Why Do We Believe?

Is it because it brings us comfort? Or is it because of what we are taught?

by Sandi • More.com Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

At my mother in law’s funeral, I made the comment that I believed she was happy now, that she was with her husband and everyone who had gone before. As I said those words, I felt the conviction of my belief soothing me like a warm blanket. Then, Mrs. X said, “I hate when people say that. How do you know she is happy?”

Oddly enough, this didn’t upset me at all. I took no offense. No offense was meant. I know this woman well enough to know that it was just her expression of her own beliefs, or perhaps her own uncertainty. It was a seamless motion to turn to her and say: “I just know. I just believe it, and believing it makes me happy.”

This belief of mine held fast as we drove the back roads up into Vermont, following her casket deep into the hills. Our caravan turned left at the edge of a working farm, and slowly inched its way up a narrow paved road alongside a babbling brook. The air was heavy with mist, the rain holding off for the moment. As we crept through the trees, a clearing appeared: A small, jewel-like spot on the side of a mountain. The wrought iron fence around the cemetery was freshly painted. The stone marker at the gate commemorated the date the cemetery was born: 1791. This family cemetery has honored many generations on this mountain; never judging, a place of elemental earth and green and peace.

As I stepped from the limousine, I noticed that all the sounds of the world were muted, as if we were inside a bubble, closed off from the outside by curtains of mist and magic. The sense of peace was so profound that my pounding heart began to slow in spite of what was to come. To me, it was as if we were all moving through a cloud composed of the dreams of the tenants, a force of invisible, unshakeable calm. The headstones bore dates centuries old, the lichen glowing dully in spots, as if to announce that this place belonged to the deep earth and those souls slumbering there in eternal contentment. It welcomed us as watchers, undisturbed by our living energy, knowing we would leave and it would still remain, solid and eternal.

No breeze blew to disturb our breathing. The Navy Honor Guard stood by the coffin at attention. Then, the trumpeter stepped off into the distance and began to play “Taps.” The notes hung on the air, shimmering, perfectly pitched and almost visible. They did not echo over the mountain. Rather, they slid slowly to the grass, taking root there.

I looked at the faces around me, but they seemed far away. What seemed so close, so present that if I spun around on my heel I could have touched it, was the feeling that Mom was indeed happy, was content to be back home, knew she was where she belonged with the welcoming spirits. A drop of water fell from the canopy onto my cheek, almost like a gentle kiss farewell.

We believe because we believe. I neither question my belief nor begrudge anyone else their beliefs. I don’t ask why. I just know that Mom is happy where she is. I know I don’t need to worry about her. I know I will see her again. Until then, I know the peaceful place of slumber and honor is out there, up on that mountainside in Vermont, waiting.

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