to accept.

I do not despair because of my losses--of losing Karen or of the discovery that I will never see her again.  In fact, I gain strength from it.  I have learned to value the time that I have all that much more because it is all the time that I have.  I have learned to be more loving to those I love, and to enjoy the moment more fully.  My memories of Karen are so wonderful and so amazing.  I can keep those.  I can preserve her in my mind.  I can still aspire to be like her, in all of the ways that she was good.  And I can make the most of the present, with Conrad and with all of the other people in my life that I love.  To me, facing reality and acknowledging that death is the end is ennobling and empowering.  It is motivation to live life more fully, and to experience the richness of life.  I am filling the holes in my heart with goodness, with happiness, and most importantly with love.