Baptize me.

As Whitney Houston keeps dying on TV, I am transfixed by envy, bitterness, and grief.

Her narrative has been transformed from the tragic untimely death of a dope addict to an adoring farewell to an angel. And why not? She was a person, not just a joke about crack.

I can’t help thinking about Max’s burial and the service we had at the grave. Just a small gathering of people in shock, numb or sobbing. Those who could speak talked about what Max was like and what they would miss. We shoveled some dirt and someone threw in a guitar pick. A moment later, nearly every man present stepped forward to throw in a pick. With the exception of me, we are a tribe of musicians.

Where was the big choir singing about taking him home? It isn’t fair.

I don’t believe in god but I wish I could hear about how He was waiting to hold Max in His loving arms.

This is what you get for being an unbeliever.  My husband told me that I could believe in god “if I wanted to.” I find this a preposterous notion. I do want to! Look how comforting it is for believers.

I want a church full of black Baptists, and I want them to sing their asses off, to testify that Max is an angel who was called home.   I miss him every moment that I am conscious. I try to be conscious as little as possible. I’m pretty sure that he hated Whitney’s music but he loved a good wailing gospel tune.

Maybe I can arrange something for his birthday in March. I don’t know if my heart is up to it. I’m not through with denial.

Let us play Omelette and let us say amen.

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41 Responses to Baptize me.

  1. Faux Fuchsia says:

    Dear Sister Wolf,

    That photo just breaks my heart.

    Take care. FF x

  2. Sister Wolf says:

    FF – No need to feel heartbroken. It was such a happy time. He was a wonderful baby and a wonderful son. xo

  3. Ann says:

    I don’t believe in god either but I do believe wholeheartedly that Max is safe, warm, at peace and free from pain. I would love to hear a gospel choir affirming this fact, too.

    Beautiful picture, too – thank you for sharing this captured moment!!!

  4. Darque says:

    Sister Wolf,
    Like you, I often WISH I could be a believer. My brain just won’t make it so. Honestly I’m resigned to the knowledge that whether it’s real or not, religion is a fantastic technicolor crutch. I can imagine how addictive that kind of comfort must be. Which, to me, explains a lot of the crazy in the world. Which prevents me from believing. I could go on all day like this. Just wanted to commiserate. Hugs to you, my dear.

  5. Danno says:

    I’m agnostic but have attended funeral’s of both believing and non-believing loved one’s and I must say that it’s hard to miss the differences. When there are no touching hymns to sing nor scriptures to fluff and flesh out our memorial’s, the ellipsis of our existence is removed. No comfort can be found in the belief of “a better place.” But that comes with the territory. I wonder what’s harder to come to terms with?… the actualization that we are finite beings or the inexplicable will of God?

  6. Andra says:

    I know exactly what you mean.
    I actually envy religious people because, in times of trouble, they have someone to confide in, a crutch to lean on, all that stuff.
    Poor little old atheist me, I just have to manage on my own.
    I still think I’m right and there ain’t nothing there …. but …….. wouldn’t it be nice if you were able to believe in some kind of nirvana somewhere?

  7. maki b podell says:

    i had a second line in the streets of new york with a new orleans brass band and boa festooned umbrellas. we paraded up and down duke ellington blvd and ended up doing shots of new orleans moonshine. we told stories and got good and drunk
    if you dont know what a second line is just google it. you would do max proud

    grief is my religon now along with anger fear and unbearable heartbreak

  8. Sister Wolf says:

    Maki b podell – Amen to that, my dear. Mine, too. xo

  9. dana says:

    According to Ursula K. LeGuin, nothing is ever wasted.

    You and your baby are beautiful, and I can tell just from that picture that you were the best mother he could ever have had.

    Thinking of you. And I totally get it about the religion envy.

  10. ali says:

    you look beautiful he looks beautiful even that stupid bowl looks pretty good next to you guys.

    as far as religion goes, thats all I’ve got.

