Cancel My Subscription to the Resurrection
By Eric Jayne
One week after 2013 arrived, my dad called and said he began receiving hospice care for congestive heart failure. I went to Iowa to visit him two days later. When I got there he was lying in his bed, struggling to breathe because his heart was having trouble pumping oxygenated blood. We talked a little about his health and how the weather was during my 4-hour drive, and then we reminisced about some distant shared memories. When dinner time came Dad took me up on my offer to bring him a beer and an enchilada from one of our favorite local restaurants. After enjoying our feast the nurses and staff came in to administer pain meds and adjust his large, heavy body the way he requested. He thanked me for dinner then proceeded to fall sleep. I gave him a hug and began my journey back home. I received a call from my stepmother just after midnight the next night. She tearfully reported that Dad died a few minutes ago.
The funeral was held the following Thursday at Dad’s church in Des Moines. Since his Christian faith was a significant part of his identity, I knew the funeral would have a religious tone, so I was prepared to hear about heaven, Jesus, and the resurrection. What I wasn’t prepared for was the good feeling I got from feeling sad. This seemingly contradictory feeling came from my ability to understand and accept the reality of the situation while others found peace through delusion.
The funeral began with the church’s pastor affectionately talking about Dad. I followed the pastor with my eulogy. It was one that I wrote and calmly rehearsed a couple times, but when I spoke from the podium I couldn’t get past the first sentence without crying. I honestly didn’t think I would struggle with it, but there I was, fighting for control over my emotions while sharing some of my most fond memories of Dad.
My eulogy was followed by a 10-minute sermon delivered by my cousin. He is a pastor currently living in Mexico. Unlike me, he was calm and cool. He didn’t share any memories of my dad and no tears were shed. Instead, he confidently preached that my dad’s death was nothing to be sad about because we will see him again if we “share his faith.” We were assured that Dad had been “promoted” to heaven since he believed in Jesus and rejoiced in “His” resurrection.
To clear any possible confusion, my cousin preached that only by believing in Jesus, and accepting “Him” as your personal lord and savior can one ever hope to see Dad again. He said it was wrong to think that acts of kindness, charity, and overall benevolence would bring the same reward. Other religions that taught this way of thinking were wrong, according to my cousin, and only Christianity provided the path to eternal life. He concluded his sermon with a prayer asking God to help those (such as my wife, kids, and me) who don’t believe in “Him” to come to know “Him,” worship “Him,” and believe in “Him.”
As I sat in one of the front church pews with my wife and kids, trying to regain my composure while listening to my cousin’s sermon, I looked at Dad’s body comfortably resting in a satin-lined mahogany coffin. It was only a few days ago that I saw the same body slightly more animated—eating, drinking, talking, coughing—and able to consciously interact with me. I felt like the only sober person in a room of others who were inebriated by fantasies of wishful visions. Of course I wanted to be drunk with the delusion that I will see Dad again but I knew better. I understood that I will never see him again. I will never talk to him, share ideas with him, hug him, or have any further interaction with him again. For these reasons I knew there was a damn good reason to feel sad. Compared to sedating myself with blissful afterlife mirages it felt righteous and purifying to genuinely mourn the reality of death with tears and a healthy dose of anguish.
Undoubtedly, Dad would have approved of the sermon my cousin gave because he was a devout, passionate, tithing evangelical Christian. Even though he tried to raise me to be a Christian and practice Christian ceremonies, I want my godless funeral to be without my embalmed body slowly rotting in a pricey coffin. I will, however, take the 10-minute sermon, but I want it to be delivered by The Doors (via compact disc, of course) with their song “When the Music’s Over.” When Jim Morrison shouts, “Cancel my subscription to the resurrection,” I want the volume cranked up loud and repeated several times. Then everyone is welcome to cry, laugh, or whatever seems appropriate over their loss of little ol’ me.