Where does God go?

For me, the most challenging aspect of “being human” is the process of maturing into a relationship of reconciliation—with a Creator that seems to be, at its very essence, Lovebut at the same time allows “bad things” to happen to “good people”.

The first time I was faced with this paradox was when I had just turned twelve, and it was the morning after my grandmother was killed in a horrible car accident. She was broadsided by another vehicle and was crushed, pinned in the car for hours before they were able to finally remove her and take her to the hospital. She died on the operating table, her heart finally giving out.

Meanwhile, I was back at her apartment waiting for her. She had gone to get me a sleeping bag because I didn’t have one, and my family was planning to meet up the next day at a beach house we had rented to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. My parents had been on a short road trip with good friends but were on their way to the coast to reunite with us the next day; my brothers were away with their own friends and had planned on the same. Uncles and aunts were already at the beach house or making their way there that night and Grandma and I were to leave the next morning.

After a police officer came to my grandmother’s door to let me know there had been an accident, I left her apartment and walked the few blocks to where our own house was, moving as if in a dream as the late afternoon light turned to darkness. Not knowing what else to do, I sat on the stairwell near the living room with a bible under my hand and prayed to a faceless god: “Please. Please save Grandma.”

She was seventy-six; she worked out daily at the local gym, and went on walks with my mom, each morning appearing at the back door to our kitchen with her blue Cooper’s Landing coffee mug and a big, wide smile. She had a wonderful laugh that lit up any room, wore pantsuits and scarves and orangey-red lipstick and kept her hair a chestnut color, with soft waves. Whenever we came over for card playing, or football games or holiday dinners she would have her Ray Charles record playing as we entered the apartment and dishes of salted peanuts, potato chips, and onion dip. She was kind; she was good; she was everyone’s favorite relative. She came from strong Kentucky stock, and after raising her six brothers and sisters due to their parents dying young, she made her way across the United States to Alaska, where she met my grandfather, and where they homesteaded, and began their own little family.

“Please,” I pleaded. “Please, God, take a criminal, a rapist or a murderer. But don’t take Grandma.” I hadn’t yet had anyone this close to me die, and until then I believed that because we were “good” people, nothing “bad” would ever happen to us. Since then, of course, I have come to believe that every human being is Good, and hold very different ideas about “criminals, rapists; murderers”. But at twelve years old, I had no understanding yet of why people do what they do—of the unspeakable things that had perhaps been done to them—and in my innocence I supposed I also believed that each of my family members would live to be old and gray and slip away during a restful sleep and with a peaceful smile.

She died late that night and as I climbed into bed wailing, hot tears streaming down my cheeks, I was certain that I would never see my parents again either—sure that they would also suffer a car accident on their way back home now that I believed “god” could suddenly become absent and was nowhere to be found. To my disbelief, in the early hours of the morning, my parents appeared at my bedside and held me and we all cried together for a time, clear that life was precious, and grateful for what we still had.

It was the next day that I began my spiritual quest to make sense of what didn’t make sense to my heart, or to my mind. I no longer believed in any god. The god I thought I knew was kind, was gentle, and loved us. Whoever let this cruel event take place was no longer a god I cared to stay loyal to. Why couldn’t my grandma have died instantly? Was it really necessary that she lie semi-conscious, alone and in pain for hours, knowing that she would probably not survive, and that all of her family would be devastated? These are the questions that caused me to question everything.

As my search continued and as I matured I realized that the way my grandmother passed was her gift to me. She woke me at a young age from a certain, deep sleep that could have lasted easily through this lifetime and for many more. Now I believe that no person dies without their Soul’s knowledge of what gifts the circumstances of their passing will bring to their own evolution, and to the evolution of the Soul Family they travel with.

And if I believe that “god” is Love, then there is no way I can reject the countless ways that tragedy seems to open hearts long-closed or thickly armored; no way that I cannot observe how someone’s passing inspired growth where there was stagnation, and turned a barren ground into something fertile again, inviting Life to reinvent Itself…

Today, as I finish this article, we are grieving the swift, sudden passing of one of our beloved staff and friends who was with us all only a few days ago, celebrating the turning of the New Year. Without Patty Hammett, administrator of the Conversations with God Foundation, and her eighteen years of loyalty to the messages in the Conversations with God books, so much may never have been accessible for many, many thousands. And the caliber of the friendship she offered each of us was as close to angelic as one could hope to encounter with even one other human being in a lifetime.

