Black Funeral Impressions — An Atheist Perspective

beloved cousin -- we will miss you

beloved cousin — we will miss you

Hey guys, back from my trip and man was it an eye opening roller coaster ride. When dad was alive, I never got to really know the Norman side. This being my first time meeting a lot of them, I felt like I was in the middle of a Tyler Perry Film with my Uncle Bernard in the role of Madea.

FUNERAL IMPRESSIONS

What the pastor said Pastor Haley gave a beautiful eulogy but as expected, he had to preach throughout. One of the things I found annoying was his assertion that those who did not know Jesus needed to get right with the lord because someone in the congregation would experience death either personally or via a close loved one, soon.

Way to terrorize folks into faith there preacher man.

As Sherrie was well loved this rather large funeral home was packed to the gills with mourners, so it is very likely anyone in there could die “soon”, thus fulfilling his “prophecy”.

Hell, I could have gotten killed on the way home with all those crazy highway drivers. Being the atheist in the room, I am sure this would have been a sign that god has indeed spoken. God just seems miffed when people refuse to kow tow to him, doesn’t he? I wish I could have asked this question, “If god only smites us lowly sinners for being all uppity like–why did he take Sherrie, who by all accounts was the very example of Christian love?”

Speaking of which

Biggest hurts Being part of the immediate family, we were asked to view Sherrie’s body before anyone else. It was odd seeing someone so lively so still…and she looked very different…bloated, older … not like herself. The only reason I recognized her was because she had her nails done up. Sherrie was one to treat herself every week to an expensive manicure as one of her feminine luxuries, otherwise she was a bit of a tomboy.

I have two uncles left of five brothers who have already passed. I love them both but Uncle Bernard (Uncle B) has always been my favorite. The loudest cat in the room (yes, he is that brother who would annoy you at Applebee’s) he is funny, boisterous and kind. Uncle B and Sherrie were very close, they spoke everyday, and as my Uncle is an airline steward, he frequently had her fly in to see him at various locations. When you saw one you saw the other.

Now, I’ve seen my Uncle remain strong even when his brothers passed, but with Sherrie—no. Uncle B got drunk as hell and literally started falling on the floor kicking, screaming, crying and calling out for her.

It broke my heart so I ran to him trying to comfort him. He kept saying, “Jesus I need you, I need to be near the cross, god is so good all the time. You are worthy to be praised!”

It was then that the insidious nature of religion was underlined for me. He continued to praise a god who, by his own account, is the source of his pan. This god, in other words, is the reason for Sherrie being gone, due to some divine plan we can’t comprehend. This form of “worship” is what this god expects. “Show me you love me more than her, even in the midst of your pain” this god demands “and I will let you into heaven.”

This made me cry more.

At one point–he looked directly at me and said “When I start to fall tomorrow, I need someone to lean in my ear and say, “God is real and he is good all the time, god is good all the time,”

Uncle knows I am an atheist.

Everyone in the group who had been I assisting Uncle B in his bereavement turned to look at me to see my reaction. I said nothing. But I remained close by my uncle wiping his tears and consoling him. Then he said “Jesus I need you to wrap my arms around you–I can’t feel you Lord this is too hard! Lift me up! Show me your love lord!”

I held back the urge to say “Jesus isn’t there uncle! It is human hands holding you up – comforting you — Your brother Willie, Cousin Curtis…my sister and ! Look around you, you are being held up by humans, not gods.”

I didn’t.

He also screamed out, “Lord I want you to touch the heart of every Norman in the room so they know you are real…”

More things were said in this regard, but you get the point.

Later my niece came to me and asked my why I just wouldn’t say what Uncle B wanted me to and I replied “Okay, let’s reverse this situation. If I was in distress and I asked any one of our religious relatives to renounce their faith to make me feel better, would they? But even larger—would it be fair to ask?”

Jasmine said, “Okay, good point.”

I also told her that if I was Muslim or Hindu no one would expect me to do such a thing — but because I am an atheist I am supposed to go against my own convictions.

I am not angry with my uncle…it was just uncomfortable.

When he later sobered up he would say he didn’t remember anything (although other numerous details he did). I never brought it back up and I won’t. Still, I got an idea of why he stopped calling me to join him when he would corm to Atlanta for visits.

Biggest WTF moment has anyone heard of a ‘dance ministry?” Neither have I, but apparently brothers dress up in black suits, wear white gloves and do interpretative dance moves ( think mimes) and lyp sycn to modern christian music. Wish I were joking. I was so stunned I had to bury my face in my handkerchief to keep from laughing. I finally did however when I could take it no more ( damn that song was looong). Folks thought I was crying, so they kept patting my back and saying “It’s okay”. I was sure I would be struck by lightening for my insolence.

Family drama Sherrie is survived by a sister who has three kids. Cousin Ruth (known as Denean) is an accomplished business woman who achieved Woman of the Year status. Her daughter Graduated Magnum Cum Laud from Dartmouth, has met President Obama and is flying to Paris this year after being offered an amazing job (not even 25 yet). Chick speaks five languages.

Danean and Danielle HATE each other. The sat faaaar away from one another on either side of the pew and when Danielle started to cry Danean screamed at her “Danielle if you MUST do that go to the back of the church!”

What the hell????

Sherrie’s home was broken into the night it was announced she died–every expensive thing in her home was stolen. My Cousin Junior ( Willie Jr) had his iPad stolen from his Lexus. They tracked it to Sherries best friend’s house and learned that her son had stolen it.

Wow.

LEGACY Many of Sherrie’s co-workers came to speak at her funeral. They worked with her for over a decade and they spoke of how she made the office a fun place to work. She had never been later a day of working there; efficient, motivated and capable she was a boss who made bosses day a joy to celebrate. They also mentioned that when she would head funding and charity drives she would gather more volunteers than anyone else. This co-worker spoke with tears in her eyes… could see that she loved Sherrie.

The pastor said a few things in this regard that I did agree with. He said that many of us concentrate on our resumes and never reflect on what our obituary will read. He said that the legacy of what we leave behind will tell of the life we lead. He said that Sherrie was the kind of person who, when they leave the world, Christmases and Holidays will never be the same.

Judging by that packed church, he was right.

Most funerals you go to people are checking their watches and looking to get out of there. I didn’t get that impression.

Everyone was there for her.

She is one of the rare souls who will truly be missed.

Abscence of Faith Details My Deconversion Story

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Absence of Faith, a book that chronicles 16 deconversion stories, is available for purchase and as far as atheist based books go, it is a great concept.

The book was written by MS Pearce (who writes the blog The Tippling Philosopher) and Tristan Vick (who writes Advocatus Atheist) with a foreword by Jeremy Beahan (of Reasonable Doubts).

My deconversion story is detailed in it as well and the first review of the book mentions it. It is humbling and exciting to note that some people find my story moving in any way.

Please check out the review below and if so inclined, check out the book:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/marginoferr/2014/05/18/book-review-beyond-an-absence-of-faith/

Thank you,

Alicia

http://freethoughtblogs.com/marginoferr/2014/05/18/book-review-beyond-an-absence-of-faith/