It’s autumn every time I wake.

I have two paintings on my bedroom wall. They were done by a student artist at a school near where we lived. The woman was older, my best guess in her 60s. I would have never known she was a student by the quality of the art. I mean, I suppose I’m not much of a connoisseur of art. I just know I like to support independent artists. …and filling my house with pretty things. And these were pretty.

painting1

When I spotted this first piece at an art show, I knew I wanted it. I had this flood of memories from my childhood. Most of the trees around where we grew up were pine, but we had one birch tree in our front yard that I loved. Nothing else had leaves that would change with the seasons. The painting brought me back to lazing in the grass, looking up into its canopy. I brought it home.

Soon after, we discussed buying a companion piece for it, if the artist had any. I contacted her and she invited us over to look. There were so many paintings. Lots of lovely scenes. We came across what would be the mate for our current piece. It’s her driveway, after some rain. You can see the reflection of the tree in the wet asphalt. Beautiful. We asked if she minded parting with it.

painting2

I remember she made this little noise and looked at the floor before she said it would be alright.

We looked at each other and started to back pedal. An awkward dance.

“Oh no, if you don’t want to-” “Yes, we don’t have to-”

She said it was okay. She needed to sell the painting. Not for us, not for exposure, not for the money. We didn’t know it, but we had become a part of her grieving process. She’d lost her son in Iraq the prior fall. She’d painted them soon after. They were an important part of that time for her. But she knew it was time to let them go.

She took a moment and so did we. It was somber. We hadn’t meant to intrude. But she reaffirmed that she was going to be alright and that this was something she wanted to do. We took it, but made sure she had our contact info if she changed her mind. We never did hear from her.

These paintings greet me everything morning. I often think of the artist and her son and his sacrifice.

I hope for her peace of mind.

When an Atheist Loses A Pet

I’m having a hard time with this one, folks. One of our little fuzzy buddies was put to sleep last week and it sucks. A lot. But he was damn near 8, which is a really excellent run for a guinea pig. Reese was a sweet boy and we took really good care of him. But old age has health complications.

Friends have been wonderful with support and condolences. Well wishes and thoughts of him meeting us over the rainbow bridge.

I can’t tell you how much this support has meant. Truly, we’ve been lucky to have people in our lives who understand. But in my heart I know there’s no rainbow bridge or afterlife for him. It’s not a bad thing. It just is what it is, for me.

I’m an atheist. I don’t feel that there’s a higher power. But I’m perhaps different than some atheists in a few ways. I love when people discuss their religion and I’m actually pretty passive about when someone’s point of view is contrary to my own. I want to learn. I want people to feel comfortable to express their faith. I think that’s a great thing.

The other part is that I’m fully accepting of the idea that maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Catholics are right. Maybe it’s some religion we don’t know. Maybe there is no way we could know. In a world of infinite possibilities, I can’t pretend that I know that my answer is right. Just as the faithful feel that there is something there, I feel there’s nothing at all. Feelings are a good guide but aren’t fact.

This makes for difficulty moving through hard times and processing grief. I previously discussed on this blog when my husband and I were living apart. In the middle, we had no answers or timeline. I spoke to another atheist friend about it. “I think this is when people would normally just have faith that everything will work out. We don’t have that luxury. Just hope that everything will be okay.”

Instead of putting things in someone else’s hands, we are left with our own. Our hope everything’s going to be okay.

Mourning my pig is the same. I have no comforting day dreams of where he’s gone. I know exactly where he is. Just writing that… It’s a punch in the gut. I know. And it might be a nice fantasy to think of my pig eating grass and basil in an open and endless field. But it’s just that – a fantasy.

But then my brain goes to memories. Moments we really experienced something. When I know he was happy. When we were happy. These thoughts are so comforting. I know they are real and true.

The time we sat up and watched Breaking Bad for hours while I was recovering from an illness. Playing in the yard. Holidays. The time he wore a sombrero.

reesehattwit

See? Cutie.

I can’t say that my lack of traditional faith makes for better mourning. Mourning is so personal. In fact, I considered not pursuing this at all because it is something people handle personally and it’s not my usual blog fodder. But just as people choose to share their faith with me, I choose to talk about this. This is my truth. Maybe sharing it spurs conversation. Maybe it helps someone else.