Dying at the young age of 49, she leaves behind two sons, both still in their teens, and our hearts break open…

Last year I was given a book called The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo. It’s a book of days, each day of the year an offering and a sharing of what Mark has come to understand through two battles with cancer and myriad other challenging experiences. On the page of April 22nd he describes the aftermath of his first chemo treatment where he found himself near delirious on the floor of a Holiday Inn after twenty-four hours of being sick every twenty minutes. His wife, standing by in desperation and panic, called out, “Where is God?!”  Mark says that from his pale, slumped form he answered: “Here. . . right here.”

On his website I find this poem:

It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.

(Mark Nepo)

“It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.”

– em claire


(To contact em, please write to her at: em@emclairepoet.com.)


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  • Therese W.


    First of all, I am saddened to hear about Patty, and I hope your journey through any sadness you may feel is as graceful as you.

    I thank you for sharing some of your personal journey surrounding god and God.
    The lower case “god” exampled quite powerfully how we consider ourselves to be, as Neale has written, “Children of a lesser God”.

    Mr. Nepo’s last line quoted, said something more to me than written:

    “stop counting the
    things that break along the way.”

    To me, it begs me to continue the thought with:

    “…and stop thinking that anything is broken.”

    We have so few people exampling their journey into seeing the unbrokenness of this world, and the perfection of everything just as it is, no matter how painful this human visage feels it may be…I thank you for being one of those examples.


  • Trisha

    I have a friend who’s nine year old died recently and in hearing her stories I realized the gift in all this was how great it is that she gets to love that deep. She wouldn’t be hurting if she didn’t get the opportunity to get to love deep. That is a gift.

  • Laura Pringle

    Oh, Em, we are all so sorry that Patty had to leave, and you are left to make sense of, and mourn this loss. Sending compassion and Hugs to all of you, and especially to her children…I’m crying for them, my heart goes out to them. As if the teen years aren’t hard enough…

    Thanks so much for sharing the story of losing your grandma. You do such a nice job of sharing your experiences in an engaging and endearing way that touches people’s hearts. It is a sad tale, and it does make one wonder why the circumstances had to be that way…

    It gives me some comfort to think that someday, we MAY get to know the “whys”… and hopefully see the bigger picture behind these apparently unfair situations which make no sense in our understanding.

    Trisha, so sorry for your friend’s loss. You have a Great point!!! When a loved one dies, what do we do? We reflect on our love for them, and we rehash our memories of them, over and over again. Suddenly, the person becomes a valuable treasure in our minds, and we ponder what we had in our lives.

    I sometimes muse at how I think more about my teenage-d son since he’s passed away than I did when he was alive. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I took my parenthood for granted, or, rather, I didn’t realize how precious of a gift it was, until my middle son died, and my oldest son was put in jail.

    I never felt I deserved to be a parent, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was irresponsible, unprepared, and I hadn’t really experienced much in life. I birthed three children, and the only one that was PLANNED, was the one who died unexpectedly in that car wreck. And the reason I planned for him to come into this world, was because, between us, my husband and I had recently lost all four parents to cancer, and I felt the need to “make” more family.

    It’s a bitter irony, a pill that hurts to swallow. My only willful attempt at bringing a child into the world was answered with a smack-down, as if God was saying, “Oh, so you think you know what’s best?” I certainly realize now, more-so than ever, that I have no idea what I’m doing, and sometimes i wonder why I was brought into this world at all…

    However, I have one child left, she’s amazing, and I won’t make the mistake of worrying that I’m a terrible parent, or fretting over what I could have done better, while she is still here with me. I’ll just do the best I can, and savor it all.

    Because…feeling love like a parent feels… Is worth all the pain and sacrifice in the world. And I am oh-so blessed to have felt it. Thank-You, God. Amen.

