Being an agnostic, anarchist/libertarian has always made me somewhat of a rabid individualist outlier (to say the least!) in a world of very tribal human primates, but I think it’s important to know that someone’s religious or political views typically have little to do with whether they make loving friends or not. I’ve always had close friends all over the religious and political spectra, and let’s face it—I’m the weird one if some of my stories are any indication! If I insisted on religious or political agreement, I wouldn’t have many friends. Just the opposite is true, because there are loving people all over the place, and I’ve been lucky enough to find that out with a vengence now that I’ve taken ill. (They may be politically or intellectually “confused” or “inconsistent” to me, but that just makes for some interesting discussions–Hahahaha! And a lot of them think my extreme freedom value system is equally nuts!)
My view on any potential afterlife is that this is an unknowable thing as long as we are alive. (For the record, I have very definite opinions about good versus evil, but that’s another discussion.) I will admit I hope there is a heaven (who wouldn’t—It sounds awesome particularly in my current situation!), but even if there’s nothing, I still can’t complain about my “55 rock star years” here on Planet Earth. That’s my rationalist view of things, but something really interesting and inspiring happened to me yesterday when my high school friend Dano reached out to me after hearing the bad news. (Side note: Dano wrote “1981 Overture,” which was the inspiration for my blog and the first essay I posted!) Dano knows I’m an agnostic (he’s a hard-core Catholic), and he told me he would come to see me next week. During our conversation he asked me if I would object to a Catholic priest hearing my confession, forgiving my sins, and praying for my healing or journey to heaven based on God’s will. Even though I’m an agnostic, this had to be one of the most touching and loving things anyone ever offered to do for me based on the incredible love in his own heart. Whatever turns out to be true in the afterlife, his main concern was that I was not neglected based on his belief system. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
But wait, there’s more! I was expecting Dan to organize the priestly visit when he was in town visiting me next week and it would be an experience we would share together. I hung up the phone with him around 10am, and my Mom arrived for a visit at noon. Like Dan, my Mom is a devout Catholic, and we were both surprised by a knock on my door at about 1pm. My Mom knows I’m an agnostic, and she was very surprised to see a Catholic priest at the door! It turns out she was thinking the same thing about the sacraments my friend Dano was (only she didn’t dare ask me), and the priest came in and administered the sacraments to me in front of my Mom!! Both my Mom and I were in tears, and Dano, I can’t thank you enough for giving my Mom and I that very special gift. It gave my Mom a huge amount of peace, and it all makes me wonder if things don’t happen for a reason.
To be clear, I’ve had two similar experiences with other Christian friends (both named Robert, ironically) who took me to church with them on more than one occasion and basically stepped up to help Eric the agnostic because of the love in their hearts. Both of them flat-out said to me: “It’s what we do because we want to do it.” I have other friends who are believers who have done tons for me in the past few months as my needs have increased. From their point of view, they see good or “godliness” or something inside me that I don’t even see, and want to share their love with me. I also have another very close friend named Robert who is more of an agnostic like me and still shows the same love the believers have! It’s exactly the same with my die-hard atheist friend Marc too. Both of these guys totally have my back, and all of this is a bit incomprehensible to me, but writing about it helps me sort it out a bit in my mind.
And if there really is a god, he definitely has a sense of humor. My friend Kevin and I used to mock Dano in high school when he admitted to meditating with the Bible under candlelight in his bedroom closet. His nickname: “Dan the Priest”—Now if that’s not some incredible irony for you! Kevin even made up some song lyrics we sang to mock him based on the Rush song “Temples of Syrinx.” The line we sang to Dano was (I think): “Dan is the priest of the Temples of Mequon.” (our home town). “His Holy Bibles fill the closet walls.” (Or something like that—Kevin can correct me since he made it up—Hahahaha!) If God made man in his image, he (or she!) definitely has a sense of humor! And if there really is a heaven, Dano will be having the last laugh! (And I will be meeting Jimi Hendrix and Tom Petty–Hahahaha!)