I’m not a religious man by nature. The number of times I’ve actually been inside a church, during actual services, I could count on my fingers. On the fingers of one hand, in fact.
Three. Three times. I’ve been inside a church during actual services three times in my life.
The first, as a child, I was invited by a neighbor whose family took their faith more seriously than my own.
The second, as preparation for a production of Rocky Horror, when the director decided she wanted to play up the religious overtones of the piece.
The third, Christmas last.
I’d been invited, you see, for midnight mass, and while there is no metric that exists anywhere on earth by which I would qualify as Catholic, I do appreciate the pomp and circumstance involved in a Catholic mass. The production design, the costumes, the set pieces, it feels big, to me. It feels important.
Is it offensive that I refer to the set pieces and costumes as though religion were a theatrical production? Perhaps. As I do keep saying, I’m not religious.
Regardless, I appreciate the production value of the Catholic faith, it makes everything feel more like capital-R Religion, and I think that that’s important when it comes to something that people are meant to put their trust and faith in, people deserve to find what they believe important.
And Christmas Mass, I’ve been told, is basically the big one for the year. If you’re only going to attend church services once (and many, from what I’m told, do exactly that) it’s the one to see. So really, when I found myself unexpectedly invited, how could I resist?
I went to the place and did the thing, and it was fun. I don’t pretend I understood all of it, indeed I’m not sure I could contextualize most of it, but I did appreciate it on the level on which I was capable of doing so, and overall I’m glad to have had the experience.
And then, on my way out of the service, I was hit by a car.
I don’t know if it was a drunk driver, or just someone who, in the snow, didn’t see me, I don’t know if they stopped to see if I was okay or just sped off, I don’t know if hitting me haunted them for the rest of their life or if they found a way to make peace with what they’d done. I didn’t get the chance to find any of that out, I was dead by the time my body hit the road behind the car that’d just finished mowing me down. Which, I suppose, doesn’t matter as much now as, in life, I’d imagined it would have. It’s not like as though information would have affected what little time I had left, after all…
The important thing I did learn is: The Catholics turn out to have been on to something, and if you get killed literally coming out of a church you get into heaven on the spot, no questions asked.
Which is convenient if, in moments, uncomfortable.
I mean, and I can’t stress this enough, I’m basically an atheist and it makes being here in heaven super awkward, but I’m doing my best, I’m keeping an open mind and, so far at least, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of fitting in, even if this isn’t a very natural context for me.
So… how ‘bout you, what’s your story? How’d you die?