Repost from 2012: The Fear of Death

As I noted and explained in my original “Fighting the Darkness” post, this whole ordeal has put my faith into a terrible period of testing and doubt.

I had seen so many signs that God wanted me to be friends with Richard, that God had brought us together so Richard could lead me into Orthodoxy and I could help his family.

But as I’ve already noted, I discovered that apparently God had brought me into friendship with a dangerous, violent narcissist and his malignant narcissist/borderline personality disordered wife.

I start thinking, “What if it’s all a lie and all religion is false and everyone who dies goes into nothingness, goes into darkness, vanishes forever?”  I don’t want to vanish forever.  I want my consciousness to live on.

Atheists don’t seem to realize that their message of “no Hell, no Heaven, this is all we get” is not the message of happiness and freedom they think it is.  They don’t seem to understand why more people don’t pound down their door wanting this.

Even John Lennon didn’t get it, writing those lines in “Imagine”–imagine there’s no Heaven above us, no Hell below us–as if it would somehow free the human race from its woes.

On the contrary, such a message brings horror and fear of death to most.  We want to leave this place and go to a better one, with no sickness or woe, where justice is meted out for the people who hurt others without regret and without punishment.

Where a poor little child whose last moments were of terror, molestation and murder, finds herself in a land of bliss, warmth, love and comfort.

Where we will once again see the smile of that long-lost mother, son, husband, friend, and not have them lost to us forever.

I want to live; I want to see what happens after I leave this earth.  I don’t want to lose myself forever.  I don’t want my consciousness to vanish into nothingness.  I don’t want to fall asleep and never wake up, in a place where even dreams cease.

I don’t want my dreams and the stories I played out in my childhood, to be lost forever.

This morning I had another dream of death, of terror at the thought of going into darkness forever.  I have these now and then.  One vivid dream took place at a cemetery during a funeral.

I am comforted by the teaching of classical churches that this is not a sin, that it doesn’t mean I lose my salvation, that it’s not even a sign of weakness.

On the contrary, I was told it’s a sign of a mature faith, as long as you keep in the church, keep doing the things you’re supposed to do.

Mother Theresa went through this for most of her life, as has been documented.  Other saints of the church have, as well.

I was even told that many priests have moments of wondering as they go through the service, “Is this all for nothing?”  In fact, it has a name: The Long Dark Night of the Soul.

But there are churches which would drive you further into spiritual despair by telling you that you’re gravely sinning by questioning, by doubting.  It’s yet another reason to run from those churches and into the arms of Orthodoxy.

 

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Struggling through waves of grief over Dad’s passing

My dad died last August.  I was at his bedside.  Then came the funeral, I went home, and it was back to my own life.

I had a lot to do: We had a cat in failing health peeing all over the basement, so every day I had to clean up after her multiple times.  The tub/surround desperately needed replacing, and that required contractors, lots of $$$, and a loan.  Hubby wanted me to deal with that, and it took some time.  I’m working on a novel that requires extensive research.  And of course, there’s typical life stuff: housework, kid’s school, church, club, etc.

In the midst of all that, a large group of obsessive trolls began stalking me on and off.

But now the tub is finally replaced, with beautiful new tiling.  The trolls lost interest.  The cat is, unfortunately, now passed, leaving me with much less work to do in a day.

And now my brain is starting to force the grief upon me.  I didn’t try to push it away before: I just had stuff to do and had to focus.  But for a long time, details of being by my dad’s bedside, and then losing my dad, were kept in a little spot in my brain, because they were too painful and disturbing.  But now the grief’s been coming out, over and over again.

At night, I sometimes dream about death.  Much of it is about my own mortality, the old fear arising yet again that death is truly the end, that the atheists are right and we go to nothingness.  The fear of the end of Me.

Just the other night (this was written March 25), I dreamed of someone whose eyes were forced open after he died (yeah, I know it’s usually the other way, but this was a dream).  Somebody said that brain waves continue after death unless your eyes are propped open: Then they stop.  This made me wonder if forcing the eyes open meant that you truly went to nothing, while before you still were alive someplace.  I wondered if forcing the eyes open meant interference, truly killing someone.  It freaked me out, and I woke up.

