My uncle Bick died twice.
The last time I saw him alive, he pulled me into a corner of the small room where we were celebrating the holiday, away from the rest of the family, and he asked me bluntly if I believed in God.
It seemed an odd question to ask at a Christmas party, but Uncle Bick was one for getting to the point when he wanted to. I almost laughed when I saw the serious look on his face. Was he doing dead-pan? Then I looked closer. There was an edge of pleading to his gaze that made my lips go taut in fear that I had unconsciously begun a smirk. There was no joke on it’s way. He wanted a real answer.
When I think back on this moment, I respect him immensely, because he made no assumptions about my beliefs. He asked. On Christmas day.
Feeling unprepared for a philosophy discussion and a bit on the spot, I quickly muttered my honest response, “I don’t know. Sometimes.”
This seemed to neither disappoint nor surprise him, which relieved me quite a bit, because I realize all too well that some people can’t take “I don’t know” for an answer.
Uncle Bick wasn’t one of those people, but he did have a story for me. I guess he needed a firm “maybe” on my part before he could feel comfortable telling me what had happened to him a few weeks pryor.
See, he had a bad heart, and he had technically died on the operating table while they were doing surgery. The doctors had revived him after a very brief period.
I knew this part.
The part I didn’t know was that Uncle Bick saw God that day. I don’t remember what I said after he told me. I was stunned and I probably looked stunned.
I wish I had been able to give him what I think he wanted. He wanted me to believe him. Of course he did. But I couldn’t quite do it.
Though I never doubted that he thought he had seen God, I knew he’d been through trauma and had been given anesthesia. You could say I believed him but not his senses.
But, when I think about it now, I think about all the mystical things that have happened to me in my lifetime and how much it hurt to have people say, “I don’t think it really happened, but I’m sure YOU believe that.”
We rely completely on our senses until they tell us things that are different from the norm. I’m not saying I believe in God or that you should.
All I’m saying is that my Uncle Bick saw God. It doesn’t matter a damn bit if I believe it or you believe it. My Uncle Bick’s God existed for him that day on that operating table.
But, what does matter to me in this moment is that I wish I had been able to say “I believe you” on Christmas Day to a man with whom I would’ve trusted my life.