lunes, agosto 31, 2009

Addendum - How as an atheist I cope with tragedy.

Raquel Plascencia Fonseca: January 7th, 1946 - June 30th, 2009

My mom finally got to rest last Wensday, June 30. She had a respiratory arrest around 7:00PM after being in a coma for nearly 3 months.

In my previous post I talked about my experience during her convalescence. We are all sad about her passing on. I am sad, I miss her a lot, but I am OK. One advantage of been a skeptic is that I based my opinions in evidence. That being said, I am glad that my mom died... Shocked?, don't be. I am glad she died because the other option was a severe neurological damage with no good prognosis of recovery. So, my mom would not have been there anymore. I saw the MRI's; not good. I knew she wasn't going to come out of it. She was withering more and more with every passing day. That was not an acceptable living condition for her. This was the best outcome for everyone, specially her.

So, in that sense, I had almost 3 months to say to her (at least, to her body, because I think that she didn't listen to me anymore) everything I needed to say, and also to prepared myself to the idea that she was gone from that day on. So, when I got the call that she has passed on, although I was sad and surprised, I was OK.

I have cried a lot, I still do, don't get me wrong, but I am OK. My father is also surprised that he is more or less OK. Sometimes he calls me crying, but it is just for a moment, but for the most part he says that the time he misses her the most is at home, but that when he is out doing his errands, he feels more or less fine. I tell him that this is because we understood what was happening at all times. That we didn't clinge to false expectations and that we know that miracles don't happen, that the odds of her recovering were very slim, and even if she did recover, she was going to be severely impaired. I chosed reality, everyday. When you accept things as they really are, it is easier to deal with the world.

I missed her a lot, but to die is part of the natural world. I know she would die, I know I will die, but you know what? As Issac Asimov said, I am not afraid of dying, just of the transition. There are many things I still like to do while alive, so I am in no hurry to die. You don't know really when are you going to die, so don't worry to much about it. Live your life, and let and help others live theirs.

jueves, agosto 13, 2009

How as an atheist I cope with tragedy.

Originally posted on Atheist Nexus - June 29, 2009

My mother had a and stroke because of an aneurysm about 2 months ago. She's currently in a coma, with sever brain infarct damage and her prognosis is not good. So, what do I make of all of it? Well, thank God I am an atheist. I can't hardly think how I could cope with this better if I were religious.

More than anything, it let me be calm about this tragedy. I don't blame anyone or anything for this. I know that our bodies are imperfect, that to die is part of all living creatures, and that we don't know how it may happen, just that it eventually will. I know and accept this, and that keeps me calm.

I am sad of course, I miss my mom. I didn't expect for this to happen soon because my mom is a very healthy person. Actually, it is somewhat 'interesting' because although she's in a coma (she is non-responsive), she is actually in very good health; all her organs are OK with exeption of most of her brain. When someone asks me about her status, I usually say she's both 'good' and 'bad', 'good' because she hasn't got any worst and 'bad' because she hasn't got any better.

Many of my more religious relatives are a little 'off' by my attitude. I am a little tired that they expect (and probably 'want') me (or my father or sister) to be 'devastated' and continously keep saying "what ever is God's will", "let's pray to god"... I somewhat pity them, I guess that deep down they envy me being calm or something. I am a software engineer, but my dad is a physician, with a specialty in anesthetics, so I have been rounded by medicine books and medical info all my life, so I am well aware of what many medical conditions mean and represent. I actually like this, because it helps me to be realistic about what may happen in cases like this. I know that my mom most likely not recover and that if she does she will be severly impaired. I know and accept this, why don't they? Why do they get so mad or angry when you say thing the way they are?

I'll venture to say they are somewhat selfish. My mom is (was) a very lovable person, pretty, funny, lovely grandma, great singer, smart... and I think they don't want to be privated from her, so they better surround themselves with the (false) expectation of recovery (a miracle) than face the truth that the person as they knew is gone.

During this experience, I've had to deal with a lot of religious mumbo-jumbo and I have experienced how easely people pick and choose from experience and how easely (and quite probably un-willingly) truth is distorted. The miracle cross that once saved a girl in the brink of death, the miracle priest that saved another girl in the brink of dead, and as you start to dig deeper in to the stories you realize that people have exagerated and disstorted the story, in order to make it fit the miracle-type event.

Case number 1: The miracle black-wax jesus. An aunt's friend has this black-wax jesus figure in a wooden cross. It is actually a very nice handcrafted piece and I think it is at least seventy years old. I actually liked it for its aesthetic value. So the story goes that this friend's daughter had a very serious car accident, and she went comatose for several weeks. So one day, while she was coming down the stairs (the figure being in the wall of the stairs), she sees that the chest of the figure is 'expanded' and she concludes that this was the sign of a miracle. So, it is supposed that that same day her daughter woke from the coma and recovered. Well, after hearing many people tell the same history, each one added some little detail that allows to see that that is not exactly what happened. I eventually puzzle the story like this: Indeed this lady 'saw' the expanded chest, but her daughter did not came out of coma inmediatetly, but several days later, and even after that, she still suffers some neuronal problems and had to take re-habilitation (is that spelled right?) for several more months. So, was that really a miracle, or just a favourable outcome? Why doesn't the wax-jesus just avoided the accident in the first place? You may have guessed my answer.

Case number 2:The miracle priest. There is this canadian priest called 'Father Thomas' who lives in a middle size town in the state of Verazcruz, in the Gulf of Mexico. I have never heard of him before, but it seems that he is very popular among the meduim-upper class back in my home-town. The story goes that this guy went to see a girl who had (also) a very serious car accident, and also was unconsious (is this spelled right?). So, this priest puts his hand on her head and starts saying things, supposedly in tongues or at least aramic. So, they told me, the girl suddenly wakes up and grabs the priest and start crying, and miracle! she got better. Well, as usual, there is more to the story. So it happens that this girl was suffering from seizures during her unconsiousnes (is this spelled right?) and the alleged 'wake up' was another seizure event, she didn't wake up then, but about one or two weeks later and still had to stay in the hospital for about a month and also require a lot of time more to recover. This guy went visiting my mom also, and did the same thing... any guess about the results? You guessed right. Nothing happend.

And yet, my relatives keep telling me that I should keep the faith, that miracles may happen. I honestly think that I woudl suffer much more if I was to think like that. Reality may sucks sometimes, but it is certain, that's for sure. As Sagan said about Kepler "He chosed the crude reality to his most cherished ilusions" (I am probably quoting it wrong, but the idea is the same).