I definitely don’t believe in God. Not the ‘earth created in seven days, Adam and Eve’ stuff that some people seem to be able to swallow whole, as fact. I don’t believe a singular being or even a group of deities made this planet and everything on it. I’m firmly on the side of science with this. I’ve seen pictures of the cosmos from telescopes, I’ve seen with my own eyes the stars in the skies and the remnants of bones of creatures dated from 69 million years ago. I’ve watched the universe projected onto specially designed planetarium walls and listened to Brian Cox explain it all.
I do, though, believe in the magic of the world just as it is, and humans’ ability to add to and detract from that magic, infinitely balancing, tilting, and rebalancing the good and the bad. On the one hand we have ricin, on the other, rice pudding. See?
Since Dan died, (and I cannot tell you how frequently I use that phrase; that and ‘y’know, before’) I have had my beliefs challenged. Not so much that I am now a creationist, but more that I’m more tolerant of admitting to the existence of mysticism beyond the glories of nature. Because odd things happened when Dan died.
One day not long, y’know, after, the volume on the car radio started going down by itself as I drove. As the volume was controlled only by a great big knob in the centre of the dashboard, and both my hands were on the wheel, and there was no-one else in the car, and it never happened before or since, and as Dan always insisted on having the volume on an even number – I permitted myself the belief that it was him, operating from a realm I could not see in a way I could not explain but most definitely having a clear visible and audible impact.
Others reported feeling him near, and other radio-based phenomena (the Doctor Who theme that started playing quietly in the background on an obscure digital station that no-one remembers tuning it to). I feel unable to say that these things didn’t objectively happen, couldn’t rationally happen, because they did happen and those involved can’t say how or why. Without a clear scientific answer to rescue me, I must leave the question open, and leave my mind open with it.
Eloise, the lady that is the recipient of Dan’s kidney and pancreas, is in hospital with Covid-19. I am filled with a tight fear about this, as, of course, is she. She feels Dan living on in her every day and is as protective of him as I am. She is also aware that he is looking after her as much as she is looking after him. They have developed an intense and complex bond forged from sharing a body. It’s a rare and wonderful thing, to be an organ recipient, as well as a strange and burdensome one. Having been gifted the organs that have belonged to another precious life, the onus is on taking care of them as well as managing your own needs. It’s a mental and emotional weight, a psychological and physical patchwork quilt of thankfulness, sadness, joy, pain, blessing, and obligation. And Eloise has embraced it all, wrapping herself fully in that blanket, and adding an extra layer of spirituality- she has always found comfort in God and recently has begun exploring Buddhism.
For all that Dan was not religious as he grew up, as a small child he had an affinity with Buddha. I never fathomed the origin for this. But if we ever saw an image of Buddha (on a poster, a garden centre ornament, a statue in a museum etc) he’d say, ‘Hello Buddha!’ and give the statue a little rub.
‘I just like him’ Dan answered, when I questioned him.
And during this phase, when he was only six or thereabouts and always had soft, messy hair that smelled of strawberries and that I used to love to touch and ruffle, he asked, ‘Mum, how do you get to be one of those people that does this?’ and he stood and held out his hand, palm up. I wondered if he meant a beggar, but then I wondered further.
‘Do you mean a buddha?’
‘No, like a buddha, but not abuddha.’
‘A bodhisattva?’ I showed him some photos online, just to be sure we were definitely on the same page. Dan’s imagination might have taken him anywhere.
‘Yeh,’ he said, beaming his milk-toothed little boy smile, ‘One of those.’
‘I’m not sure it’s a job you can train for. I think you have to work hard at being a Buddhist mostly. But it’s a lovely thing to want to be,’ I said. And, satisfied with that, he ran off to do something else. But like other childhood phases, this one faded over time, along with collecting Spongebob cards and Go-Gos.
His organ donation most definitely continues helping living beings in the world though, which is what bodhisattvas are all about, though leading others to spiritual enlightenment might be pushing it. He certainly lit up my world and brightened all those he has touched, in death as much as in life. And for all my shaky convictions about faith, mysticism, and religion, one thing I am absolutely certain of is that Eloise has Dan within her, and no parts of her body will be working harder to fight off the invasion of the covid virus than her kidney and pancreas. I am equally certain that he will be there beside her to hold her hand throughout it all. And no, I can’t explain that, either.