‘Oh Brother’ Article – The Case for the Defence
by Gordon G Kinghorn
I concur entirely with Irwin’s reticence, or should I say, his refusal, to become embroiled in all matters pertaining to religion – few would choose to disagree with him, and I am indeed one.
However, given the theme of Brother Bon’s recent articles, in which we are encouraged to exude continual gratitude for all the good Lord has bestowed upon us – to say nothing of the goodly Brother’s focus on the spiritual splendour of the hereafter – it was, in my humble opinion, an appropriate moment to interject and deliver another theological angle.
When one scrutinises closely the readership ratio of ROL – a la; we who are approaching the autumn, (and beyond in some cases) of our respective existences – do we truly have need of this conduit of continual reminders, that we are all, ‘knocking-on-heaven’s door’ – inferring further that the time is currently ripe to submit to antiquity – in that we should collectively prepare for the glory’s and joys of occupying an eternal position within Valhalla, all because someone subscribes to the biblical ‘three-score-and-ten notion – myopically intimating further, that our time is well and truly up by that juncture…I think not!
Being an Army man - and one who has no less than twenty-one years experience within the military operational arena, I have no hesitation in relaying to you today, that I prayed on countless occasions, the last-minute entreaties that I delivered skywards before engaging the enemy, were emitted from newly created shell-holes, saturated trenches and dilapidated buildings.
Just prior to all military engagements, I asked God repeatedly to protect for my wife, my children, my mother and father, my wider family - and one James Ferrari, he being my parish priest – not merely a Catholic celebrant, but a mentor, a guiding light - and above all – a friend.
God came through – I survived when I did not expect to do so, my immediate family remains intact to this day, mum and dad enjoyed long lives - and as for Jimmy Ferrari – his presence on Mother Earth is regularly confirmed through the adroit manner in which he frequently destroys me at chess!
With these reflections in mind, I shall never contest the human necessity for keeping faith with the power above, my argument has precious little to do with God or Mohammed or Buddha – but more to do with us all here on Earth. We have each been given life and our prized existence should not be squandered or wasted, all through second-guessing as to when it will be ultimately extinguished.
To live life fully – and in accordance with the laws of both country and celestial conviction – should register to all, above or below, that our existence has real meaning, quintessentially laced with positive value and embroidered with an insatiable hunger to continue our respective presence ‘downstairs’ - for as long as humanly possible – and refreshingly bereft of frequent, irritating reminders that we are all more physically fallible now - than at any other period of our lives.
Life is for living – death is for the undertaker – we all want to go to heaven but no one wants to die. my message is to just sit back and enjoy the ride, we are, after all, a long time dead – promises of a life beyond are all too similar to pledges of; “The cheque is in the post” – the words of cynics I can hear all too clearly – ergo; “ I’ll believe it when I see it!”
During a very difficult campaign on Northern Irish shores in 1983, I had the misfortune to witness, over a six-month period, the premature deaths of seven personnel – boys at best – two died instantly – the remaining number stayed alive for sufficient time to utter some despairing last words – four of them screamed for their mothers whilst in the throes of death – one other uttered deep mumblings of regret that he would be unable to collect his winnings from a racecourse bookkeeper – yet none of these uniformed victims made reference to God prior to their appalling demise.
I soon came to quiz the resident Army Chaplain as to why God did not figure in the fallen soldiers last words - and why specifically was it that we all invariably screamed the words, ’Oh God’, only when descending from a perfectly serviceable aeroplane with an equally serviceable parachute – or indeed, at the point of climax during sexual intercourse – why-oh-why-oh-why, did we yell ‘Oh God’ during these moments- yet not at the time of our imminent expiry
Reverend Carmichael pondered on my mild interrogation for a moment or two, then finally responding by saying;
“Whoever one’s heart clings to and confides in - be it in life or just prior to death, that is really God they are speaking to – such words are being transmitted to him through those we most love”.
I immediately wanted to challenge the goodly pastor on his ministerial evaluation of the situation – only three hours before my rendezvous with this pastoral representative, I had listened to the mortally wounded Corporal McLean, him bleeding profusely on a West Belfast thoroughfare, weakly speaking of his remorse about being powerless to collect substantial financial remuneration from an earlier wager on a 20/1 outsider at Epsom Races – I was certainly confused.
As it turned out, the ‘bookie’ in question was none other than John McLean’s only brother, Steven, the same who had a betting shop, located somewhere in West Yorkshire – love most certainly prevailed until the very end, although initially ambiguous, John’s brother Steven was the last person he thought of!
Until the bitter end, we must all cling on to our existence and to those most dear to us, if the good Lord grants me eternal life following my departure from this green and pleasant land – then indebted to him I shall indeed be.
For the meantime, I shall continue to thrive happily and contentedly within everything I have built for both the family and myself – without undermining my ubiquitous bliss through needless thoughts of imminent demise – and of that of which may follow.
I remain very much committed to the pleasures of life – so much so, that should I be regretfully ‘called’ in the not too distant future - and then dejectedly make my way to the Pearly Gates - I remain convinced that if God asked of me on arrival, what final words I would wish to hear from my family as they stared mournfully down on my open casket – I would have little hesitation in saying; “Oh look, he’s moving!
“In life, you've gotta dance like there's nobody watching, Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.”
© GG Kinghorn – July 2012