I dream about life slipping away, aging, faster and faster all the time, looking back and longing for youth.  I dream of my son’s life passing too fast.

Two months ago, I dreamed about my dad.  I wrote it down, and decided to use it in my novel.  I’m not sure if I want to write it here, or just let the world see the fictionalized version.  Maybe I already did write it here, but forgot.  But it was upsetting.

I constantly imagine the death of someone who has just died, whether in reality or fiction: not going to Heaven, but going to endless sleep.  I remember myself in surgery a couple of years ago, going up onto the table, then suddenly nothing until I woke up later on.  I imagine it being like that, but without waking up.

I remember details of my dad’s death.  I begin to whimper.  I remember he’s gone, that it’s all over.  I wonder if I will ever see him again, or if the afterlife is all just a fanciful dream we fool ourselves with.  (The atheists don’t seem to understand why we don’t find their version of death appealing or their message comforting.)  I could swear it was only just, say, my college years and he was driving me home for Christmas Break.  Or that I could still call him up on Father’s Day or his birthday.

I hear something or see something on TV that reminds me of my dad’s last hours, and it floods back.

Then I shake it off because I have to go on.

I recently told my husband something of this, because we just realized the cat was dying, and we were watching for the signs.  After checking the Internet to find out what they were, I realized she was probably in pain as well, but hiding it.  It reminded me of how my dad suffered, and watching for signs that he was about to leave us.  My husband said I needed a vacation.  Yet the house keeps needing to be cleaned, meals need to be cooked, bills need to be paid….While the grief and the mid-life crisis continue in the background….

 

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Freaked Out by Near-Miss This Morning

Every once in a while, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ll have a dream about death, funerals, and the like.  Not only is this the dread of every person, the thing which all creatures resist, but as of late (as in, the past 7 years) this has been a periodic preoccupation: What if the atheists are right, what if this really is all there is and one day I will cease to be, not just physically but my soul as well?

This morning, I had another dream–not about death, but in a dorm room full of otherwise cheerful people was a section with a sort of funeral parlor, and somebody’s urn.  So when I woke for church, this dream got me thinking, What if this were my last day on Earth?  As I got ready, the thoughts kept coming back: What if we get into an accident on the way to church?

Since such thoughts do come occasionally yet nothing happens, I try to disregard them, consider them just imaginings, not in any way a foreboding.  It is, after all, a very real threat to all living beings, that something unforeseen will happen, but usually it does not.  But I got into the car and thought, What if this, a cold morning in a cold car, is my last?  (My husband was driving.)

As we passed the big display/sign of a local college, I saw the time, 9:47, and thought, what if that’s my last….You get the picture.  I tried to discount these as silly thoughts, because while such things do happen to people all the time, you’re far more likely to get through the day as usual.

I have had precognitive dreams in the past about other things, especially in the couple of years after the mental Link with my ex Peter.  Some people have doubted the Link existed, but Peter claimed it did, it happened after he hypnotized me with a crystal, and for a while we seemed to hear each other’s thoughts and feel each other’s pain.  If it was real and not him fooling me, it probably opened up my mind psychically for a while.

But I have not had precognitive dreams for many years, probably because–even though my pastor believed in psychic ability, since it links us to God–I feared that Peter and I had been getting into demonic areas, so I turned away from all psychic things.

In the IRC conversation in which Richard explained how he hypnotized me without my knowledge, I mentioned that Peter hypnotized me with a crystal; Richard replied, “A crystal?  Oh lawdy.  He was using New Age hypnotherapy, drawing energy from the sources to alter your perceptions, aka demonic.”

So not only was it possible that we did indeed have a mental link, thanks to this hypnotism, but that God and my own fear helped pull me out of it and away from demonic influences.

So the psychic abilities I seemed to have for a while after the Link ended, I have not felt in many, many years.  And I have death dreams far too often to take them seriously.

I turned to look at the sign as we passed, trying to see the temperature.  Then all of a sudden, as I turned back, my husband slammed on the brakes!

He thought he had the green light; a car was turning right in front of us, not stopping.  For a moment, I thought it was a foreboding after all.

