Tuesday, July 01, 2014

More of Heaven

Many of you that have followed this blog for some time have heard some of the ugly stories of the life I grew up in and the violence I had witnessed.  I have every human reason to hate, to be angry, to be a victim - yet I choose love.  Because of the hell I’ve experienced, I strive to fill my life with things that make this world beautiful, to feel a bit of heaven in the here and now.  I don’t care if you believe in Heaven or Hell, God or gods, or no god at all.  That’s not what this post is about.  I’m so sick of religion. I’m so sick of people hurting, killing, and being hateful to one another in the name of their religion – whether it be Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist, Liberal, Feminist, Conservative, Scientist, Gay, Straight, Black, White, or Zombie Survivalist … I’m sick of it all.  Everyone speaks for their god – but no one listens.  Their agenda is not about loving each other as human beings, but about being ‘right’.

I have my faith, and that belief is between me and my god, and it’s really none of anyone else’s business.  I share my beliefs with those  I consider my friends and are close to me, but I never try to force my faith or beliefs on them, or judge them for their own should it differ from mine.  I have to say, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’m surrounded by beautiful people who love me and walk in many different faiths and beliefs.  I’m not threatened or offended by our differences. I embrace them and cherish our individuality.

It truly breaks my heart to see all this anger and hate in the world.  I know, I know… there’s no more hate now than there has ever been throughout history.  Each generation, each culture, each race, and each faith has their own horrid story of hate.  It still makes my stomach turn to know many of my ancestors were slaves and dehumanized, others were herded into gas chambers like cattle, and others were starved, abused, and tortured for standing up for their beliefs.  I’ve watched young girls being bought and sold as sex slaves, seen fathers and brothers shot during bad drug deals, mothers separated from their crying children to be hauled off to prison, women raped, men brutally beaten, and no one there to save them or make a difference.  For so many years I hated the idea of God because these things existed. I accused Him for their existence and found the whole world guilty of hypocrisy and lies.  I then realized I could be another one of those hypocrites, or I can choose to love instead.  I’m not saying there aren’t things I dislike, because I do, but I don’t allow hate to consume me.  I see people as human beings first before anything else.

What you may not know about me is that I’ve died twice, at least twice I know about and remember.  Perhaps more if some of the stories I heard as a child are true – like having to be rushed to the hospital at 6 months because I stopped breathing and turned blue – was told I almost succumbed to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrom) or riding on top of a car at 5 as my 6-year old brother drove through a field and a barbed-wire fence with me on top.  My childhood is filled with such stories of danger, (Wow, I think I understand where my desire for extreme activities come from now.)yet I am still alive.  But that has not always been the case.

When I was 4-years old I was attacked by a neighbors Doberman Pincher.  I received over 114 stitches in my head (I have a nasty scar as a reminder).  I remember the moment of the attack.  I remember the hospital.  I remember what it felt like when I stopped feeling, stopped hearing, stopped seeing, stopped smelling and stopped hurting.  I didn’t see a white tunnel or a bright light, but I did hear someone call me and I remember a feeling.  I can still feel it right now.  I can’t describe it, not in any sense to give it justice, only it was a knowing, a completeness, and what I believe was love.  

Before I get back to this feeling, let me tell you of the second time I died.  This is an incident I’ve rarely share with anyone.  I still have the scar on my chest where adrenaline was jabbed into my heart to get it restarted.  Seeing it reminds me sometimes that I’m human, fragile and mortal. But I’d really like to forget that day if I could.  I remember looking into the blue sky not being able to breathe and knowing I was about to die.  I saw all the lights around me dim, first to gray and then to complete blackness.  All sound faded.  All feeling evaporated.  I realized I didn’t need to breathe anymore. Again, no tunnel, no white light, just a knowing of who I was – not who I thought I was.  I had no name, yet I was known.  I had no body, yet I existed.  I was complete and filled with love.

I believe this feeling I felt is what we often think of as heaven. Not a place to go after we die if we’re good enough, but a place that is here and now and accessible when we love one another. The reason I believe this has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with being able to feel glimpses of that same feeling during different moments in my life.  I feel it sometimes in a smile, in a touch, in an expression of affection, in an act of kindness from a stranger or someone I care about, or in a moment of bravery.  I’ve felt it while lying in a pair of strong arms listening to a heartbeat.  I’ve felt in gentle kiss. I’ve felt it watching someone care about someone else.

I was never loved by my parents or my family when these two moments happened.  I didn’t know what love was – but I have searched for it, searching for this particular feeling ever since.  The more I found it in the world, the less angry and hateful I became.  I still have work to do, I still have walls and defenses and wounds, but I never stop hoping to fill my life with more of this love… more of this heaven.

Recently I told a friend of mine that feelings lie, feelings change, and that I don’t trust them.  He said I was retarded sometimes and wondered how such a smart person could be so obtuse.  He added that I was amazing - one big contradiction of contradictory contradictions, and said, “You’ve been hurt so much you absolutely forgot how to be positive.” I, of course, disagreed with him.  Don’t you just love it when somebody tells you something about yourself, but you didn’t see it, and then all of a sudden you see it and hate that they were right?

I had forgot about that feeling, until I felt it slowly sinking into my very bones as I felt a pair of strong arms around me and I listened to a steady heartbeat and fell asleep.  I don’t sleep much, but especially when other people are around, but I fell asleep wrapped in that feeling – the same feeling I felt both times I died. If that was heaven, I want more.  Most of all I want the world to want this heaven too and to stop hating one another.  Stop killing our children, stop putting babies and animals in overheated cars, stop stealing our young women and forcing them into sexual slavery, stop poisoning and bombing each other, just stop it, stop it, stop it.  Fight for your cause, but not each other.  Fight for your faith, but not at the cost of humanity.  Fight for your freedom, but not at the price of someone else’s enslavement.

There are people in this world I don’t like.  There are evil people who I fear have no hope of redemption because they possess no soul.  I’m not na├»ve, I’m just hopeful in a hopeless world.  I simply want more of heaven.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray


  1. Wow. Beautifully expressed, TL. You're more forgiving than I... And I still want to be you when I grow up.

  2. Anonymous2:05 PM

    what a passionate, beautiful piece. how sad that people struggle with the hatred of our differences, when there are so many amazing similarities to love. i hope you find your feeling of heaven, especially while you are still among us.

  3. Thanks, Teri. You're already an amazing woman. Thanks, Anonymous.