  11. Deni says:

    Beautiful photo SW!
    Lord knows I’m an atheist. But is there room in the universe for paradoxes? I don’t have any answers; I only know what I accept and don’t accept to believe, and that there’s something more than nothing.
    That everyone is forever.

  12. thrift store lawyer says:

    he is an angel. that’s photographic proof.

  13. Sister Wolf says:

    ali – It was a good bowl, with a matching cup. xo

  14. What a lovely photo of mother and son – he truly is an angel. You know I’m big on belief but then I don’t believe at times too. I think your burial was more poignant. As described it seems epically cinematic. A Gospel choir as a birthday tribute sounds good – singing a version of Omelette xx

  15. Sister Wolf says:

    Deni – Remember how he lit up when you greeted him with “I don’t believe in god..” ?

    Ann – We’ll have to talk about how you maintain such a spiritual and positive approach to life, as an unbeliever.

    Dargue – xo

    dana – Thank you sweetie xo

    thrift store lawyer – Thank you for seeing his sweetness, xo

    Make Do – That is a great fantasy, at least! Or maybe 500 school children singing it! xo

  16. Cricket9 says:

    It’s a beautiful picture, SW.
    I’m with Andra on the “religion envy”.
    Non-religious funerals should focus on celebration of the deceased person’s life, not on the “better place he/she went to”. A friend had Leonard Cohen’s “Dance me to the end of love” playing at a non-religious funeral for her husband; it was poignant as hell.

  17. Suspended says:

    Wow, this might sound stupid but I’m amazed at how much Max looks like himself as a baby. I often look at my child and try to imagine mature features; it can’t be done. Looking at baby Max, you can clearly see the adult. He has a good hair of head on him, just like you.

    Your story makes me cherish every moment I have with my child, but it also makes me fear the future. That pretty much sums up parenting for me. Right or wrong, yes or no, do or don’t, its such a paradoxical mind fuck. I never know if I’m doing the right thing.

    This picture made me feel emotional. Even though most of your face isn’t visible, you look so happy. I couldn’t read the comments until I’d recovered from the beautiful image. Sending you love and strength xxx

  18. Suspended says:

    Yes, that should have been “Head of hair.”

  19. Sister Wolf says:

    Suspended – I used to joke about raising kids: “Relax, whatever you do will be wrong.” But really, unconditional love and support is the most you can do. I wish we could keep them in protective bubbles. Thank you for seeing the Max in Max. That face was the light of my life. xoxo

  20. Sister Wolf says:

    Cricket 9 – That’s a great song. We had a get-together at home and sang “Be My Baby” and “Wild Horses”, two of his favorites.

  21. drollgirl says:

    you make me laugh (clause #1 in sentence #1), even when you talk (write) about such sad topics.

    i was getting a pedicure on sunday and the nail salon had the whitney memorial playing live and loud on giant tvs all around me. i have to say it was DRIVING ME NUTS. my dad was a preacher, so any sort of church-y setting makes me BONKERS. and angry. i skipped getting a manicure because i couldn’t take it anymore. i can’t get around church or god or any of it, but i try not to hold it against people that are into it. i just hate when they try and push it on others.

    this comment has no point. whitney’s death has no point. it is just sad and lame and i don’t have anything great or profound to say (write) here.

  22. Laura says:

    I am a believer and I think this is the only way I can manage life. So many people around me have died recently, one being a very special 27 year old young man as well. Why this happens I have no clue except what I get from the last two very long, loud and “gospel” like funeral’s I’ve attended-this is a hotel and we are all going home eventually. Some sooner than others. Those of us stuck in the hotel have a reason for being here longer. And I am sort of beginning to believe those who have gone sooner may have figured it all out faster and that’s why they got to go on-even with such horrid or untimely deaths.

    Maybe this is wacky but that is how I get by. I sat through the entire funeral and told my husband after that this is the way to have a funeral. They go by too fast, you can’t even get in the moment of them, or really think about the person before they are over-and I want to. I want to be able to have remembered every minute, to sit there even quietly between all the “show” and reflect. I want to hear every story anyone can tell about my mom, or my daughter’s best friend who might have been her husband and the father of my grandchildren, or the very dear family friend who recently died-without rushing.

