Goodbye Benjamin

A while ago I wrote about a friend whose son was gravely ill in the hospital and that he wrote on Face Book that that was where God wanted him to be…I wondered what kind of god that is, how could a “good” god want a small boy to be in the hospital and not running and playing in the sunshine, playing baseball with his friends. There were a lot of really good responses and the discussion was really insightful…albeit unresolved for me…and I really thought deeper about my feelings about religion…at least how it affected real people, people that I know…or at least knew a while ago.

The little boy’s was Benjamin and I think he was 11 or 12 and his parents didn’t know why he was in so much pain, they didn’t know why he was hurt and in the hospital but there was a problem with his stomach and the doctors ran tests and gave him drugs and, well, they did everything that doctors do but came to no conclusions. He just kept getting sicker and sicker. I questioned prayers and people’s need to believe them and I railed quietly against the whole organized religion syndicate and the false hopes that it gave people. The over hyped expectations that it promoted…

…and from my comfortable chair in my comfortable apartment in a huge city, 600-700 miles away I asked what was the point …what was the point of belief in those fairy tales. My friends were nice in their derision of my continuing inability to square religion with science but, they stayed nice even when I raised my voice (though they couldn’t hear me) and told me their stories and their ideas.

Benjamin is dead. He died at 4 PM today and as I read that in the status update, in my head, I screamed and screamed “why fucking why” over and over and I didn’t know him. I never threw a baseball to him or packed him a lunch or helped him with his math homework or watched from the back window as he and his friends camped on the back lawn…I never saw him standing waiting for me when I pulled up in the driveway after a long day at work, nervous to show me the A he got on his science project…I never knew him.

But his father did, his father knew all of that and more…so much more…and in his update he wrote “Benjamin is now in the arms of Jesus and His light is shining down on us all. Our nurse came in and told us that at exactly 4pm, Ben passed and set off not only his alarm, but also the fire alarm and the “hug” alarm, which is the alarm that goes off when patients are in danger of leaving the building. She said Ben had to leave us with a big bang.”

And the only thing I could think after those silent screams in my head was that maybe the power we have, the thing that is “us” in all the many realities, maybe that power can have a different name. Maybe it can be called whatever people want to call it, whatever gets them from now—writing about a son dying at 4 PM today—to tomorrow where there is life waiting to be lived. Maybe if someone wants to call that prayer, if they want to call that god, if they want to call that self…

…maybe I should just shut the fuck up and let them.

Goodbye Benjamin.

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