|Godless at the hospital.|
|At All Saints Healthcare, five days before my awakening. Sill godless.|
As he gently took my hand in his, he said, "God is good." Oy! I fixed my eyes on him to prevent them from rolling. (He was the first of countless others who have called my recovery a miracle. I've probably the only atheist who has strengthened the faith of more believers than Richard Dawkins.)
"Do you remember me?" he continued. I didn't, but I nodded anyway, trying to be accommodating. I felt awkward around him. My tracheostomy tube prevented me from speaking, so at least there was no danger that I would accidentally blurt out something offensive. For that reason, among many others (hello...atheist!), I've always demurred when a hospital chaplain asked if I wanted to speak with them. This time, I couldn't just say no.
He smiled at me. "Have you thanked God for your life?" I was literally speechless. "No!" I wanted to say, but all I could do was vigorously shake my head. He looked as if I had slapped him in the face. What was I supposed to say? "Thanks, God, for saving my life after you almost killed me. Oh, that's right, I don't believe in you, anyway." He soon took his leave of this ungrateful atheist, but not before asking me if he could pray for me. As I've said of my friends' prayers (which I didn't yet know about), prayers are more for the prayer, so I nodded. It seemed harmless enough, and I still trying to remain polite.
I wanted to squirm, but I was so weak could barely move. It felt like he was praying at me, not for me. I didn't know why I was being subjected to this visit, and I couldn't wait for it to end. Certainly, my Jewish-atheist mother, who had been there for my awakening, hadn't asked for him. As I eventually learned, the nursing home where I had stayed for five days, after being transferred from the hospital, was called All Saints Healthcare for a reason. It's a Catholic nursing home. I guess No Saints Healthcare wasn't an option?
But this problem started in the secular Kaiser hospital where I spent the bulk of the six weeks of my coma. That story will be told in Wednesday's blog. You'll see why my attitude--at least when it didn't involve my friends' prayers--was closer Eric Wojciechowski's take in his essay, "Please Stop Praying for Me," which was paired with my essay, "Without a Prayer of a Chance," in the October/November issue of Free Inquiry.
Have you had a similar experience with hospital or nursing home clergy? Share your story in the comments section!
Click here for Part 2: Saving my life by saving my soul?