I was raised a Roman Catholic. I went to Catholic school through the fifth grade, and until I left for a non-denominational school everyone I knew was Catholic. Everyone in my parents’ circle of friends and therefore by extension my circle of friends was Catholic. I didn’t even realize that there were other Christian religions until I was about 10.
But in spite of my early Catholic immersion I can’t say with any honesty that I really had faith. Not faith in the true believer sense anyway. I believed because my parents did, because everyone I knew went to church just like us, and because it never occurred to me to question my religion. I believed because it was presented to me as an absolute by my family and the Church and there weren’t any alternatives offered in the world I lived in.
When I was 16 my brother died. He didn’t really die “of” anything. He wasn’t sick, he didn’t get killed in a car accident and he didn’t kill himself. He was sick to his stomach and he threw up in his sleep and suffocated. This is a very rare occurrence in someone that is not intoxicated or otherwise impaired which he was not. It was a random tragedy. Somehow it felt even more tragic for its randomness.
Once I was no longer in deep shock I started to question my faith for the first time. I had never been extraordinarily devout, but while my parents seemed to embrace the Church, I grew distant from it. I found it hard to go to Mass. I felt hypocritical for being there. I expressed a lot of anger towards the Church for a long while, which eventually faded to the ambivalent distance of a lapsed Catholic. This ambivalence about my beliefs has remained all the way into adulthood.
Three years ago I gave birth to boy/girl twins. Their arrival has provoked a lot of complex emotions that I never acknowledged I was carrying around with me. And their amazing little lives have stirred questions in my mind that I have preferred not to think about for a long time. Who are we? Why are we here? What’s the point? Where do we go when we die? Is heaven really there? These are questions that are either answered by faith or in death and not by my constant ruminations.
I am still not prepared to answer those questions or embrace the faith that they require. What I do know is that I believe in Heaven on Earth. Whether there is a Heaven beyond or not I can’t say, but I believe that we are given moments of extraordinary joy by an unseen Benefactor. Why I have been selected for these slices of Heaven I don’t know but each time one occurs I wonder what I have done to deserve it. And sometimes I wonder what I should be doing.
I believe that if I look too far ahead of me, I will miss the gifts that are being given to me every day. When my son says “I’m happy Mommy.” When my little girl remembers all the words to a poem. When they are sleeping and they smile. I believe that no matter what the future holds for me, I am being given these enormous blessings every day. I am in Heaven in the presence of Angels and I am grateful.