I was only 11 years old when my sister died. She was 18 at the time. It was sudden, devastating and life shattering when a drunk driving accident took her life. I remember it like it was yesterday. Only it was over 30 years ago. I remember the moment my mom answered the phone in the middle of the night and told us Traci was in an accident. I remember at that time praying to “God” that she was okay and that I couldn’t go back to sleep. I felt sick to my stomach, but didn’t know why.
I remember going into her hospital room and her head was bald. I wasn’t expecting it to be so bad. I remember feeling like there were too many people in the room although there were only a few of us in there. It felt crowded whenever I went in. I now realize that should have been clue number one that she was transitioning.
And then I remember going home that night and praying hard. I remember telling God that he needed to leave my sister here with us. That we needed her. I begged and pleaded. Bargained with him. I told him I would do anything he asked. I would listen at school. I would never curse. I would be nice to my brother and my sisters. And to the kids next door who I had cursed at. I would be a devout Protestant, or whatever we were (I didn’t really know at the time). And then… I threatened him. I said out loud, “Show me that you exist! Leave my sister here! Let her live or else!” She died the next morning.
As you can guess I was pretty angry. This supposedly all powerful being denied my one request. I did everything I could and he or she could not help me. My conclusion… God doesn’t exist. There is no higher power. Nothing happens after we die. This is it. And I went on to live my life that way for the next 10 years. Its pretty convenient to be an atheist when you’re a teenager. I had NO guilt. I felt no remorse for anything I did. Mind you, I wasn’t a really bad kid at all, but I got into plenty of trouble. I thought my friends who were religious were just weak. To me, religion = weakness and naivety. I KNEW there was nothing bigger then us. I asked for something, I begged for something and I didn’t get it. The proof is in the outcome.
When I was away at college, I started to recognize that my thoughts could create. When I focused on something, I could create it. Good or bad, happy or sad, I could create it. I still didn’t think this was God’s work, I just thought it was something different. I realized the more I focused on something, the quicker it would come. A part in a play, a boyfriend, an A in class, a new friend, anything. When I focused on it I created it. I remember specifically having a hard time with a teacher, and the more I thought about the issue the worse it became. So I tested it. I pictured a better experience with this teacher. I focused on an improved relationship, and much to my surprise it got better.
Hmmmmm. What was happening? Was this God? Was he paying me back for the pain and suffering he caused me? Maybe I was due some good times. So I started asking for more good times, and I got them. I started focusing on everything I wanted, not what I didn’t want and I got it. There’s really nothing that I’ve wanted that I didn’t get eventually. So, this was new territory to explore this whole “thoughts create” business. I wanted to know if it was God or not.
I quickly dove into some books: The Tao of Pooh, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Fountain Head, The Alchemist. I literally read all of those books in one week. Then, at an afterparty at a Pike house, I found Conversations With God. I hesitated to read it at first because it had the word “God” in it. “Ugh,” I thought, “if this is at all religious I’m tearing it up.” It was quite the opposite.
What Neale Donald Walsch wrote in that book spoke to my soul. Every word I read rang true to me. Everything inside of me said, “Yes, that’s right, that’s how it is”. God is not something outside of us; it IS US. We’re not separate from some omnipotent being who needs us to do something in order for him to be happy. We are the omnipotent. God doesn’t create the good or bad things in our lives. WE create, through our thoughts words and actions. I realized when I had these revelations that God didn’t take my sister from us. We all had an agreement to experience this life exactly as we were experiencing it. How lucky were we that she spent 18 years with us. Could we celebrate the 18 years instead of mourn for the time we didn’t have with her? These were some big revelations for a 21 year old. Even now at 44 I look back and reflect on how profound it was for me to accept my sister’s death and God’s roll in it all and feel so good about it. Good is a bad word to use in that situation but I do feel good. Not only do I feel good, I feel grateful.
What if we all accepted our lives exactly as they are, we wanted nothing to be different at all, we reveled in it, rejoiced in it, and we were grateful for it every day and in every way? What kind of world would this be? Every year on January 19th I reread Conversations With God or one of his many other books to honor my sister and to remind me of my 10 years as an atheist. It was a fun 10 years, but oh wow, are these years a lot better.