We got out of it all right.  The brakes worked; nobody slammed into us; both cars just kept on driving on.

And I quietly freaked out, wondering…..Was that what my forebodings were all about?

Which also begs the question: If it was indeed a foreboding, then can such prophecies be diverted?  In other words, I could very easily have died, but because my husband acted fast enough with instinct, none of us even got hurt.  So they are not set in stone, but are warnings so we can change the future.

Whatever the case, that was frickin’ freaky.  And I’m so glad I’m sitting here typing this instead of in a hospital bed–or worse.

 

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Trying to Explain the Wreck of My Faith to a Worried Husband

There is one very frustrating thing which made me glad, in the “old days,” to have Richard to talk to: Richard understood spiritual searching and questioning, while my husband seems to see every question or exploration I make into theological issues, as the sign of the End of My Faith.

For example, the questions I had about such things as Hell, who goes there, is it eternal, all led me to Orthodoxy–but along the way, he seemed to think my questions would lead me to atheism.

I held certain theological positions based on my Nazarene upbringing, which got him asking how any Christian could believe that way.

Those positions, by the way, also led me to Orthodoxy, because the search I started to show him I was not a heretic, led me to discover that many of the things my dad had taught me, were very similar to Orthodox beliefs.  (This is all related to the Harrowing of Hell and the meaning of Old Testament sacrifices, could Old Testament pagans be saved, that sort of thing.)

Ever since at least as far back as 2005, I’ve had occasional doubts that the supernatural and God even exist.  We have all sorts of evidence, yes, but where is the proof that cannot be explained away as hallucination, brain malfunction, lack of sleep/food, or other natural causes?

Then I found “The River of Fire” by Alexandre Kalomiros, and that doubt vanished for quite some time, as I finally found the pearl of great price, the evidence that God was not a stern judge, and that Hell was not filled to the brim with good people who happened to be Buddhists or Muslims instead of Christians.

No, I can’t call a sweet, pious, loving Muslim woman, truly evil and depraved just because she happens to believe in Mohammed instead of Christ.

In Orthodoxy, I found prayers being answered as I prayed during Divine Liturgies and asked for the prayers of the Theotokos and saints alongside my own.

The doubts did resurface at times; I remember asking Richard about these questions during this time.

But friends I’d made over the years had drifted away, as they tend to when you change churches, or change jobs.

In one situation, I kept inviting to parties a friend with whom my other friends had problems.  My main group of college friends and I were still close via e-mail, but we were scattered around the state, too far to see each other often.

My husband and I would try to make new friends, but it just wouldn’t work out.  He no longer did stuff in the SCA, because he kept having arguments with people, and our son was a toddler, making it more difficult to do much in the SCA.

As for another group of friends, he had a falling-out with one, the husband stopped coming to the gaming group as well, and the other couple had work schedules which did not work with ours.

So I was desperately lonely.  I was starting to get to know people at my new church, but I’m shy and introverted, so it is always a struggle, and I was alone because my husband did not want to be Orthodox.

During Divine Liturgy one day, I prayed for a friend.  It was in my head, not something that Satan could detect, because he can’t read minds the way God can.  So it seemed a safe prayer that only God could answer.

A few months later, God seemed to provide this friend, as Richard moved his whole family to my city.

Richard and I had been friends for a couple of years, meeting on an Internet forum and also talking on the phone, so that I trusted him, believed in him, thought we had connected on a spiritual level.

He was my spiritual mentor, the one who led me to Orthodoxy and helped me every step of the way with my questions, who explained various parts of the faith to me.  He was the one to whom I spilled all the private details when my dad left my mom for a short time.  I didn’t even tell my college friends what I told him.

And now he was moving to my city.  A friend again at last!  An answer to prayer!  And for quite some time, it seemed that God had predestined us to be friends, that we were meant to help each other, bless each other.

…Which is why my faith has been so sorely devastated since Richard turned his back on me and betrayed me just two and a half years later.

More and more evidence keeps coming out that Richard was not at all what he claimed to be.  That he hasn’t reformed from his young and wild “evil” days as much as he claimed.

That he was keeping things from me,  deceiving me.

That he would convince me his liberties were all platonic, but I would be treated otherwise for believing and trusting him.

