Eternity: The $50 Million Question

(Trigger warning for death).

“Would you like a gift?”

We were heading back to our car on a chilly Sunday evening in Surfers Paradise, having just looked over the markets that seem to never change. Two 10-year-old girls stared back at us, one with her hand outstretched towards us, offering us a piece of paper.

“Thank you!” my father said in that tone you use when you’re being polite to a child, and took the flyer. My mum, ever-curious, nearly tore it out of his hands and poured over it.

What she found was a scare-mongering rant about what we face when we die. ‘Hell is not a place of fun. It is a lake of fire.’photo 1photo 2
I have to admit that whoever decided to do this chose a good spot to remind people of their sins and the consequences that come with them – that is, ‘lie, steal, lust, hate, disrespect God, get drunk, etc. and deserve to spend eternity in hell’. The middle of Sin City, flashing neon lights, where you can do all of these things. Hell, you can do them legally!  The 21st century is truly a wild time.

My favourite part though was at the beginning – ‘Death is a reality that we all must face sooner or later.’ Thanks for this little reminder. It’s not as if my family has faced this fact everyday for the past 4 months since we lost a beloved relative. And it’s not as if we went on this holiday, the first one we’ve had in two years, to take a break from the stress and grief.

I consider myself to be a lapsed Catholic. I still believe in God but some of the differences I have with teachings, the busyness of modern life and the sheer narrow-mindedness of some Christians that I know have made the gap almost irreconcilable.

Perhaps the grandstanding that I’ve heard from Christians that I know recently has been the tipping point, after Caitlyn Jenner’s ‘coming out’ and the US Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Somehow, they’ve managed to twist the roles of the oppressor and the oppressed – as if somehow being told that imposing their morals on others will not be tolerated is equal to the danger, hate and discrimination that people face on a daily basis due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Give me a break.

I think what bothers me the most is that whoever has dreamed this up has gotten two young girls to hand these flyers out at 7pm on a Sunday night in Surfers Paradise. No one, or so I would hope, is going to tell children where to go. How about you show yourselves and face the questions?

For all the hilarity and bluntness of this flyer, believe it or not, people have the right to be left alone and not faced with this confronting and offensive rhetoric.

Four Things You Probably* Shouldn’t Say to Someone Grieving

*from my personal experience. Obviously everyone deals with things differently and maybe some readers will find this list a little touchy or over the top, but this is my perspective.

I know myself that sometimes it can be difficult to find the right words and, of course, 99% of the time aren’t said out of malice. But I think it makes it a little easier for everyone when you gain a different viewpoint.

1) OK so this one technically isn’t grieving but when I found out that there was only a matter of days, sometimes I would explain the situation to people when I was looking a little down or couldn’t come to events. The response, on a number of occasions, was (both in person and over the internet) ‘oh I’m sorry to hear that, hope he gets better soon :)’… clearly not understanding that that was the whole point – he wasn’t going to get better.

2) If the person that someone is grieving was old at the time of their passing, there’s a fine line between comforting someone with reminding them of all the good times they got to have…. and insinuating that they should get over it because ‘they were old anyway’. Hang on, scratch that. It’s not a fine line at all, you’ll know when you’ve crossed it.

3) This one depends on the kind of relationship you have but if you’re at least a little close to someone, don’t tell them ‘I’m going to give you some space’ and then not contact them for three months. Again, it’s not really a fine line and usually people don’t mind a check-in like ‘hey, hope you’re okay, if you need anything I’m here’.

4) Finally, if you do find that you haven’t heard from them for awhile, don’t message them condescendingly asking why they haven’t spoken to you. This is all about tone and there’s a huge difference between someone saying ‘hey I haven’t heard from you for awhile, hope you’ve been okay’ and ‘why haven’t you messaged me?’.

Tl;dr – Go with the flow and your instinct. Be there for the ones you love, that’s the best thing you can do.