When I was younger, I thought of all sorts of ways I could kill myself by mistake – to avoid Hell, see? I’d maybe take too many pills one time. Or, by mistake, cross in front of a busy street. See, God, I’d say, I haven’t ignored you, I’ve just died. It’s o.k., I didn’t plan it, so don’t send me to Hell? But the problem is that God understands your thoughts, so God could zap you down there.
So I left the Church. Why care about a God who will send me to Hell? My mom got defensive – ‘That’s not the Catholicism I taught you, you’re just easily scared.’
I used to have all of these dreams about going to Hell. There’d be fire and pitchforks, and torture racks, and chains. And lots and lots of devils and dogs. I thought if I left the church, the dreams would go away. But they didn’t. I would intellectualize that God was a terrible Father and I was Separate from that now and I’d go to a better place when I died. But the fact that I was obsessing about it meant that I still hung on to ideas about Hell. It was only through coming back to Catholicism, at my own pace – not being pushed, but a slow reckoning, that I was able to feel in my heart, that I wasn’t condemned. That God was a loving God. What happened was a shift in dreams as I came back to Catholicism. A shift in dreams so powerful that I knew God had a considerable share in them.
It was the End Times and I had a few days before the world would blow up and I would go to Hell. I had some obligation to a certain boy and I had to be chained to a rock to wait for him. Then the boy would lead me to Hell. Anyhow, I wrote a long letter from the rock to a friend about how I didn’t want it to be the End Times and I didn’t want to meet this boy and go to Hell. It was a long, handwritten letter and I used an owl to get it to her and she wrote back instantaneously, delivering her letter by owl. She explained that she was sending a giraffe to undo the chain and that we would both go to Heaven. So will our families, God said so, for God is compassionate and anyone who thinks otherwise is a worrywart. So this giraffe came and undid the chain and I rode on the giraffe to meet my family.
I never had an End Times dream again. While I still think Hell has its uses (I joked to a friend that I am “beginning to warm up to idea of Hell again”), I know that I am not going to go there. And that was something I could only understand by coming back.