Writer Jason Fisk tries to explain to his daughter what he doesn’t understand about God and death
I grew up in a very religious household. My father was an ordained minister in a Christian fundamentalist church, as well as a pretty serious disciplinarian. It was fertile ground for a rebellious spirit, and boy did I rebel. A number of times, my parents threatened to send me to military school if my unchristian like behavior didn’t change. In a moment of Christian guilt, I came clean to them about how far I had gone with the neighbor girl: bad idea. I was also responsible for five auto accidents within the first three years of having my license, totaled three of those cars, not to mention getting a helicopter ride to the trauma center, where I spent four days unconscious. I also had poor grades and hung out with the wrong crowd (which also got me in trouble here and there). My behavior scared my sisters, Abby and Sara, shitless. They didn’t dare rebel after seeing what I went through. Fortunately, I survived without having to attend a military school. Since then I haven’t had much to do with religion.
When my daughter was of age, my wife and I began that earnest quest for a good preschool. The conditions: It had to be affordable, with a good reputation, and we didn’t want her to be shipped from one place to the other throughout her day. We found the perfect combination, with one catch: It was a religious pre-school. A small sacrifice to make, I thought, after all, there are good values found in religion, right? And it was sooo affordable. We enrolled her and were happy with our decision.
Two years later, I was sitting next to my sister, Abby, in the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester Minnesota. She had Ulcerative Colitis, and was doing her best to recover from a surgery related to the disease. She complained of a headache. Believing it was a migraine, which she frequently got, the nurse gave her Atavan and Morphine. That seemed to take care of it; she fell asleep. I remained bed side and read my book for a good two hours. The nurse came back in and asked if she had been awake during that time, to which I replied, “No.” As a matter of fact, during that time, she had had a stroke, not a headache, and never did wake up.
About a month later, I was sitting in the back yard, drinking a beer and watching my son and daughter play. My daughter said, “Daddy, I miss Abby.”
“I miss her too,” I said, and gave her a hug. She continued to play, running from her brother, trying to avoid the cheese touch. After about ten minutes of this, she returned, “Daddy, I really miss Abby.”
“I know baby, I miss her too,” I said, this time setting my beer down and pulling her onto my lap.
“Dad?” she started to ask.
“My teacher told me about a man who missed his dead daughter so much that Jesus brought her back to life for him.”
“Well, I miss Abby. I miss her a lot,” she said burrowing her head into my chest to hide the tears. It was at that moment that I realized my daughter was really asking me if God would bring Abby back to life for her, because she missed her. It was at that point that I realized I couldn’t discuss my complex personal stance on religion with a five year old. It was at that point that I just held her, and we cried.
My daughter and I ended up going to Jewel, buying a helium balloon, and attaching a note that she had written to Abby. We released the balloon and watched it float up to Abby, in heaven.
—first appeared at Experiments in Manhood
—photo by Geiomangio/Flickr