If you are a friend on Facebook, you likely saw a post of mine the day that George Michael passed away. As everybody is aware, 2016 was (at least seemingly) a year of tremendous loss, as so many died who were meaningful and influential in our lives. My Facebook post said: “It’s bad enough that all my heroes keep dying, but it’s even worse in that they are all pretty much my contemporaries. I feel very old and vulnerable, all the sudden.”
When I reflect on the loss of David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fisher and so many others, the overwhelming feeling for me was not rooted in being sad over the loss of them directly (because they all have legacies that will long outlive their earthly time), but more what it represented for me personally.
As I said in my post, their mortality caused me to reflect on my own – because for whatever reason, this group represented not just “celebrities” who died, but also contemporaries of mine. I am closer to 60-years-old now than I am to 50. It was a shock to my system when people my age or younger were dying at a seemingly higher rate than before. It’s true that some of the deaths were rooted in lifestyle choices, and some in terrible diseases, but at the end of the day, my generation seems to be well along the path towards our end, as all generations ultimately do.
Outside of the celebrities (and not intended to evoke any kind of pity – just being transparent), there’s been a fair share of difficult times the past couple of years in our families. My dad has had a pretty tough go of it health wise. Dee Dee’s mom is struggling with hers, as is her step-dad. My aunt has had a longtime struggle with hers.
On Christmas day, we lost my uncle, the second of my dad’s three younger brothers to pass in the last two years. In my uncle’s case, he and I were never overly close – although I did spend a fair amount of my childhood with his family – but man did I respect him. He was (literally) bigger than life to me (he was a cop; he’d been in the navy; he built and drove dune buggies and Harleys; my memories are of a big, strong man). Read More about him, here.
One of the beauties of social media is that it can bridge some time and distance gaps, and I’ve connected with my cousins and aunt on Facebook, which gave me some insight from afar into how it all played out for him, and for them.
My uncle and his family have strong religious beliefs, and have for as long as I’ve been aware. There seems to be a peace with the outcome for them (even though I know the loss is still difficult).
Which brings me to…well, me.
I’ve had mixed experiences with spirituality in my life. I am “ethnically” Jewish, but with no religious component of Judaism in my life. One of the best descriptors I can use as to the extent of our family’s religiosity: my Mom proudly made a ham every year for Easter. My dad is an avowed atheist (which made for some spirited conversations with my uncle, as you can imagine).
I went to Church for quite a few years, met my first wife there, we married there and had our kids while attending. But after we divorced, I experienced sides being chosen, and I ended up on the outside – essentially marginalized. That made me question the honesty, integrity and true intentions of a whole bunch of people. People who I needed to help me through something hard. People who I thought were supposed to love me, just as God would. That experience soured me on organized religion, which might make a great topic, but for another day.
When Dee Dee and I met, it was clear that she is a deeply spiritual person. She was raised a Catholic and along the way she’s had some of her own life-changing experiences that framed her perspectives on church, but those aren’t mine to share. However, it brings me to the main thought of this rambling story.
Whenever we travel (which we are lucky enough to do), we either end up targeting a visit to, (or simply happen upon) churches, synagogues and even mosques. They are important to her to visit, for their spirituality, their beauty and their art. Our dear friend J.J. told us this past summer (while we all traveled together in Europe) that she called her trips with her family growing up “ABC” trips…code for “Another Bloody Church” – because they visited so many on their travels.
I will now forever think of our trips as “ABC” trips. In the past few years we’ve visited some of the most famous houses of worship in the world: Il Duomo Florence, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cathedral of Notre Dame, Sagrada Familia, Cathedral of Barcelona, Cathedral of Girona, The Vatican (including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel), the amazing sites in Jerusalem (Church of the Holy Sepulchre, The Western Wall and the Dome of The Rock), Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London along with some chapels I’ll never remember the names of that we’ve happened upon in Monaco, Greece, Turkey, Malta and Italy.
Just last weekend we ended up at The Chapel of the Holy Spirit in Sedona, literally stumbling upon it as part of a spur of the moment decision to even visit Sedona. Which made me think “why do I keep ending up here”?
As I reflect on my own mortality, and think about the generation right before mine – where so many of our family is hurting (or is already gone), I can’t help but wonder if there is more to the story of why & how I keep ending up at “ABC”.