God: Someone I was made to sing about in school – kills indiscriminately.
Allah: The same as God but terrorists seem to really like him.
Jesus Christ: Someone I was made to sing about in school too – in December his songs heralded the coming of Santa Claus.
Buddha: Happy little fat dude – his followers are kick-ass martial artists!
If I have offended with any of the above statements – GET OVER IT! I can assure you that I am not really that ignorant about the various religions. I am just making the point that I don’t believe I have a religious fibre in my body. I understand that religion brings comfort and meaning to life and death for millions of people throughout the world. They burn incense and chant, ring bells and hold extravagant festivals, circumcise their children and wage wars in their various gods names; so yes, it must be very important to them indeed; but it’s just not for me, never has been.
I do however have a fascination with the world’s religions and while away many an hour scouring the Discovery Channel for documentaries on the End of Days, The Rapture and the Romans. There is no doubt in my mind that The Holy Bible is the best story book ever written; with tales of incredible violence and sex, death and sex, insanity and incest (isn’t that sex?), the Beast and the wrath of a quite merciless God; unless of course you happen to be one of the chosen few.
Being a karateka I have a passing interest in the Asian and Japanese religions of Taoism, Shinto and Buddhism, as many of their peaceful, pagan- like beliefs, are entwined in the philosophies of Karate. Buddhism is probably the most appealing of all the religions to me with its five promises of; not to harm a living thing; not to steal; not to be greedy; not to drink alcohol or use drugs, being at least achievable compared to the demands of some other religions. I’m afraid though, one of those promises is just too much to ask of me. I do enjoy a cold bohemian style beer!
So there we have it, I have firmly established that I am not a God or god (s) fearing man.
Peculiar then, that when tragedy came barging through my family’s door, I’d very often catch myself saying a prayer or hoping for a miracle; having whole conversations with, I don’t know who, perhaps one or all of the guys mentioned above. It mattered not to me, which deity might respond; Muslim, Hebrew, Christian or Voodoo; I decided to keep my options open knowing that desperate times require desperate measures; I was just exercising my right to a little hopeful hypocrisy.
As expected, my prayers, wishes and sacrificial rituals were all in vain.
By the time a correct diagnosis had been made it was already too late for Lee. She knew it and tried to keep it hidden behind a mask of unbelievable bravery and courage; but I could see it in her eyes from the beginning; she knew it was just a matter of time.
Whilst those closest to her frantically rallied about treading on egg shells, doing their best to keep a positive attitude for her and avoid any talk of death or dying if she was within earshot; I swear that, quite incredibly, she was doing exactly the same for us. Determined to be with her children for as long as possible and with an often strained but always stunning smile, she fought to keep the family pecker up. Going through months of chemotherapy and painful trial treatments she stalled the growing blackness within her for as long as she could.
I have dwelled upon this for many, many, hours and I am absolutely convinced that Lee eked out as many moments as possible from what little remained of her cruelly shortened existence, so that we; her family and her children, could properly prepare for the fact that she would soon be gone. Christmas at Samantha and John’s 2009 was to be her last and the greatest in living memory; even her last birthday spent at Velindre Cancer Hospital, though bitter-sweet in flavour, brought together a family gathering rarely seen, creating an eternally precious memory for those of us there.
“Only the good die young.” Is that from a film, a book or a poem? I don’t know and I care even less. As far as I’m concerned, whoever coined that phrase was absolutely spot-on. Today, June 27th 2010 is my sister’s forty-ninth birthday and, in around a month’s time, it will be the first anniversary of her death at the hands of cancer; an undiscerning, indiscriminate and evil fucking bastard of a disease that has nothing short of ravaged our and countless other families.
I won’t spew the usual post-mortem rhetoric of what a fine, upstanding, wonderful and beautiful person my older sister was because unless you knew her it will mean nothing to you; and hey, let’s be honest here, we’ve all been to funerals of people we’ve known to be of questionable character where the eulogy is so shining that you wonder if you’ve turned up on the wrong day.
So instead, think about this; Lee was no more ordinary or extraordinary, no more happy or sad, no more good or bad and no more special or precious than your sister, brother; father, mother; or daughter or son, is to you. Lee was a human being and like all of our species she had a multitude of faults, had made many mistakes and wasn’t perfect by a long chalk.
To the wider world then, there was nothing special about her at all; but to her children, she was a mother and therefore irreplaceable; to my parents she was their daughter and first-born, therefore precious beyond belief; to me and Samantha, she was our big sister and we took it for granted that she’d always be there; and to the rest of the family she was our Lee. Now she is gone forever. .. Hasn’t she?
In the year that has passed since her death, Lee has become a grandmother to Ruby-Lee and an aunt to our little sister’s second child, Matilde. If I were a religious person, I would perhaps believe that a part of Lee is reincarnated within these two new additions to our family; that divinity has granted her soul a right of transmigration into them. If I had some kind of faith I’d have the comfort of believing that she’s up there somewhere; in Heaven, Nirvana or even Valhalla and that she has the back of our family’s newest members; a guardian angels protective hand upon their tiny shoulders. Hmm, I like that idea so I’ll keep the option open and exercise a little more of that hopeful hypocrisy.
But of course a part of Lee is in them and I don’t need religion to believe it. They are of the same fine stock, the same family, the same blood and there are inevitably going to be moments when; a certain look or mannerism; a smile or sound of laughter; a frown or gesture; will remind us all of their Grandma or Auntie Lee and we will knowingly share a glad-sad smile or glance.
Lee wasn’t a religious person either but she was spiritual, educated, well read and I think she would have liked this:
The music she chose to be played at her funeral was Starlight by Muse which, combined with my contemplating her death, triggered a line of thought regarding the possibility of reincarnation or the afterlife.
A scientific fact is that all of the matter in the universe, including human life is born of stars. Violently igniting and dying stars create the matter required to build everything, including planets and on extremely rare occasions, life; it’s how we all got here. Sometime in the distant future our local star, the Sun, will expand and explode in a glorious super nova, creating heavy elements like silver, gold and lead, that’s how they got here; obliterating its solar system and blasting the remnants into the cosmos.
Amongst that debris will be the remains of the entire human race. Millennia of human matter that the planet has absorbed through wars, disease and nature’s cycle, will be cast out into the endless depths of space. I respect wholly, the religious beliefs of others, but for me I need only look to nature for my miracles.
Through nature we will all one day be reincarnated in some form or another; though, perhaps recycled is a more accurate description. Millions or billions of years into the future, which is but seconds in the life of the universe, we could be; a particle of gas, a molecule of water, a bug, a leaf, a little green man, even a brief moment of intense energy in the life of a new star. Who knows, we could even be human again; we could even be us again; life caught in an infinite cycle of creation, destruction and recreation.
So don’t sweat the small stuff because if you can’t get everything done today; you can do it in a billion years or so!
It was just a thought for those of us without the comfort of faith; but as an extra death insurance policy and just in case there is an omnipresent, benevolent One controlling our destinies; I’d recommend that in desperate times when all other options appear redundant; exercise your right to little hopeful hypocrisy and make a little wish, say a little prayer, or drone out a Buddhist chant. But please, whatever else you do, do not make any sacrificial offerings!
“Far away, this ship has taken me far away, far away from the memories of the people who care if I live or die” Muse, Starlight.
Great song, shit lyric; because you’re never far away in our memories sis.
When you buy The Little Bubishi: A History of Karate For Children, you will be donating to the pioneering work of Velindre Cancer Hospital Trust.