Most children today are brought up believing in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. And when these myths are busted, there is very little likelihood of your child suffering any long-lasting trauma or psychological damage when they find out that it was you the whole time. I mean they scored in these situations, right ?
We had been raised in the Anglican faith, although religion had never played an important part in our lives. Then, when I was 14 or 15, my mother decided it would be a good idea for my brother and I to be confirmed. We attended the requisite Sunday School classes, church youth club gatherings and so on. Everything went smoothly and we were duly confirmed. The following Sunday we had our first Holy Communion.
Now kids tend to take things very literally – perhaps at the age of 15 I was a little naïve and being brought up in a rural community probably didn’t help. This was way before TV, PCs, iPods and the like – you get the picture. I’m talking 1972 here.
This was why, when my father fell ill a few months later and my mother and brother didn’t seem to think there was much hope, I thought “Well, I have just been confirmed and I know that if I pray like I was taught everything will be OK”. So that’s what I did, for one very long day.
So you can perhaps imagine my reaction when my mother and brother returned from the hospital and told me that my father had died. I was numb with shock – not at his death but at the fact that No-One had listened to my 15-year-old prayers. I never shed a tear. And I just got on with my life and coped as best I could. These were also the days when everybody just kept a very stiff upper lip and there was very little psychological support for a grieving child. At the time I didn’t even realize that my rebellion against everything and everybody and my reactions to most situations was fuelled by grief.
I recall a top South African sportsman who said that the reason for his loss was because God didn’t want him to win. Really ??? You train like a maniac to be the best and then when you lose you blame Someone Else ? You don’t even have the decency to congratulate the winner ? Or the humility to accept defeat ?
I only realized about 25 years later when I was able to process the situation with a lot more intelligence that this was the reason I was finding total religious belief and obedience a little confusing and a lot insulting to my intelligence. I mean it had lied to me, a child, in the most fundamental way. And the little while lie of “pray and everything will be OK” turned out to be the biggest lie of all. And this is where we are supposed to learn our moral values ?
And don’t get me started on “he’s in a better place” or “God needed him more”. So RIP Dad, wherever you are, I don’t blame you anymore.
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