I went to my friend’s funeral today. I had only known Rebecca for a short time. We had started at Sense (the deafblind charity) at the same time last September. She was the first person I spoke to on my first day, she had the most wonderful smile and calming nature, and instantly put me at ease. We went through our induction training together and shared a few lunch breaks. You would never have known she was deaf herself unless you spotted her hearing aid.
Rebecca was beautiful and intelligent, and never let her disability get in the way of achieving anything she wanted to. She graduated from university with a first class degree in law and deaf studies, went on to become a teacher, and then got her ‘dream job’ working for Sense, supporting families who had their own deafblind children.
She went off sick back in November and I often asked her manager how she was and when she would be back, but all she said was that Rebecca was very poorly. On 24th January, she lost her life to bowel cancer. She had no symptoms apart from a water infection, and by then it was too late. She was 32 years old.
Her funeral was held today at Birmingham City Church, and it was absolutely packed, with everyone wearing a splash of purple (her favourite colour). What struck me the most was that it wasn’t a sombre affair…it was a celebration. There was a gospel choir, a band, loud speakers, dancing, clapping and some amazing singers. The Reverand was a big, tenacious, animated woman that spoke of happy memories of Rebecca. Yes there were tears, but that room was filled with joy, laughter and most of all, love.
The reason for that is faith. Rebecca was a devoted Christian, along with all her family and most of her friends. It wasn’t looked upon as the end of Rebecca’s life, but the start of her new one with God. Every person in that room truly believed that they would see her again one day, and it carried them through.
Now the cynics among us would most probably scoff and roll their eyes (I can hear Ricky Gervais laughing his head off), but is it really that bad? As a mother, I cannot even imagine the pain Rebecca’s mum is going through right now, and if the belief that she will one day see her precious daughter again gets her through this darkness, then who is anyone to judge?
I am a Catholic (albeit a non-practising one), and went to Catholic schools. I truly believed in God as a child, then grew up and lost my faith. I have become very cynical and sceptical, and find more comfort in science now than I do in religion. It wasn’t praying that got me through my nervous breakdowns, it was medicine and therapy. They have also proved evolution now after all, and that was the final straw for me to turn my back on it. Until I had my own daughter.
When Molly was born I debated about getting her baptised. My partner is not religious in the slightest and thinks it’s all a load of rubbish, but left the decision up to me. I thought about my own childhood and although there were some aspects of Catholicism I didn’t agree with (like having to go to confession every week even when I hadn’t done anything wrong), I also remember feeling protected. My upbringing wasn’t always easy, and it was comforting to think that someone was watching over me no matter how alone I felt.
I remember talking to my lovely Nanna about it, and I’ll never forget what she said, ‘introduce Molly to God, and then when she’s older she can make her own mind up’. I took her advice (she also now goes to a Catholic primary school), and I don’t regret a thing. It’s actually lovely hearing her praying and singing all the old hymns I used to sing as a child.
Religion by definition is an oxymoron – simultaneously bringing peace and comfort while also being the root cause of unspeakable atrocities in the world. Is there a God? We will never know. It isn’t called blind faith for nothing. But if someone truly believes in something that gives them comfort in their darkest hour, causes them to be a better person, kinder, more generous and generally happier without doing anyone else any harm, then leave them to it.
During Rebecca’s eulogy they said that even when she was very ill, she never complained, wasn’t bitter, angry or scared. She was at peace, and drifted off gently in her sleep. Imagine the comfort that is bringing to her parents…knowing that she is now safe and out of pain, in a better place. Losing a child is one of the worst things you could ever go through, and it could quite easily fill someone with hate. But I’m sure their faith will get Rebecca’s parents through this for the rest of their lives.
As for me, well I felt a warmth today. Hearing the hymns, music, and prayers actually gave me goosebumps at one point. None of us know how long we’re here for, it could all be over tomorrow. We are living in dark days at the moment, so much hatred in the world, so if praying and going to church to be around like-minded people brings you a little reprieve, then do it. As the Reverand said today, ‘if you have hope, you can cope’. Can’t argue with that can you?
Sleep well Becky x