Your Pain is His Gain
Special Gang Bang Edition!
Today we’re breaking free of the usual Godspeak format and nailing several utterances under one sad, unfortunate common theme. Unlike the regular format, each entry will be limited to a brief commentary.
I’m often asked about the origin of this site, and part of that question is answered here. What follows is a small random sampling of postings from an AOL cancer support forum that I collected sometime around 1995. These specific discussion board entries predate everything on the site and are what inspired me to start writing about all this crap the first place.
I Hate Disclaimers
Sometimes in life, sadly, we must cater to the lowest common denominator and pander to those moral high ground assholes whose sensitivities are so fragile that they’re incapable of engaging in any kind of critical analysis for fear of looking like an insensitive douchebag.
And so I am forced to tender a few provisos.
My commentary here will likely piss some people off because it will come across as insensitive to (and exploitative of) those dealing with cancer in their family. Please. Get over yourself. These are nameless, faceless people who will never read a word of this. What follows is a fair, reasonable, and thoroughly harmless observation about how religion makes otherwise intelligent people talk themselves into patently stupid beliefs in order to cope. This has less to do with the people speaking and more to do with the mechanism which makes them say what they do. At any rate, if you disagree, please let me know specifically who is harmed and the manner in which this harm is brought to them. Be specific and concrete, or shut up and leave.
My intent here is not to make fun of anyone for hurting, which is a perfectly normal, universal aspect of human frailty. My intent is merely to demonstrate how tragedy makes some people say the most profoundly stupid things as a coping mechanism. Coping is fine. We all cope in one manner or another. But resorting patently stupid and emotionally sanitizing beliefs just to sweep pain under the rug is unhealthy as well as harmful to society is a “big picture” sense.
While I won’t go into any details here, I have been through every bit as much cataclysmic tragedy as any of these admittedly well-intentioned folks, and I never resorted to such detachment from reality. And I’m not special. I hold no special cognitive or coping abilities that these people don’t – the point being that if I (and my family) can maintain rationality through the worst of it, so can anyone. If you’re to argue that the following coping mechanisms are harmless and that I should let them be, no, they’re not harmless – and it’s sad that you can neither see nor accept why.
Your reaction to my commentary might be to argue that while this is all fine and well, they’re still responding in accordance with their worldview. Mmmm. Not so fast. What follows reaches far beyond belief in god and an afterlife with him.
“I just wanted to thank everyone for their love and support. My brother passed away on May 15th at 7:30 p.m. He died peacefully and with a smile on his face. Both my sisters and their families and I were with him when he went home. He did have a great welcoming committee – Mom, Dad and Jesus – all with arms outstretched. God has given us all a peace that could only come from Him.”
Your brother died with a smile on his face? Yeah, I didn’t know the man and I wasn’t there to confirm or refute, but I’m not really buying this. I wouldn’t die with a smile on my fucking face even if I left this world getting a blow job from Jessica Alba, but I certainly understand why you must believe that your brother did. And his welcoming committee? Mom, dad, and Jesus? Very telling. Seems to me like your commentary has more to do with you and less to do with the dearly departed. Although, I do find it odd that the savior of man didn’t get top billing.
God Only Takes the Best
“Know that my prayers are with you. Remember, God only takes the best. I am sure your son is one of God’s best.”
I thought that god loves everyone and that he loves everyone equally, but according to you he doesn’t. In fact, according to your mentality he can’t – else he wouldn’t take only the best. And no, you can’t possibly know that his son was one of them. You can’t presume to know what god does or why, but you and I both know why you’re compelled to spew such tripe.
“I am sorry for your loss. Yes, your father is in a better place right now. He is not alone. I am sure all of our loved ones are having a giant party up there.”
Sorry, folks. Can’t do it. This one is too stupid to lay into. Wouldn’t be fair. Draw your own conclusions.
“My deepest sympathies to you and your family. How wonderful that you could be with your dad as he started his new journey. I wish him Godspeed.”
Textbook avoidance. Problem? What problem? Yes, it’s “wonderful” to be with a dying loved one. And of course, who doesn’t love a journey? Bon voyage!
“On April 30 my beautiful daughter, age 28, died in my arms after a hard battle with cancer. Her BMT [Bone Marrow Transplant] was on April 1 and things were going so well then….she developed many complications due to the harsh chemo drugs….weak heart, CMV pneumonia….that after being on a respirator for the second time she went from being my baby to my Angel. I wish all of you who have cancer to keep fighting….but in my heart of hearts there will never be a cure. The only cure is death. Damn Cancer.”
I dunno. Maybe I’m just weird, but when your daughter dies she doesn’t stop being your daughter. Sorry, but “the only cure” is not death, and I think the biggest tragedy here is that you’ve resigned yourself to that silly notion. The delusion that death is the cure that brings your daughter to god is not only false, but it’s emotionally and intellectually unhealthy.
Suffer the Children
“I have a lot of problems with Death Issues, and I know [mom's] pending death will, although we know it’s inevitable, will come as a big blow to me and I don’t know how I will be able to handle it. I just pray they don’t have to lock me up in some loony bin when she finally goes. She means SO much to me and I cry inside a lot, as my heart just breaks to pieces. Why is God allowing her to suffer like this for so long? Is it to prepare each member of the family in His own way, for her death? <SIGH>”
It beggars belief that a seemingly intelligent person actually believes such nonsense. She asks if god is allowing her mother to suffer just to prepare the family for her immanent death? What the fucking fuck? This is too insane to warrant an intelligent discussion. But one thing is quite clear. She most certainly does have a lot problems with “Death Issues.” (She even capitalized the D and I. Interesting, isn’t it?)
Hard to Handle
“This is SO sad and SO hard to watch happening to someone who is so close to your heart. I know you understand, having gone through a similar situation. It’s so draining on the person and the people around them and it’s just plain HARD to deal with. I hope God is merciful and I’m clinging on to what He promises in His word, that He will not give us any more than we can handle… even if we think it’s too much, He still knows best. That’s the only thing that’s keeping me sane right now.”
Yes, let’s be glad that god doesn’t give us any more than we can handle. I mean, god is merciful, right? He allowed only one loved one to die in such a horrible manner. Whew. Had you been strong enough to handle three or four deaths…holy crap! Turns out that your weakness saved a whole lot of lives. But I do appreciate that you acknowledge that you’re “clinging” to the fantasy.
A Better Place
“I am at peace with this because I know my dad isn’t suffering anymore and he is in a better place! Yes it will be very difficult because I will miss him so, but I know he would want me to be happy for him, knowing he is happy now. . . I pray for each and every one of you for everything that lies ahead for you and pray especially that God will give you the strength and courage to deal with things.”
This is just so neat and tidy, isn’t it? You know that your dad is happy now. Of course you do. You have to know because believing isn’t good enough. He’s in a better place! [Take note of that defiant exclamation point.] Defiance seems to shut out any static that might rain on your parade.