Last night I nursed the younger of my sons at bedtime, Liam. He is a good-natured child, and the danger at the time of bed is that he will notice that I look at him, and smile, and become awake again in order to play.
His play is touch and sound, for the most part. Touch the face, the hair. He loves to be touched: tickled, lifted, moved. He sings already, with no consonants, in the car as we have sung to him so that he does not cry. He echoes.
This joy is no longer quite so new to me: My elder son of the flesh, Noah, was equally so, although not so physical. This younger son throws his entire body at the world, with no caution; the elder explored small textures and was more content to stay in one place. And then there are my and San’s children, and ours and Li’s.
Still, I find it overwhelming at times.
In any case during this time, I was sitting with the elder as he moved to sleep. He has a friend at school, a little girl who knows all, who is religious. He has been asking many questions about God and such, and we have asked him what he thinks, and we have said that some believe this and some believe that. We have read of Norse gods and Egyptian gods and Buddha and reincarnation, creation myths of the First Nations, and a little Christianity.
But last night he asked me if I believe in God.
Ah, my son: Such a question to encounter at 7:25 of the o’clock, and at almost 6 years of age. What can I tell you of my experience that is remotely appropriate? How may I share with you how deeply the question cuts at times?
Can I tell you how at times I laugh at us all: atheists who mock what they do not wish to understand; Christians who are cruel in their certainty, yet hide their sins under the bed; Buddhists who seek to lead others in renouncing earthly pleasures and yet spread AIDS to young girls in their communities; I myself, with experiences I cannot explain by any other means and yet left adrift from all their context, and who overshadows many in what has been done in the name of belief?
In the end, I chose what I think is the greater gift: Uncertainty. I said I am not always certain what I believe, but I believe that wondering and listening to others and to stories is good.
The warrior queen said, silently, perhaps what we most believe is narrative. But that is not sufficient for me.
After a few breaths, when it was clear this was not satisfying him, either, Lyria came to my rescue.
She said to Noah (a Biblical name; he was conceived 40 weeks to the day of my daughter’s death, you see, the 40 sheets of sorrow) that some people believe God is Love. And she believes in Love.
It satisfied him; he rolled over with a sigh and fell straight to sleep.
This is the sort of answer I could never give myself, particularly not right now as those who promised love if only I would walk out of the shadows vanished just as I was, so I am glad she was there to give it. I think if one must offer a simplification or a lie, it was a good one.
And for Lyria, of course, it was not, and that is why it satisfied.