  • Marko

    In a primitive world we seem to need or even possibly enjoy (if that’s even an appropriate word to use, I’m not sure it is,) tragedy. Just look at theater & entertainment the laughing & the sad masks that represent physical life’s highs & lows. What drama can trump death? Nothing, it’s the ultimate sacred drama in the land of the temporary.

    CwG book one says we love it all.

    Yet how long do we need to have hearts broken to wake up to life?, is it really necessary? It appears so in a primitive society.

    I think that when we believe we can create a better life than what God shows us, that’s a good thing! We can do better. That’s the divine working and playing to see other perspectives.

    When we have deeper tools to see that tragedy can play a role in perfection. When life sucks, it sucks perfectly. That horrible deaths are temporary in the BIG scheme of things & that’s heartening news is it not?

    It’s the contrasting comparative field that allows us to appreciate the sacredness & beauty of life in a deep way.

    Yet hopefully we outgrow that need or experience. Where our hearts are opened & we are awake enough to no longer need the lessons or remembrances.

    Yet until we see the sacredness & perfection of tragedy how can we move on beyond it?


  • Amy

    Thank You for sharing, Em.

    This is beautiful and so timely for me.

    Love. Love. Love.

    Eternal Blessings,

  • mewabe

    I so totally agree…

    What we think is the perfect, ideal human life is not. It is just temporary, pleasant comfort…

    So we challenge ourselves and each other with what appears to be tragic, incomprehensible events, for the only perfection is the open heart…and there are no limits to how much the heart can open, until it holds within itself the whole of creation and grows with it.

    Yes, like a closed door, the closed or partially opened heart must be broken or forced open…it hurts deeply, but only because we resist such opening, mostly with our mind, as our mind holds on to such temporary comfort, to our ideas of the perfect life.

    The divine is life. And life is immense. To hold some of this immensity within ourselves, we have no choice but to open ourselves, discarding all limitations one by one, even the pleasant ones.

  • Laura Pringle

    “The divine is life. And life is immense. To hold some of this immensity within ourselves, we have no choice but to open ourselves, discarding all limitations one by one, even the pleasant ones.”

    “Yet until we see the sacredness & perfection of tragedy how can we move on beyond it?”


    So eloquently put!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • mewabe

    I recently got an email offering a free seminar with Neale, called “The One Secret”.

    “Those are the moments (soul connection) when you feel MOST ALIVE, and most connected to the Divine. It’s an effortless sense of peace and happiness. And yet, if you’re like many people, you don’t know how to maintain that connection in your everyday life. Why is it so elusive?”

    This seminar looks interesting, addressing a crucial question that no religion or spiritual discipline has adequately ever answered.

    I would never pretend to know much, but this I know from early experience, and it is very simple and totally overlooked by most people, except some artists, some poets, some rare mystics:

    If you want to feel consistently connected to the divine, remain consistently connected to the divine creation, meaning the natural world. This is “my” secret.

    There is not much left of the natural world in its original state…but there are places, here and there, far away from civilization, where the soul can be given the opportunity to remember this powerful connection.

    It is simply a matter of choice. Do we choose to live exclusively within human civilization, which is built on false precepts and which near-completely severs our connection and relationship to the original divine creation, or do we courageously seek this primal, pure connection to life as it was originally created, and learn to hear, see and feel what this original creation has to give us?

    The choice is simple, the solution is simple and accessible, perhaps it is too simple, as all it requires is to see, to hear and to be present in nature, to take the time to be.

  • Laura Pringle

    🙂 Yes, mewabe, this works so well for me, too. The forest/nature is so nourishing, so serene and peaceful. No matter how terrible I am feeling, a quick trip into the woods always centers me and soothes my ills. I always leave feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to look at things with new eyes.

    Where has Em been?

    Em, We miss seeing you on here, hope everything is ok! <3

  • mewabe

    Thanks Laura…I have had this connection to nature since very young, and that is how I learned early to distinguished between the real world (the divine creation, nature as it is in its primal state) and the world created by humanity under the influence of false ideas (civilization).

    Needless to say, I chose reality (nature, including my own primal nature).

    It is an extremely direct and simple path…that most “civilized” (meaning conditioned by civilization, culture, religion etc) people have lost.