I’m a Catholic, and although I don’t often go to Mass, I spend time each day in meditation and prayer. They aren’t the same, at least not for me. Prayer is when I speak to God; meditation is when I listen to Him. No doubt, there are at this moment jaws hitting the floor as people struggle to believe I could possibly engage in the latter activity, much less the first. Well, I do, and I’m at a point in my life where my relationship with God is one of doctor and patient, with me regularly checking in to lie on the therapist’s couch. God’s rates are fair, and I can drop in without an appointment.
Through meditation I’ve learned it’s OK not to know everything. It’s OK to question God, just as it’s OK to go to Him and rail about injustices and the cruelty we, as humans, inflict on one another. It’s OK to go to God and lie quietly as He untangles the psychosis organized religion weaves. It’s OK to say, “Please. Just for five minutes hold back the storm that’s about to do me in so I can catch my breath. Please. Just five minutes.” You close your eyes and take deep breaths while the power that created the universe keeps life from colliding into you and sweeping you out with the storm surge.
Through meditation, my articles of faith have been stripped bare, lightening the load. Over the years, God has wrangled from me the multiple pieces of luggage I carried that contained guilt, regret, anger, unmitigated heartache and a hearty supply of other leeches that sapped my joy. They kept me confused and in pain, but I still fought when God pried the contents of that luggage from my hands. I fought hard and ran after them when He tossed them aside, embracing them again and stuffing them back into the bulging luggage I steadily complained was too heavy to carry. Just so you know, God does a lot of eye rolling during our sessions, while I spend a lot of time inventorying my collection of spiritual diseases, replenishing them when the supply dwindles. No joke. God has His hands full with me.
Also, through meditation, I learned that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, can happen without God’s permission. That bit of wisdom came slowly, though, because He and I had some knock-down, drag-outs over it. I fought it because I wanted to know why He allows suffering, why He allows violence, why He allows children to be horribly abused. Why? If you love us, how can you possibly allow it? I think it’s because He allows us to endure the consequences of our actions. I don’t know that for certain, but that’s why He has an open door policy for me. I’m welcome to lie down on the couch anytime and ask as many questions as I like. And, boy, do I have a lot of them.
I’m no longer in a hurry for all the answers. I deeply enjoy the therapy sessions I have with God, and I’m certainly screwed up enough to have to keep going back until my last breath. I’m content not to know everything, but I’m grateful He gives me just enough understanding to get through my struggles without going mad. It’s not blind faith. It’s like trusting that two plus two equals four without demanding to know calculus before I’ll believe it. The understanding of the difficult will come — when I need to know it. In the meantime, God gives me enough insight to weather the assaults on my heart that have sometimes laid me low. I sometimes thought they’d kill me, but He made sure they didn’t.
The death of a loved one is only one of the pains we humans have to bear. Even though as Christians we believe our loved ones go to an exquisite place where they are held in God’s embrace, we mourn. The pain can just about do us in, and it doesn’t matter how many times we tell ourselves they’re with God, we are sometimes immobilized by the pain. The older we get, the more we have to experience it.
But God, every my friend, has seen to it that I can weather the grief that accompanies death because He taught me the people we love never completely leave us. When my grandmother died 21 years ago, my pain was deep. She raised me, and not having her in my life cut an anchor that had so many times tethered me to the ground when life threatened to rip me away. I was lost. Then years later during a time of meditation, I learned she’s still with me. She still lives. She lives through all the things she taught me. Each time I cook a dish she made, she lives. Each time I remember one of her teachings, she lives. When I work in the garden, she lives because I’m carrying on her love of plants and nature. She lives because I live. She will always live as long as I pass on what she gave me.
That is how I know Coach Erickson is still with us. There are too many people in Dumas, and other places, who will forever carry a part of him. It could be his coaching advice or what was learned in his classroom. It could be one of his acts of kindness we will model. When we reach out with the love he doled out to us, he lives.
Science says energy can’t be created nor destroyed. I embrace that because I know the energy that fueled Coach Erickson remains with us. Death couldn’t destroy it. The laws of the universe that God created won’t allow it to be destroyed. I believe that energy is in the school’s halls, at the stadium and in every place he was. My faith is that simple.
I don’t expect believing that will completely assuage the pain the people who loved him are bearing, but I hope it will give them some comfort, as it has given me. No, we don’t see Coach Erickson, but I know he’s here. As long as we hold on to what he taught us, he’s still here. As long as we pass on what he taught us, he’ll continue to be here. He lives, just as every person born from the beginning of human history lives, because we pass on what they gave us — and Coach Erickson gave us a lot. Death doesn’t mean total separation, and when we know that, our hearts can heal.
As a Christian of simple faith, I don’t believe I have to wait for my own death to re-establish a connection with those who have gone before me. That reunion will be joyous, but I can still know the comfort of their presence here. We only have to hold on to and pass on the love they gave us. As long as we do that, they still live.
Rest easy, Coach Erickson. We will pass on your love to people who don’t know your name. We will pass on what you taught us to people who never met you. You are gone, but your energy isn’t, and it will continue to inspire, teach, amuse — and comfort us. Death would like us to believe our relationship with you has ended, but it hasn’t. It has only been rearranged.
So we must clear our throats and dry our tears. We have to teach the American History Rap Song.