    I want for someone to convence me that life on earth isn’t the end, that I will see everyone I love again, that I will see my children again when I die, that it isn’t all for nothing.

    I am not very successful at thinking -man this could be everyone’s last second on earth at every single moment of the day. So for me, I need to hear, because I missed alot here, that I will get more later. If I don’t think this way, then I would spend all my time crying trying to relish it all when I know I can’t and that hurts almost as much.

    The last funeral I attended was a black Baptist funeral, and after I said to my family I’m gonna start coming to this church. After Saturday I said it again. I want the choir and the shouting and glory cause that is what I want to think that my loved one is doing all day while they are waiting for the rest of us.

    Tomorrow would be my daugher’s boyfriends birthday. We are having a big dinner and sitting around talking about what we miss about Blaine and what we loved and wonder what he is doing all day where ever he is. We are gonna cry and also tell funny stories cause he was pretty hilarious and was always laughing. We were looking for notes last night that he had written to us-and found one that said “and I won’t do drugs at your house -NO DRUGS”. And you know he didn’t and this makes me smile and love him so much more.

    I hope you wil do something in March-

  23. Sister Wolf says:

    drollgirl – Let’s definitely make some plans! xoxo

  24. Janet says:

    Love you.

  25. patni says:

    what a lovely picture. And to be 100% shallow…. what an amazing fat ponytail. I have never had hair like that, and have eternally wanted it.
    Grief is so hard, don’t know what to say about that.

  26. candy says:

    Very moving picture, his little face, you kissing him, it’s so sad. I don’t know if God exists, sometimes I believe in him,sometimes I don’t, when tragedy around me strikes or unfairness, I don’t think he could care less about us down here.However, I don’t think that all believers are not worried, I know my neighbor who is a church goer lady, and she is always worried, she calls me forlittle things, and she is too worried, she can’t breathe. I know when she goes to see Jesus each sunday,it helps her, but on a regular basis, she seems so worried about life and I have more problems than her, really.In the past, my neighbor was an atheist and we talked about religion but she hated the topic, she said that she built herself, her job etc…alone without any help, and at the end, she added “when I die and if there is a god, I will tell him why? why? and I hope you have a good explanation!!!!”
    I used to not understand her because I was raised ina religious family and couldn’t ask questions, but now I do understand people who don’t believe in a god, because life is difficult and sometimes we can’t control its storms.
    Sister Wolf, I think that something in march in memory of Max is just a great idea, go for it!
    take care Love

  27. annemarie says:

    I don’t believe in the God, but I do believe that the entity formerly known as God is full of our dead walking around, still loving us and watching us and trying to let us know in small ways that we should sweat neither the small stuff nor the big stuff because life and the universe is bigger and more complex and more awesome than we can ever imagine.


    Hugs to Max! I love your songs!

  28. candy says:

    typo/erratum, when I said “in the past, my neighbor was atheist…” I was referring to my previous neighbor in Europe. Now I am in Canada. I think there are signs though, I believe in signs, such as why do I have to live this,having one atheist neighbor now I have the other extreme. I don’t like when my actual neighbor judges me and we had an argument once over this, people shouldn’t judge others. I don’t think Jesus or any other prophet would appreciate that catholics judge others. I thought youshouldn’t judge others and love thy neighbor…I grew up with gils going to catechism on wednesdays and they were so nice and didn’t push their religion on me.

