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  • Tom Rastrelli

Letter #8 — Enlightening 'Elephant'

Dear Tommy,

It was so enlightening to hear back from you about our epic road trip from Washington to Texas and back to Washington. It was an eye opener for me too.

I think because of our time together, we both have a better understanding about who we are and how closely we are entwined even though we don't have the same belief traditions. Before the "journey," I was having a hard time deciding in my mind how to talk to you about my believing in God and you not believing and being an atheist. And I want to thank you for your kindness and love as we talked about our "elephant in the room."

Let me clarify, that I think it comes down to several traits we share. We respect each other even in disagreement, we persevere through the tough times and we spread love to all those around us. And that formula adds up to having a positive frame of mind, and yet we can understand that we can combine being realistic with optimism into a hopeful attitude about life and death. And I will come back to my death later as that's a blessing that needs to be defined more.

This is so refreshing in my mind, so I want to explore this more with you and about the hurt and pain we both have suffered are truly similar, although different in origin. And when I say, "we," I'm including Bruce and Mom, too. Respect is a trait that we all seek as humans. Feeling that lack of respect cuts deep and makes us feel unworthy and not needed, like when Jen and Mike said they didn't respect mom and me because, in their eyes, we were not believing in the truths that we taught you kids as children and this was a betrayal of God and not acceptable to them. And you were disrespected many times by people in the Catholic institution that made you feel similar, if not the same.

But one thing I've learned is that life experiences, questioning, discovering and adjusting are a huge part of spiritual, emotional and mental growth and perspective on life. And it changes many times.

We also both persevere because we have a purpose to achieve in life. That's why you fought through your doubts and fears that trip could lead to, you rebuffed it with courage and determination. Your goal was to get us to Washington safely, and you and Bruce did it! You have great courage and bravery to perform such an act of kindness and caring and we thank you for that too. And then your courage has brought you through the dark times you had growing up with the abuses you suffered by Lauz and your bishop and his priests. But you have a higher purpose in life to achieve, even though I'm not sure exactly what they are, deep down inside and in your heart, you know. I just want you to know that you have to keep pursuing those dreams the best you can. I believe you can and will.

I've had experiences in my life that relate to your courage, persistence and perseverance too. Things like my early cancer in the 70s, when mom and I were told to consider not having any more children as they weren't sure the cobalt radiation, they gave me could lead to birth defects. We prayed and made the decision that we wanted more kids, and the chance was worth it and we would love all our kids, healthy or challenged no matter what the doctors said. And look what has just happened the past three months, all three of you kids who were born after that are the ones that have stepped up to save and love us today! And now, even though the doctors have said I may only have four to six months to live, Mom and I decided, they don't know us, and we're going to squeeze as much life out of the time we have left, and this move will be one of the most positive things we've done in our lives. Ironic, huh? Our optimum joins our realism and becomes positivity and good.

And the last thing is about loving. Boy, if there's one thing our world needs right now is a solid infusion of love and cooperation, just as we need it in our individual lives, too. My God is a God of love, steadiness, hope and forgiveness. He's not a scorekeeper who enjoys telling you at the end of your life that your list of church sins dooms you to hell. My God loves everyone and everything. He created us because we were born of His love. So, if he loves atheists, Jews, Muslims and Christians, why shouldn't I follow His example? He is Truth, Light, Hope, Love and Faith. And I have faith, not religion and there is a difference in my mind. I don't need a religion to know God. I've seen Him millions of times in the faces of the many people I've meet and known all my life.

So, that's why I'm not afraid to die, because I know there is more as I transition to the other side. I will get to be hugged by Jesus, my mom and dad, Dale and Rita and our miscarried child and all the souls that rest in peace. Hey, we're all going to die someday. I have a blessing that tells me my is approaching so prepare, whether it's six months or six years.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm going back to bed as it was 1:30 a.m. when I started and it's 3:15 a.m. now.

I love you, God bless.



Photo: At the reception celebrating Tommy's Mass of Thanksgiving ("first Mass" after being ordained), Tom (Dad) did his Fr. Guido Sarducci impersonation.

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