This post is a bit more personal than my usual, but I wanted to share a different part of my life with you all. Yesterday my children were Baptized at Holy Name Church in Birmingham, MI. The day before, I visited my brother, Doug, as he lay dying. My children are beginning their lives. My brother’s life is ending.
I am not much of a “believer” type, though I am sure that there is much more to life than the material. I am the son of a non-believer Jewish father and non-believing Norwegian mother. Indeed, my mom’s father became an atheist when they tried to shove Catholicism down his throat at a time he wasn’t ready to swallow.
Still, it was good for me to share the same excitement, confusion, and even amusement that my children had during the ceremony. My oldest son, Julian age 8, was able to understand some of the meaning of the sacrament – about as much as this Jewigian, raised as a Unitarian understood. Like Julian, Aiden and Quinn, I also began to listen to the prayers and participated in the ceremony, I began to understand something about my own life, death and the rituals and what it all means.
At the same time, my brother Doug is very sick with a cancer that will likely end his life. I love my brother and the prospect of his passing is painful for me. As I stood near the Baptismal font, listening to the prayers and smelling the incense and oils, sometimes staring out the windows and watching snowflakes fall on an otherwise dark December day, my thoughts alternated between my children and my brother. I was hearing and smelling and feeling the voyage from life to death and to life again. I felt the Maker’s rage for order. The Baptism brought home to me that death and life are the same when seen through the prism of the Universe and its continuum.
I don’t know what happens when people die, but I think it is not the end of us. It seems strange, in this cold, dark December reality of life, there is a source of life eternal – my love for my brother and for my children. That love will never die and that love makes life (and death) so much more understandable.