My dad’s youngest brother got married three years after my sister’s drowning and burial in the church graveyard.
I was a pageboy and can recall being dressed in a white shirt with a collar and ruffled front, dickie bow, black cotton shorts and shiny black shoes. I remember standing by my sister’s grave as some photographs of the wedding group were taken, but not having any particular memories other than feeling forlorn at the sight of the headstone and inscription:
Taken by God before she could be spoiled on earth
For my efforts, the married couple gave me a little book called “GOD’S CHILD” A PRAYER BOOK FOR THE YOUNG and showed a little girl praying on the front, seated with hands held together, in a white chiffon bridal headdress and two little cherubs listening to her.
Of course, that could have been my sister praying on the cover.
In the Foreword, I read,
Life is much shorter than you think. At any moment we may die; and so we must always be ready to have a happy death.
Unlike that of my sister, methinks, who must have suffered incalculable pain as the salt water filled her lungs and pericardium…
In Chapter One GOD AND YOU I read,
On some nice day in summer you go to the beach. You love the ocean, don’t you? There, after playing in the water for a while and getting cooled off, you begin to play in the sand. You mix some water in the sand, then you make a sand-man. Who owns the sand-man? Why, you, of course! You own it because you made it.
Yes, I own the sand-man. Duh!?
My remaining sister was actually epileptic, having turned blue in Mum’s arms as a two-year old after suffering a seizure which cut off the blood supply to her brain, and being rushed to hospital. Mum didn’t think she’d live. But she did. Unlike my other sister. One day while mum was out and I was only seven she pretended to have an epileptic fit in the house and I didn’t really know what to do. I knew she was pretending but because she was also actually a genuine epileptic I couldn’t really take the chance of ignoring her. She went through the whole procedure of nearly gagging on her tongue and passing out and then she came to on her bed, me waiting patiently for her fluttering eyes to at last remain open and still. At that point she theatrically asked me where we come from. My mind went blank before I told her that we come from God. I meant nothing by it, incidentally; just that, we had to come from somewhere, and she had asked, and so I felt compelled to provide some kind of answer.
Then again, in my little book Chapter One, GOD AND YOU, I had read – or quite possibly had read – the opening passage, which actually went like this,
Dear Child, did you ever ask yourself : “Where do I come from?”
No? Maybe you were too little to ever ask these things.
But now you are getting big enough to think of them and to know about them.
Where did you come from?
(Guess what the answer is:)
Why, you came from God. God made you and you belong to God.
Just like the sand-man I had made on the beach while my sister was drowning belonged to me, as the book also made clear.
So I had the answer all ready and off pat for my other sister when she asked, the one who survived.
By the way, this sister – the epileptic sister – was in the sea with my other sister at the time of the drowning.
A wizened old crone of a woman came into the classroom from time to time and read from the holy book stories that remained incomprehensible but were clearly intended to fill us all with fear. God was an absolute cunt. If that failed, her stares were intended to have the same effect. The vicar – a smug, fat bastard, if ever I saw one – would also turn up at unannounced hours during the school day and certain members of the class would become the centre of unwanted attention as their foul behaviour was pointed out to all concerned. Oh, my, oh, my.
And so the God thing got really hammered into you, accompanied by an uncomprehending fear of all the worthies surrounding you: the form teacher, the headmaster and deputy-headmaster with their adjoining rooms at the end of the corridor on the second-level, the book readings, and the vicar – and the threat of what awaited you in your final year before leaving juniors for secondary school…the Boss-Eyed Bee.
But first of all the hammering-into of the little soul who had lost his beloved sister on the beach…
In the book I had been given as a pageboy at my aunt and uncles’ wedding, in Chapter Two, WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO DO, I was able to read,
If you belong to God, you must do what he wants.
(And implicitly all those who are representatives of God: see worthies above)
If that little sand-man (there he was again: the little sandman; how could the author of the book possibly have known I was building a sandman at the moment my sister was dying..?) you made on the beach could talk, what would he say? Why, he would tell you he loved you. And why? Because you made him.
And the little sand-man would try to please you. And he would try to make you happy.
And so God wants you to please Him. And to make you happy.
According to my remaining sister’s testimony at a slightly later time, the deputy-headmaster and the headmaster both wanted her to please them, too. And to make them happy. As a result of trying to avoid that fate of making them happy she suffered severe burns on her legs (as attested to by my parents) as she sidled away from them and found herself pressed against a full-on heated radiator.
Some boys and girls always growl and grumble (according to my little book) when they are told to do something. This is wrong. And it does not please God, Who made them. Obey right away and gladly. Because when you do, you make God happy. (Try telling that to a ten year old girl who is trapped in the headmaster’s study.)
And we all want to make God happy, don’t we, children? (my words added)
What else can I remember?
(adapted from Rosicrucian, VIP, 2018)