Death and other things

Death is a great adventure, it is an explosion of consciousness…

That’s according to the priest who delivered Mass this evening.

Does that make life a lesser adventure with narrower scope of consciousness? Is my life less awesome than the after-life because I don’t get awoken by choirs of angels?

I don’t normally find myself drawn into a Catholic Church on a Sunday night.

In my quest to bring meaning back into my life via the restorative powers of music, I brought myself to a gospel mass, to analyse and consider a choir and if it would be a community where I can hang my hat.

I didn’t expect that I’d also have to think about death on top of scoping out the balance of holy/non-holy songs in the choral repertoire.

I already felt traitorous enough for stepping into a Catholic sanctuary, for reasons both surface and hidden.

On the surface, I was raised Protestant, therefore the pomp and ritual and ceremonies of Catholicism are mostly alien to me.

Beneath all of that, is my life long knowledge of the horrors of institutional abuse perpetrated by priests upon defenceless children. Uneasy truths that I grew up listening to as bedtime stories, for I have a father who is a survivor of institutional abuse.

My mistrust/abuse schema regarding the Church is quite deeply conditioned at this point in my life.

These are not easy words to share. I wonder how many other people never admit to coming from this background?

As much as I tried to observe, describe and participate mindfully and non-judgementally, I couldn’t put my familial narrative aside.

I logically knew that the death of my father’s childhood at the hands of church and state was not my pain to heal.

Even as I tried to focus on the soulful choral music and detach from the religious dogma between performances, I felt a frustration akin to that of using YouTube without being able to skip advertising.

I heard some truly beautiful lead vocals and flowing harmonies, however. The sense of joy, happiness and true community that I sensed from that choir was pure and from a place of goodness.

Singing groups have been one constant in my life to bring happiness. Sitting in a church reminded me of my teen years in church choirs and in retrospective, my gratitude to my mother’s dedication to getting my depressed ass out of the house and to choir practice every week.

Death was not on my list of things to think about tonight. But, like an awkward visitor, it lingered and hesitated before picking a seat to settle in.

I try to avoid thoughts of death as much as possible. (I’ve stopped running alongside the river in the evenings because the thoughts of plunging to a submerged death have grown too powerful for me to race against.)

It did not sit well with me for a man in robes to pontificate about dying. I cannot even assemble appropriate words together to express the sense of horror and sadness I feel for any child who has died in the care of the religious orders.

I don’t believe there’s anything that can prepare us for death, or that there is anyone who can counsel us on how to face it, whether if it’s the eventual death of loved ones and ultimately of the self. All I can do is keep living, and hoping.

My wish remains to be reborn in a new musical community, once again, as a singer. I wish that finding that community was simpler for me, but I am unable to compromise on my views of the Catholic Church.