Friday, April 10, 2009
in which she gets all serious...
i keep thinking about the funeral we attended on tuesday. it was held in a little tiny church down on møn. or, more accurately, it was held in a little building on the church grounds that must have once been a stable, because magda didn't want to have her funeral in the church itself. she had said she didn't want to inconvenience god in that way.
the minister, a neat, athletic, small woman of the sort who looks like she rides horses regularly and spends a lot of time outdoors, gave a lovely eulogy, in which she addressed the question of magda's anguish over her non-belief. magda was seriously ill in the end, with cancer slowly taking over everything in her body. and when it comes to the end like that, people often begin to think about god. she had discussed with the minister how she had drifted away from belief. the god she knew growing up was a very judgmental, harsh, stern god. one who wouldn't tolerate people who didn't go to church every sunday. and it had been many years since magda had gone to church. so, magda didn't want to bother god with her funeral by having it within his house.
in some way, it's a tragic story, because if there was anyone who lived a so-called christian life--caring about her fellow humans, being kind and good and living "right"--it was magda. if there is a heaven, it's for people like her--genuinely good people who never say a bad word about anyone and live their life looking for the best in others. and not in a sycophantic way, in a genuine, real, honestly kind way.
denmark has a state church, which seems, rather than making people particularly religious, to make them feel that religion is taken care of for them and so people aren't rabidly christian like you see in the US. people may believe, but they don't engage in all of the outward trappings of belief, like attending church every sunday (tho' of course there are people who do that). they use the church at the big junctures of life--baptism, confirmation, wedding, funeral. i read not long ago that some churches were considering doing divorce ceremonies, to reflect the reality of life today and give people as much ceremony around breaking up as around getting together. that seems like a pretty radical step, but we are talking about a place where sometimes the ministers admit in public that they don't believe in god.
i talked with the minister afterwards and we discussed the issue of non-belief. from the words she spoke over magda's casket, she clearly dealt with the issue all of the time. and as she put it, god, as she saw him, isn't one to keep a book of how many times you go to church and he isn't one to turn you away in the end, or feel inconvenienced should you have your funeral in the church where you haven't set foot in years. those are human sentiments and god is purer than that--he just doesn't think that way.
i think that's a concept of god i could get behind, because especially in times of sorrow, we need to have some kind of belief, if only for our own mental well-being. in recent years, i've felt downright revulsion to organized religion as i watch the damage it does in the world--organized religions of all kinds, not just christianity. but i think that somewhere in my core, i do believe there's a higher, guiding force that gives this life we live meaning on some higher plane. at least i hope so. and if there's a heaven, i'm sure that magda is there, probably tending to the gardens.