Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Returning to the Stars

Here is a little something special. Words from dad about one of his favorite subjects: God.

I taped this conversation between he and an ER doc sometime early this summer when Dad and I made a late night trip to Silverton Hospital because his blood pressure had elevated to a dangerous level. His greatest concern, in his later days, was that he would be incapacitated by a stroke—unable to think or do for himself.

Dad honored his indepence like no one I've ever known, and, until my sister moved to Oregon in June, he lived on his own, cooking, driving, getting himself to and from his numerous doctor appointments. And even with Shameem there, doing all her great cooking, he still made his sambar, and coconut chutney, he still went to the Farmers Market, still attended Tuesday morning medical lectures at OSHU, still read his New York Times, his Scientific American, always telling us about articles "you have to read," or shows on PBS that "you have to watch."

The articles and shows showed the diversity of Dad's interests: physics, medicine, genetics, cancer research, politics, war, Islam, history, fitness, music, art, mortality, geology, animal communication, brain studies, cognitive development—on and on the list went, but on top of it were always his questions about this idea we call God.

Dad was raised a Muslim, married a Catholic, he and Mom took me to a Unitarian church when I was young, and after a couple years of that, they both threw in the towel on the whole religion thing. For them, if there was a divine it was in the music they shared, the sunrises they would show me, the birds my father woke me up to hear, telling me they were singing in the sun. It was in smiles and laughter, it was in us, their children, and all the mysteries that surrounded us, abstract questions about creation and destruction that were much better satisfied through scientific inquiry than superstition or mysticism.

My dad would talk with anyone about these things—friends, nurses, doctors, people in the hall or elevator, his children and his one grandchild. His mind always nibbling away at the bigger questions of life and death and whether or not there was a divine. "If there is a God," he was fond of saying, "he's not a micro-manager." Meaning his daily worries, were certainly not something a creator would have an interest in.

In the end Dad died an atheist. It was, in fact, one of the final things he uttered that last day. Saying quite clearly that he did not believe there is a single creator. Instead, his conclusion after a lifetime of study, was there was no heaven or hell, no pearly gate to walk through. We are all just energy, and that energy will simply become something else. "And if I'm wrong," he said on that hospital bed, "I will deal with it later."

"If you are wrong," I said to him, "you will end up lecturing God."

At the celebration of his life on Sunday, one of his nurses repeated a conversation she had had with dad. During one of his transfusions she asked if he believed in reincarnation. His answer was yes. "I started as stardust, and I will return to stardust."

And so will we all....

-Naseem Rakha 1/21/15


  1. Naseem: I believe your dad was and is stardust. It was impossible not to see the light in him. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. "If there is a God," he was fond of saying, "he's not a micro-manager." I love this quote. Thank you for sharing stories about your dad. They have been wonderful to read.