So Always Look on the Bright Side of Death…

So Always Look on the Bright Side of Death… May 23, 2016

Image credit: Hans Splinter.
Image credit: Hans Splinter.

Just before your terminal breath

Life’s a piece of shit, when you look at it

Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true

You’ll see it’s all a show, keep ‘em laughing as you go

Just remember that the last laugh is on you

That was the undying wisdom of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” in the brilliant Monty Python’s Life of Brian, one of my favorite movies.

If you haven’t seen it yet, get thee to your Netflix queue. No, not the streaming one, you’ll have to get it in one of those red wrappers. It will be well-worth the short wait, I promise you. No atheist should miss this seminal work of satirical sacrilege.

But this isn’t a movie review. The above snippet perfectly encapsulates my attitude about the tribulations I’ve been through for the last few years. Except, from the pile of shit and (near)death dumped on me in 2013, I pulled a lump of gold. And I got the last laugh.

I deliberately skated over some of the details of my brush with becoming an ex-person in my first Miracle Girl post. I didn’t want to get bogged down with unnecessary information. But the post may have confused those who know a thing or two about Legionnaires’ disease.

After all, I’m not elderly. So how did I manage to come down with a raging case of Legionnaires’ disease in the first place? (Actually, it was twice, but I’ll get to that in a bit.)

Well, the other group most likely to catch Legionnaires’ disease is immunocompromised travelers. Bingo.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with a horse-designed-by-committee of an autoimmune disease called dermatomyositis. Even my primary care physician has trouble saying that, so don’t hurt yourself by trying.

Dermatomyositis—or DM for short—is both a skin disease and a muscle-wasting syndrome. Its two great tastes in one! We almost cancelled our month-long trip to Sicily because of the muscle damage in my hips, legs, and buttocks I suffered before I began treatment.

But as the prednisone began to work its wonders—before the advent of prednisone, DM was frequently fatal—we decided to go through with our plans. The last week of our trip, I came down with a nasty, hacking cough. We joked that I had Mussolini’s Revenge.

That was the Legionnaires’ disease. But we didn’t know that until after sank into a six-week nap.

But the lyrics promised laughter, you say. That’s not funny!

No. And neither is nearly dying, as one by one my organs decided to go on a work stoppage. My boyfriend Keith overheard one doctor ask another if I was a candidate for a lung transplant. “No,” the other doctor replied, “we should save it for someone who has a chance.”

Come on, that’s a little funny (if darkly so), but only because I survived. Or what about the times I was grumpily telling my doctors (in my mind) to leave me alone so I could get back to sleep when they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of awareness?

Still not laughing?

Okay, but I have had the last laugh. If it weren’t for my illness(es) and recovery, I wouldn’t be writing this blog now. I wouldn’t have discovered that nonfiction would be just as satisfying a way to express my satirical atheism as fiction.

This kind of silver lining tends to lead theists to opine that it was all in God’s plan. But actually, making the best of a bad situation is really a survival instinct. We all do it every day, in small ways or large.

Theists like to say things like, “When a door closes, God opens a window.” Atheists roll our eyes and open the window ourselves.

Life may indeed be a piece of shit, but instead of wondering why God put that dog shit in our path, atheists scrape it away with a laugh (or a curse) and find a rose to smell instead.

This time the the breathing tube went down my throat instead of through it,
The breathing tube went down my throat instead of through during my second bout of Legionnaires’ disease.

As for the second case of Legionnaires’ disease, it was caught sooner, so no sleepy time for me.  The second case also came courtesy of my friendly neighborhood immunosuppressive drug (which I’m now thankfully off).

Prednisone is a classic double-edged sword. Can’t live with it—thanks for the osteoporosis too!—can’t live without it. Prednisone saved my life before it almost killed me.

But it’s hard to see how theists could continue to think my recovery was a miracle. What god would give a miracle to a lifelong nonbeliever in order for her to build a new career attacking him with her writing?

Is he a self-hating Jew, or should I say god of the Jews? Or is he only mostly seeing? Like Westley in The Princess Bride (another favorite movie), I was mostly dead. Now, if believers had claimed I had been visited by Miracle Max, that I could buy.

Or is there a kind of Kryptonite that saps the powers from Supreme Beings? Is God becoming senile? If he’s really closer to the Christian conception of God, then the world certainly looks as if he’s forgotten that he’s supposed to be a god of love.

Personally, I prefer Cupid. He’s cuddlier.

Mars and Venus canoodling as Cupid and the family puppy look on.
Mars and Venus canoodling, as Cupid and the family puppy look on.
Of course theists have myriad ways to justify the obvious inequity and cruelties of life, not to mention the existence of evil. (I can’t say theodicy without thinking it’s the sequel to theiliad.) But if God did save a lifelong nonbeliever who has mocked him relentlessly (while “good Christians” die early every day), he certainly does work in mysterious ways.

Or maybe the Devil didn’t want me, either?

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