  29. Cricket9 says:

    I wish I could believe in the afterlife, the reunion with everyone we miss, and so on. At my mother’s funeral one of the well-meaning cousins said “your mother will help you with everything now!” This left me speechless – and a good thing too. I wanted to shout “what are you talking about, you twit, my mother helped me with everything WHEN SHE WAS HERE, and now she’s no more! And I miss her so much every second!”. I still resent the comment, after many many years…

  30. candy says:

    Cricket, I understand what you mean but I think we do reunite after this life with or without a god. I have lost many family members and I miss them a lot. It’s hard to think that a family member will help you from there when they pass, and the only thing you think about is their voice, their touching words,their presence and their hugs. I do believe the deceased help you tho by sending signs as this is not only a physical word but a spiritual one also. However, the comment,I agree, was not appopriate at the moment, your cousin did meant well, she/he just said it too soon,she/he probably couldn’t find the right words to comfort you. Maybe the cousin lived through the same thing and lost a family member and noticed the signs. I just try to understand.
    Cricket I am sorry to hear your pain and send you my condoleances.
    Love, Candy

  31. Andra says:

    I would very much like to believe in reincarnation.
    It seems like such a good idea to me.
    I would, in particular, like to come back as a Chocolate Point Burmese cat.
    Mine seem to live quite nicely.

  32. Sister Wolf says:

    Laura – Keeping him alive by talking about him is even better than a choir.

    Janet – xoxo

    Patni – Don’t worry, my ponytail isn’t nearly as thick now that I’m 100. But I do remember once having a big fight with my then-husband and hitting him in the face with my ponytail while shouting: AT LEAST I HAVE HAIR!

  33. Sister Wolf says:

    Candy – xo

    annemarie – Yep, I believe in spirits too.

    Cricket9 – People say the most idiotic things in response to death. I resent that comment on your behalf.

  34. Sister Wolf says:

    Andra – I would like to be a tree if I have to come back. I like Frida Kahlo’s statement about dying: “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.”

  35. Marky says:

    I, too, envy those with faith, especially those who work on it. The Jesuits question their religion their entire lives, they study it, they gain faith through knowledge. That’s what I’d like, but I’m too lazy for that kind of life.

    I never really saw the point of funerals until I went to a few of them. I think now that ceremony helps us with life’s most extreme moments–good and bad.

    So have a get-together in Max’s honor.

  36. Debbie says:

    Love the picture … expresses everything about you two.

    I do believe in God. Sometimes it isn’t easy being a believer because I have also had my dark nights. Horrible, bad things happen to everyone and it is so unfair, life. Just a week ago I learned that an ex-coworker of mine was hit by a car as she walked in a cross walk and now she is in a coma with severe head trauma. No one knows if she will make it or not. It’s horrible. I’m out of a job for the second time in three years which is a bummer and causes me a lot of anxiety, but then if I trust in God I shouldn’t be anxious right? God is God and we are human beings who have to live in the world with other human beings, some of whom are selfish and mean and narcissistic. That’s the challenge of life I think. To be decent, kind, ethical in a world full of fakers and users. And when we finally leave this place, we can take off our armor and finally REST.

    Your loss is a terrible one. Truly. And I send my love to you through the ether.

  37. Hammie says:

    It’s a piece of your heart. Xx

  38. Jaimi says:

    What a beautiful photograph.

    I recently attended the funeral of a childhood friend who died of a heroin overdose. He was 23 and not someone who I’d thought would go that way, but then again I hadn’t seen him in years. I had stayed in contact with his mother, thought. It was so sad, all very hush hush. She was on suicide watch, as I imagine I would be. The only thing that distracted me from the loss was all the Jesus talk — it was a Catholic affair. I was fortunate for that, though. Getting mad kept me from losing it in how sad it was. I wanted to remember him and hear about how he had been a great friend as he got older.

    I can’t imagine losing a son, or a brother, or a partner, or a close friend and ever getting over it fully. It’s something you take with you. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but memories are powerful.

  39. Sister Wolf says:

    Jaimi – Maybe you can help the mother. She will want people to talk about her son and how glad they are to have known him. It’s the best thing you can do for her, because people will be afraid to talk about him…xo

  40. phoebe says:

    Your post struck a chord with me. I hope you’re ok. I know just what you mean about god and wailing gospel and denial. A mother losing a child is one of the worst things ever. Take care of yourself. ~Phoebe

  41. Emma says:

    Your posts about Max are incredibly touching. I think I would fall apart without my son, regardless of having a husband I love and cherish. I hope you are ok and I wish you all the best

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