I spent this past Sunday morning, the second Sunday in Advent, listening to my father who I hold in absolute esteem preach a short and gentle sermon at Auckland Hospital.
I brought my youngest of four children, as the religious freedom and critical thought we encourage in this household has meant the older three kids have decided to identify as agnostic or atheist.
Spirituality can be a fortifying, freeing, and incredibly powerful force. Religion can be a stifling, dangerous, and incredibly destructive one. Neither of these statements are infallibly true, yet, in my 3+ decades of experiences on this planet, there seems to be a plethora of personal and recounted experiences that support both of these observations.
Okay. I’ll scrap the big words now, and just get to the point I am trying to make.
Life is incredibly strange, unfair, beautiful, mysterious, difficult, confounding, enlightening, joyous and heartbreaking. We’ve all got to make our own decisions on how we handle the things that happen to us, and around us, and in a lot of cases, religion and/or spirituality can be something that some of us take an active interest in throughout our lives, or during particular seasons of our existence.
I envy people with faith. There’s a tree surgeon I went to high school with named Tyson who is a meditating, vibrating rock-star of spirituality, and his lengthy and earnest posts on spirituality make me smile and feel warm and safe. I don’t necessarily understand or ascribe to a lot of what he says, but I think it is incredibly cool that he feels the way he does and surrounds himself with others who share his vibe.
My dad has a faith that is beautiful. He is incredibly non-judgmental, but never blind to his own or others faults or faux pas. His staunch Southern Austrian heritage has been infected with my vivacious mother’s more hippy leanings, and my dad has evolved into a funny, tolerant, kind, and incredibly honorable human who clings to his own faith and leaves other the freedom to be on their own journey.
After the service, dad had to go and give communion to some bed ridden patients who had asked for him to do so. So I went down and waited for him to join me for a coffee before I carried on with my day.
Waiting for dad, I got to briefly watch the world go by in that hospital, and it broke my heart and filled it up, and here’s why:
There were countless pregnant women waddling past me that morning, and just as many newborns being gingerly carried to the car by new parents. I’ve been playfully asking my husband to get his “westicles” tied back together so we can have one last bite at the apple before I am too old to grow another human. There is no chance that this is something that will happen, because four fabulous children keep us all on our toes and require a full compliment of family, friends and employees to help raise, and we are not equipped to start over now that our youngest is nearly out of diapers.
Watching life happen, and babies arrive reminded me of all the friends and family we have who gave birth to babies that they had grown in their hearts and bodies. Most of the time, the journey of parenthood heads in the direction of raising a human to some level of independence, and seriously questioning if there is the strength to carry on and do so occasionally. Then, there are the angels. Hospitals remind me of the angels. The parents, and family and friends that, for one reason or another, had to say goodbye as children were called to the next part of their soul’s journey, leaving a gaping hole in their hearts and lives of those left here on this earth as they departed.
There was a 92-year-old woman at the service this Sunday as well. She was frail, and had that crepe paper skin that is donned by many nonagenarians. She was really quite beautiful. Her daughter was talkative like me. We had a great chat. Then, the old woman sat with bright eyes and a peaceful smile and looked lovingly into my face as I greeted her.
I need to spend more time talking to and listening to my parents, grandfather, mother-in-law and friends in their 80’s and beyond. There is a wisdom and immortality in the stories that they tell, and it is an honour to be able to think back on the stories my grand memere told me, and that connection to the past is something truly magical.
The second Sunday of advent’s theme is Love.
If you identify as religious, or spiritual or atheist, Love is something that I can almost certainly guarantee plays a huge part in your life.
So I’d like to take a moment to thank my dad for giving me an opportunity to reflect on Love and life and spirituality. I am no closer to identifying with any particular religion after a reflective Sunday at the Auckland hospital.
I’ll be joining my dad at the local church this coming third Sunday of Advent as he is taking that sermon as well.
As we all manage the chaos and comfort of the holiday season, I hope that somewhere there’s a miracle that touches you in a meaningful and spiritual way, and that you find peace if you’ve been struggling, and enjoy joy as it presents itself.
Have a great day. Thank you for reading.