Yesterday I found an article via Twitter on the Vatican’s declaration that ashes should only be kept in an approved sacred space. To keep them at home, to forge them into keepsakes or scatter them was ‘pantheistic’ or even ‘nihilistic’.

“The dead body isn’t the private property of relatives, but rather a son of God who is part of the people of God,” Mueller said. “We have to get over this individualistic thinking.”

This cruel, unnecessary intervention means little to me personally. I only discovered my Catholicness at 18 and had abandoned the little faith I had long before that, moving between atheism and agnosticism. For those who hold Catholic beliefs and live by them this announcement could be devastating. In effect the Vatican has said not only are you doing grief wrong you have angered or disappointed God in the process.

My sons’ deaths did not change my belief but my lack of faith was tested. I can’t remember if I made any vows to God or gods to change things as I knew that resurrection was not a viable option. In the dark cold comfort of a room of teddy bears we half jokingly discussed the possibility of a Buffy style bargain with dark forces.

Much of the funeral arrangements and service were not for us or our sons but our families. We knew they held strong beliefs and that these rituals, rites and scriptures would bring them comfort even as they completely passed us by. All I remember of the funeral itself was holding my wife’s hand and exchanging glances between her and the two, white baskets resting at the front of the room.

It’s one thing to risk my eternal soul but to do so for my sons seemed a risk too far. I was keenly aware of Pascal’s Wager and though I didn’t believe in Hell was I that sure that it wasn’t there. If they were not blessed would my sons would be condemned to some cold, pitiless purgatory (since rendered obsolete by intervention by the Pope)?

Religion can bring comfort in these times but for me it was yet another unnecessary thing to worry about on top of the reality of my sons’ deaths. For me there is no plan. My sons are not sacrifices for their siblings or the life I lead now and I will keep them close to me wherever I damn well please.

  1. BELIEFS + SPIRITUALITY | Has the death of your child strengthened or changed your beliefs? Share as much or as little as you like. Please be respectful to the beliefs of others today. We are all in this together and our differences are what make this project so beautifully interesting. Choose kindness.