By Rachel Lankester.
Sometimes I think it would be so nice to have faith. I don’t mean faith in something or someone, so much as religious faith. It must be nice to know all the answers or if you don’t know the actual answers, to feel certain someone else has it all in hand and that they’re looking out for you and guiding you through this complicated process called life.
Regular readers may know I sing gospel. Yet I don’t believe in any religion! I like to think of myself as the ultimate hypocrite! But when singing gospel I do feel spiritual. Not in what I perceive as a religious sense. But somehow I feel I connect to something bigger. But whether that something is inside of me or a bigger power within the universe, I have no idea. Either way the music and the words move me.
I’m currently taking a break from my gospel choir because there’s so much else going on and I know I’ll miss it terribly. I love all kinds of music and it is often a great source of sustenance for me. But other music doesn’t involve my energy, my spirit and my passion in the same way that singing gospel does. It’s amazing.
Related: What Singing Means To Me
So for at least the last decade I’ve been putting myself in a position where God could quite easily connect with me and bring me onto the home team so to speak. At least once a week I am singing his praises even if I don’t believe. So you might have thought I’d have got religion by now. But every time I sing, it’s almost like confirmation for me that religion is never going to play a role in my life.
And yet today I’m sitting listening to one of my favorite pieces of classical music, the Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams and I crave the quiet solemn stillness of a traditional Church of England church. Grief does that to me. Whether it’s grief over a broken relationship, or grief over the loss of someone dear to me or grief at the pain a friend is going through.
I remember years ago when my first marriage was disintegrating, walking past the cathedral in New York City, where I lived at the time, and going inside for solace. There is something about the stately grandeur of a magnificent cathedral that I still find very soothing. Years of singing in the church choir in my youth I guess.
Maybe I’ll make my way to a church over the next few days. You see, yesterday on Good Friday, I learnt that my dear friend’s husband had died. We’d been hoping for a miracle but it was not to be. I last saw him in New York just over a year ago when I stayed with them on my most recent visit there.
He was the picture of health, loving life as he always did, chatting to me about business and trying to persuade me to help inject some online marketing into his own health practice. Then two months later when I’d long since returned to England, I heard he had a cancer diagnosis.
And so began a year fighting to keep him alive. The diagnosis seemed to change and there were moments of great hope. In the end it seems it may have been the cancer drugs that hastened his demise rather than destroying the lymphoma that was destroying him.
Now I want to fly to my friend and hold her as she sobs. She and her husband were college sweethearts. They were married for more than 30 years, quite some feat in this day and age. Their daughter is still only 19. She was in nursery with my son. So much pain for one so young.
And then, as always happens when death shows its face in my life, my thoughts turn to other instances of mortality. And I ponder on how, as we get older, the more death will show its face.
Because that’s life isn’t it? Life is death. And then I wonder should I just be enjoying each and every moment or still trying to change the world as I pursue my own personal desire for fulfilment and purpose?
What would I do if I was in this situation? Eventually either me or my husband will be. That’s life. And how do we learn to adapt to life with more death as we get older?
This is another of those taboos of midlife and beyond isn’t it? Something else I think it would help to talk more about. Death and how we can plan for it and cope with it. It’s just another life stage after all and a certainty for each and every one of us.
I think I’m kind of ready or as ready as I’ll ever be for the death of older people. But this is the first death of a close friend of my own age.
If I were Christian, I could find comfort in the story of the resurrection, at time of writing, tomorrow being Easter Sunday. Not that my friend was Christian – he was of Jewish heritage. Maybe there would be something there in the Passover story too that could help.
It’s at moments like this that I understand why people crave religion more and more as they age. We’re all seeking answers, especially to that big looming question “what’s next?” And religions sure do have an answer for that biggie. But it still doesn’t work for me.
So I will take some time, listen to some more Vaughan Williams, sit quietly in my own personal contemplation and hope (because praying feels just too hypocritical) that my friend and her daughter find the strength they need to cope with their tragic loss.
And life will go on. And I’ll try to procrastinate less.
If you have wisdom to share on how we can all learn to adapt to a more death-filled life please let me know.