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A Week of Emotional Challenges Topped Off with Some Religious Extortion

July 20, 2010

It’s been a busy and somewhat emotional week. My in-laws are now more-or-less settled into their new home at what I have known my entire life as the nursing home. It was always a very scary and uncomfortable place to me. Smelly, disheveled old wrinkled faces, wheel-chair-bound-droopy-headed nappers, bony hands reaching out to touch anything that resembled youth….most waiting and hoping to die quickly. That has long been my image of this particular place. I even have a phobia of wheel chairs.

My in-laws don’t belong in a place like that.

I guess it’s a good thing that this particular place has changed a lot over the years. Yes, there are still a few sites and sounds that an unprepared and even shallow person might not handle well, and yet there are many more sites of older people who still have lots of life left to live, who simply can’t handle all of the day to day chores of staying in and maintaining a household, and whose extended families aren’t equipped to handle the job for two households. For these people, I prefer to think of this as more of an assisted living situation. They have actually been set free from the prison that their house had become with its steps and chores and bathtubs and navigation obstacles and social isolation.

With them settling in fairly well comes the chore of cleaning out and sorting through decades of stuff. With that task comes even more emotional stress. It’s not like they are dead, yet we know they won’t be living at that house again. What do I throw out? How many people must I consult before getting rid of something? How do I distribute mementos? What if I hurt someone’s feelings?

I am paranoid that I’ll hurt someone’s feelings.

That solution has been easier than I thought it might be. Every family represented by one of the boys has their “stack”. In some cases the stacks are tubs. Anything that represents one of those boys or their families goes into their tub. If it is strictly representative of the in-laws, it goes in the in-laws tub for the boys to decide amongst themselves at some point. If it is plastic (almost without exception), it goes to the dumpster. I’m not dealing with plastic, and yes, I know I could have a garage sale or donate it or recycle it, but that stuff isn’t good for us anyway.

I am also sorting through decades worth of mail, most of which is saved Catholic newspapers, articles, donation requests, donation thank yous, and more. If my “faith” in religion hadn’t already been shot to what I perceive as a non-existent hell before, it is pretty much sitting in the middle of it now.

I found response and affirmation letters where my mother-in-law had dutifully sent a donation of God only knows how much to some place (where people have nothing to do but pray and clean and read church law) begging them to pray for the repose of her son’s soul.

It really pissed me off that religion terrorizes people into believing that their loved one might not be at peace and then extorts money from them to pray him into heaven.

Even worse is that they do it in the name of a spiritual man who taught against that kind of crap.

My own religion did that, minus the extortion thing. It just terrorized people while they were living into fearing they wouldn’t be quite good enough to get into heaven so that their final days were full of worry instead of excitement. It also terrorized families whose deceased children hadn’t been following (their version of) “The Way” into spending their entire lives dreading the judgment day when daughter Susie would go the way of the goats while hopefully mommy and daddy went with the sheep.

In all fairness to the convent sisters and monastery dudes their letters of response were quite sweet.

What the heck is repose of the soul anyway?

Oh yeah…I have the internet. According to NewAdvent.org, “[We define] likewise, that if the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice [instituta] of the Church” (ibid., n. 588)….”

In other words, your loved one is in a quasi-hell right now and you can shorten their stay in that bad place if you give the church money to perform a mass for him, and the more you give and the more masses we perform, the sooner he gets to get out of hell. So if you are really rich and donate lots of cash-ola, your evil Uncle can get to heaven fairly quickly, while this poor mama who is barely eeking by goes without many of life’s luxuries in hopes of someday getting her tragically-taken offspring into the pearly gates of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong. I think giving is a good thing. I know that by giving, we release something inside that allows more to flow into us. It’s that whole flowing river vs. stagnant Dead Sea thing. But seriously? Extortion of someone who is in deep emotional pain to financially benefit the church? Guess they need the money to pay off all the sex scandal victims.

So yeah….I enjoyed throwing most of that crap in the dumpster.

It’s been an emotional week.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 7:14 AM

    Oh honey! Sending a cyber hug! What a tough couple of weeks (months…) I share your feelings on nursing homes – I was uncomfortable just reading your description – it was way too accurate.

    Your solution to cleaning out the house was a stroke of genius! Hang in there.

    • July 20, 2010 11:14 AM

      Thanks, Melinda. Funny what childhood memories and experiences can do to warp our perception of a place.

      Things are going well so far. I think they are reasonably happy, and for that I am grateful.

      • quentin541 permalink
        July 20, 2010 9:37 PM

        Awe yes….the ol’ sheep and goat parody…..hint i said parody…lol ya, i feel ya, and I hope everything get’s better!! LOL Take care and God Bless….

        • July 20, 2010 9:44 PM

          Thanks, Quentin. Things are definitely working together for good.

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