Next week is the one year anniversary of my friend Pat’s death. She died of a blood clot on her 43rd birthday. Pat’s life means so much to me as I consider her death. Pat knew how to live. She always told me, “Why are you not eating at Ohio’s only 5-star French restaurant? It’s in Vermillion!” She made me get off my couch and meet her at art shows and film festivals. We traveled so many wonderful places together. Chicago was our town.
So it was appropriate when, a week after her death, she came to me in a dream at The Palmer House hotel lobby. It was just the two of us in the lobby and, if you’ve ever been there, you can imagine how eerie it would be to have only two people in such a grand place. I asked, “What are you doing here?” And she said, “I am waiting. This is the waiting place.” Then I woke up.
The dream might have been Pat communicating with me from beyond, but I believe it was my mind making peace with her funeral and reconciling a relationship Pat had with a Catholic Deacon. See, Pat was an Atheist. The Deacon is Tom, our boss at the old magazine where we all worked.
Pat and Tom were great friends and I loved their relationship. They were both unrelenting in their prospective opinions, as Atheists and Christians often are, but they were open and respectful and enjoyed good debate. It always ended the same, with Tom saying, “I’ll pray for you Pat.” And Pat saying something like, “You better just work on that article I need to edit.”
Tom did Pat’s funeral service, and he talked about the faith he saw in her and the fact that it showed in the way she lived her life. The bible tells us that heaven would not have welcomed Pat, but Tom didn’t let that stop him from performing a beautiful and spiritual funeral service for her — a service that was a comfort to her parents and family and friends.
Pat’s death is a huge part of not only why I am writing, but also what I am writing. “Why” because she was also working on a manuscript, and we often talked about “getting to it already.” “What” because I feel called to write specifically about how Atheists and Christians relate in the real world. Not how they relate on the internet or in the media. Not Dawkins behind a podium or Westboro Baptist picketing funerals. Real people like Tom and Pat. Who will tell their story? Perhaps I will.