Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cry or Rejoice?

"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."
-- William Blake

Me and religion have been long time rivals.  Growing up in a Christian/Hindu home, you'd think I'd be engulfed by so much religion that I couldn't help but.. be religious.  I believed in God (still do), but I knew none of the specifics pertaining to either religion I grew up with.  The freedom of choice my parents allowed me just served to justify my decision to "choose later."  So, instead, I grew up avoiding it and putting off the day when I would finally make a choice.  Now, there's more to this story than I'm willing to tell at this moment, but lets just say I've passed through a number of doctrines from Wiccan beliefs to Islamic (two complete ends of the spectrum, I know).  Presently, I consider myself more spiritual than religious.  And while I still choose to follow no particular doctrine, I have respect for all.

Friends and family the like have always been trying to get me to go to church.  Once I did finally agree and when my friend came to my house to get me, there I was undressed and unwilling.  I really don't know why I was so scared to go to church.  I guess I didn't know what to expect and I didn't want to stick out like a sore heathen thumb.  Christmas of '09 I made a trip to Trinidad and it was my Presbyterian boyfriend's tradition to go to church on Christmas morning.  Having him by my side gave me the courage to finally step inside a Church only to realize it wasn't so bad after all!  Angels didn't come down from heaven to reproach me about my presence there, the reverend didn't give me the evil eye, and the patrons did nothing to make out my scene.  The singing was enjoyable and even more so because it's the only time I get to hear Dale sing loud and proud.  The presiding Reverend that morning was Reverend Cyril Paul.  It was love at first sermon.  His resounding voice and powerful message impacted me like no other reverend that I've listened to proceeding him.  Still, I wasn't an avid Church goer.  Early mornings torment me and my return trip to New York insured that I wouldn't be in a church until my next trip to the island.

Summer of '10, I made the "big move" to Trinidad and started attending UWI the same year.  I kept telling Dale how much I enjoyed Reverend Paul's sermon and that we had attend his Christmas service again.  As fate would have it, I bounce up the reverend in the car park of the School of Education one day while on break.  I jumped out of my seat and ran after him "Excuse me.. excuse me!"  Eventually catching up, I foolishly said "Are you...your...what's your name?"  For the life of me, I couldn't remember if he was suppose to be addressed as a reverend or a pastor and I didn't want to assume one or the other.  He told me his name was Cyril Paul and then I went on to explain how I was enraptured with his Christmas service last year and wanted to attend his Christmas service this year.  He invited me to walk back to the office of one of his colleagues where he took my number to call me when he found which Church he would be in for Christmas.  During our short walk, he asked which church I went to and questions I could barely answer, because naturally in true Marsha fashion forgot which church I first heard him in (there are two Presbyterian churches in my area and I have no sense of direction, need I say more?) and as I've mentioned before I'm not well-versed in the Presbyterian faith.  I told him about my boyfriend's Christmas tradition, stumbling on the word 'boyfriend' fearing I'd be judged for having a 'boyfriend' and not a 'fiance' or 'husband'.  Quite silly, but I was in the presence of a Man of God, I couldn't help it!

Christmas of that year, we attended his sermon in Curepe Presbyterian Church.  A good way from my home, but well worth it.  And again this year, it was already understood that we'd seek him out Christmas morning.  Reverend Paul got cancer and passed away this morning.  Dale and I wanted to visit, but kept postponing it.  Partially, because something was always coming up and partially because I was unsure if I wanted to see him like that.  Part of me wanted to remember him the way he was for our awkward little meeting in the parking lot.  And you see, I don't do well at funerals either.  I ignorantly prefer not to get "closure."  I think funerals shouldn't exist and for my own, I'd like it to be a celebration.  I don't need closure.  I prefer to go on feeling as though the person is still around, but we just haven't had time or opportunity to reconnect.  Funeral's take away any such hope of that feeling and finalize things in a manner in which I'd rather not subject myself to.  I attend out of respect, not by choice.

Reverend Cyril Paul spoke to my soul.  I wanted the man who baptized my boyfriend to preside over our wedding and today I mourn the loss this spiritual icon.  Do I cry because you're gone or rejoice because you're in a better place?

I'm not sure if I all together regret not visiting.  Though it would have been nice to show Reverend Paul that the girl from the car park hasn't forgotten him, whether it was subconscious or conscious (or a mix of the two), my own selfish motives took precedence.  My only comfort now is believing that somehow, someway through forces unbeknownst to me, he knows just how much he meant to me.



  1. omg so many thoughts running through my mind right now, first of all wow again let me state, u are an amazing writer, u can say so many things and I picture and feel exactly what ur saying....I love ur honesty tied with humor about ur experiences with religion.
    I am a Presbyterian, and at one time when I was not sure where life would take me I enrolled in two year study program with the Pres. church and Rev. Paul was on of my lectures, he did a class on counseling, he was such a humble, educated, knowledgeable person what i love about him was that he was a Presbyterian Minister but he had a passion for unity among the different religious groups and that for me what was being a religious leader was about not segregated worship but unified....sorry for ur sadness, but be happy that u have met, i would say one of the greatest preachers in the world :)

  2. aww thanks again for the kind compliments about my writing. i hope my creative writing lecturer thinks the same, if she try to fail me, im gonna email her your comments lol

    o wow, how lucky to have had him as a lecturer. He taught some classes at UWI too, i was considering taking one, but my schedule didnt permit. And yes, unity is where its at.. all the segregation is part of the reason why the world is in the state that its in.

    he really was one of the greatest. the man just had a captivating voice and presence, I have yet to find a reverend who I don't "zone out" on lol


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