I was brought up going to church every Sunday. My mother was raised in the First Christian church, my father in a Southern Baptist household. As a family, we attended the Methodist church. My brother and I were both baptized in the Methodist church. As an adult, I continued as a member of the Methodist church and my son was christened and baptized there as well. I remained an active churchgoer until I turned twenty-six. That’s when I met my wife, found myself, and lost my religion.
It wasn’t finally being true to myself and finding the woman of my dreams that caused my departure from organized religion. It was my confusion and doubt, which drove me to my pastor’s office one afternoon, shortly after beginning my relationship with the woman I’m still married to today. I sat down across from this man I had known and trusted for many years, and laid my heart out on his desk. “Help me understand,” I asked, after explaining what was going on with me. His answer, “I really can’t help you and you are no longer welcome in this church." I have darkened the door of a church only twice since then, and that was to attend Christmas Eve services with my family and to bury my grandmother.
I left the church that day, but not my belief in a higher power. I believe there is something greater than us out there, a collective power of hope, peace, and love. I only have to look to nature and all its wonders to know that is true. I only have to look at the woman I fell in love with twenty-five years ago to know that she was a gift to me. I remember saying to that pastor, “I can’t imagine a God that would give this love to me, and then damn me for it.” He could. That was our impasse.
So, over the years, I’ve developed my own kind of worship. I thank the universe everyday for the gifts I’ve been given. I seek solace in the wonders of the world. I remain true to the values I was taught in Corinthians 13:13 – “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” If the fundamentalist can pick and choose what to believe in the bible, so can I. I choose to love.
I was standing on my back porch in tears last night, looking up at the heavens, praying, yes praying, that my Dixie would be okay. She has four legs and fur, but she is my baby girl and she is very sick. I stood there trying to decide who to ask for help and what to ask for. I heard a voice in my head say very clearly, “Ask me.” I began to say some of the words to a Native American funeral service, one I learned while writing my last book.
Please help me save my baby girl, but if it is time for her to sing her death song, Father in heaven, know that this is my friend coming. By these words, I ask that our tears of mourning be wiped away so that we may see again. By these words, I ask that our mourning cries may be silenced so that we may hear again. When our friend crosses to the next world, the stars will fall, leaving us in the dark. Help us to lift up the stars and replace them in the sky, so that the spirit of our friend will have light at her crossing, and the path for us here on earth will remain clear. Lift her up, for she is loved.
I sit now beside her bed, listening to her ragged breaths and I am praying. I realized last night that I never lost my religion. I simply found it in a different place. I have asked the Great Spirit to give me strength, to help my baby girl, and to guide me to know the right thing to do. No, I don’t go to a chapel to pray. I lay my head on her side and know that there is love in this world, and today I am praying hope and faith will get us through.
Hang in there, Dixie. Momma loves you.