When I was a little I would lie in bed and have conversations with God. They were actually more like monologues because He never answered. I would cry out to Him because I wanted to know what I had done that made my parents fight all the time. I begged God to tell me what I had done to make my daddy hit me and tell me what a disappointment I was. I loved my daddy and he told me he loved me but I asked God over and over how someone who loved me and who I loved so much back could hurt me as much as my daddy did. My cries went unanswered night after night but still I talked to God waiting for some kind of response.
Years went by. I participated in many extracurricular activities so as to spend as little time at home as possible. I became very active in my synagogues youth group and the national reform Jewish youth movement. Over school breaks we would get together to laugh, sing and study with each other at organized events. At these events we would hold Sabbath services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings but they were different then the ones our parents held … the prayers were the same but we wrote our own special readings for in-between. We didn’t sit in the pews but on the Bimah or pulpit itself. We sang many of the traditional songs but with different melodies. On one such outing we stood for a prayer called the Alenu — it is a very important prayer and in the few seconds it took to turn towards the Ark which holds the scrolls known as the Torah with the words of the 5 Books of Moses I questioned the very existence of God and my Judaism — was there in fact a God — did He hear my prayers. What was this ancient language I was speaking and barely understood? Was I blindly following what my parents had put before me and accepted merely on their word. And then I became scared — what if God did exist — would He hate me — would I be punished. I stopped talking to God for a long time.
By the end of my four years in college I found out after confiding in a rabbi that it was not a bad thing to question my faith — that in fact Judaism says one should — because when you question your faith it makes you stronger. It was after I graduated from college that my faith got what I thought would be its strongest test. My mother had been ill for many years. She had a living will and a health care proxy — she wanted to preserve her quality of life — no heroic measures or artificial feeding. Emmah (Mommy) wanted to die at home, surrounded by her friends, her family, even Champagne, our Westhighland Terrier. My father was the main agent on the legal paperwork. It was his responsibility to take whatever action it took to make sure my mother lived and died as she wished when she could no longer speak for herself. I was his proxy. If he could not or would not act, it was my responsibility to carry out my mothers wishes. When I signed it at 18 I didn’t think that the day would ever come where I would have to carry out those responsibilities myself — dad would always be there. But once again the relationship with my father was strained. I didn’t know about his tests until my sister called. First she said mom had been admitted – I told her I was on my way. She told me to wait and she would call back from the hospital in an hour. Sixty minutes later the phone rang – dad had been admitted. He needed an emergency triple bypass — they would open him up at 6:30 a.m. the next day.
I did a lot of talking with God then. I asked for my father to be safe. For the hands of the Doctors who were working on his case and performing the surgery to have the strength and the knowledge to see him through. I begged — I pleaded God to make my mother better — to be the mother I remembered — not the sick frail woman I saw pleading to me with her eyes to take her home to die when HMO committees told me they wouldn’t pay for 24 hour care and the hospital could not release her without it. My father was released after a week to recover at home. My mother never made it back. Three hours after a call from the insurance company telling us that they were evaluating the case the next morning at an emergency meeting, my mother died — alone in a hospital room on the Jewish holiday of Shavous. It is said that it is very special to die on a Jewish holiday.
Many other things have happened since. I was downsized. I have been looking for my b’shert — my destiny to share my life with and had a series of bad Internet dates with men who have dirty fingernails and chew with their mouths open. I found a new job. My father has gotten engaged. I found another new job. My sister married my bowling partner. Thorough these happenings I have come upon a few realizations.
When I called out to God as a little girl and he didn’t answer it didn’t mean He wasn’t listening. When I questioned my faith in God it didn’t mean he loved me any less. When my prayers to God to make my mother well were unanswered, it didn’t mean he didn’t care. And so my conversations with God still continue. Well, I talk a lot. He mostly listens.