That he was a violent person, not just past violence which he claimed to be defeating with the tools of Orthodoxy, but was still violent and dangerous.

That he complained that his wife abused him and the children, when he himself turned out to be an abuser, beating one child mercilessly when she was little, then choking her to unconsciousness when she was 9.

That he was using me for my generosity.

He threatened my husband.  He turned on me.  He threatened me and has been stalking me online for months, when he knew very well I wanted him to go away and leave me in peace.

His cruelty has been unbelievable.  I never would have expected this from him.

How could God answer my prayer with a curse?  If, indeed, there is a God?  I suppose a deep question which I barely dare to admit even to myself is, not just how could Richard betray me, but How could God betray me?

This wasn’t the only thing that brought it back up, however.  On June 9, 2009, I watched the movie The Seventh Seal; it explored the same feelings I had about death, that we can’t really be sure what will happen, that we are afraid of the void, of going into emptiness.

I e-mailed Richard about this, since I could safely talk to him about these fears.  I know from this e-mail that those feelings had been stirring again in me already in 2009.

But the true test of faith did not come until Richard’s betrayal more than a year later.  Then everything just fell apart.  Then I no longer knew what to believe.  The first time I wrote about this was Fighting the Darkness.

My husband and I have discussed this before.  I try to put his mind at ease, try to explain that in Orthodoxy and Catholicism, this is called the Long Dark Night of the Soul.  I try to explain that saints have gone through this, that Mother Theresa suffered from it for 50 years, that it’s actually considered a mark of mature faith to go through this and yet keep at the faith rather than just chucking it all and becoming an atheist.

But he keeps bringing it up again and again.  He just doesn’t understand the constant questioning of an intellectual, that not only can I not help the constant questioning and analyzing my brain does of everything, but that I don’t want to.

If I were to lose all these constant questions and thoughts and the drive to research, I would lose what makes me creative, what makes me comfortable with my own company, what leads me to write and draw and lose myself listening to music.  I would feel lonely without my thoughts.

But he thinks I over-think.  He thinks I should be like him and just ask a question for a few minutes, resolve it and not think about it anymore.

But I don’t want to be like that.  It seems that if I became that way, I would lose my drive for life.  What would keep me going if not those endless questions and searches which keep me looking for answers?  Just day-to-day drudgery of housework, exercise and getting my son to school?

Yesterday, my husband became very concerned yet again, wondering how I could be so comfortable with questions and doubts in my head that never go away completely.  But this is what I live with.

Without those questions, I still would be a fundamentalist Nazarene who believes that dancing, alcohol, and going to movies is sinful, who believes that Catholics are not Christians and doomed to Hell, and various other beliefs which I have long since examined, found wanting, and replaced with Orthodoxy.

It’s kind of funny that he talks as if I have any sort of control over this.  I don’t.  God made me with a brain that always questions and thinks and reads and contemplates.  Even in elementary school, teachers noted it.

And these thoughts have been with me since at least 2005, have been with mankind forever.  I also see them in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, a work which my fellow Orthodox converts online love to talk about.

He wonders how I can just accept this if it leads to losing my faith?  But I can’t be scolded or argued into reassurance or an ending of questions.  That would just be denial.

It’s not my choice–It just is!  I can no more stop the questions than you can stop the tide from coming in.

And no, it has not led to loss of faith or atheism.  It has, rather, led to a period of spiritual blackness, where I hold onto the Church, hoping to one day be led back into the light of certainty, hoping that there really is an afterlife and I won’t just blip out of existence after death.

I don’t want to end.  I want to see what comes next.  I want to go to Heaven and find that Richard wants to make peace with me there.  I want to see if mankind ever goes past the moon.

I want to know the truth about religion, rather than just dying and knowing nothing, not even that religion is false–because if religion is false and there is nothing beyond the grave, none of us will ever know the truth, because when we find it, we’ll be dead.

And the simple fact of the matter is: If in any way Hubby can explain to me how God can answer my desperate prayer for friendship with a curse, giving me a couple of narcissistic sociopaths who destroyed my faith in humanity and God, and still exist, still be a loving God–then sure, I can stop doubting….

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