But is it really that simple? Is it so very simple to gain everlasting enlightenment into the sacred world of love?
That was the question that was haunting me three weeks later. It was Saturday. My parents had gone to Shani’s for dinner without me, as I had claimed to feeling ill. Was I ill? Not physically, certainly. But spiritually I felt ill.
I had been to church thrice, and enjoyed it. The congregation were smiley; the atmosphere was joyful.
But there was something missing from the diet of my faith. There was some essential element that I needed to feed my spirit, and it was not there for the taking. There was something dwindling in my disposition, and with its diminishing supplies, I was growing ill.
What is it? I asked myself as I sat before the blank screen of my laptop, lost in my spiritual incompletion as it glided above my body, waning like the moon throughout the fortnight.
I have given my life to God, I thought. I have felt joy and faith and peace, I have been wise for this three weeks, giving glory as I should do, learnt and said my prayers, basked in the euphoria of unconditional love, felt real hope for the first time in seven years.
So what have I not done? Why do I not feel fulfilled? Why am I suddenly unsettled?
Why? said a scornful voice inside me. You don’t know, of course. You don’t know how to be a Christian.
Yes I do, I argued. I pray and serve as well as I am able. I try to love myself and my neighbours and God, too. What am I doing wrong, then?
You try, repeated the voice. As well as you are able, you say. So ho is that truly trusting? How is that truly serving? You have no idea how to be a proper Christian. You have no understanding, Den.
I have no understanding, I acknowledged, annoyed. So why don’t you tell me how to be a proper Christian, then, rather than baiting me like this? You’re really not being that helpful.
I don’t suppose I am, replied the voice, and I could feel my infuriation rising to extreme proportions.
The conflict was slow and unrelenting, and I had no answers to my perpetual queries. And it seemed that no one would give me any answers. I despaired. What could I do? I could just renounce my conversion on the grounds that I did not understand, which was true.
But what would Shani say? I couldn’t possibly do that, after it had made me so happy to be with God – just that once, three weeks ago. And I was not going to just grin idiotically throughout the long services, listening but not being. That would be hypocritical in the slightest. That, also, was out of the question.
Oh, who could I ask? What could I do? Why was I always so useless and stupid at things like this? Shani understood the faith. But she had Clara, whom she had brought along with us on the second Sunday – Clara had been converted on the very threshold of the church.
Why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I understand? Why couldn’t I be a proper Christian? Why couldn’t I just have someone to whom I could talk?
But Vere is dead, I told myself, and the bleak depression of earlier years began to consume my being. She is not here ay longer. I pushed back my chair and let my restless feet take me across the hall to my room.
Suddenly I had a thrilling surge of victory. Angel won over devil, and good over evil, if only in the act of countering that brief wave of depression and that old gloomy conviction. Vere wasn’t dead! She was alive and well! Vere was in Heaven! Life after death exists in the eternal glory of God the Father. I had been wrong all those years.
So if Vere was alive, where was she? In Heaven, of course. But Aileen had come back to Earth even from her place of eternal life. I had seen her ghost, for goodness’ sake!
So, therefore, Vere was also, as I had told Shani, back in England. She was just across the water. I thought of Vere, her gentle face, dark eyes, soft skin – and then I was thinking of Deanna Macpherson, as always. Vere lived on in Deanna, in a way, back in England.
My eyes strayed to the Bible that sat always on my bedside table. It was not my own Bible, but even before Shani took me to church, it had sat there, glued by some invisible string of dearest memories to its place of precedence.
It was Aileen’s Bible – the one given to her by the very hands of Deanna. For that reason it was infinitely special to me.
I had no idea how I had come about it. The only option was that the same pale slender hands of Deanna had placed it there with Vere’s china for me to discover years later. How had she parted with an object of such emotional and spiritual attachment? How had she brought herself to leave it with me, Den O’Derron the depressed atheist?
I didn’t know, but it only demonstrated her uncalled-for trust in me. The reason why I loved her so very much.
There was peace for a brief minute; then I was back to the questions. Falling down upon my bed, exasperated by the scorn and wit of the reluctant voice inside me, I fell into a fitful sleep, prayers unspoken.