Study Guide

Missing May Religion

By Cynthia Rylant

Religion

I needed that from her. I needed to know that dying and going to heaven didn't involve any regrets or sorrows or worries. (2.33)

Summer may not seem like a particularly religious kid (for example, she never once mentions going to church), but she needs to have faith in Aunt May going on to a better place. She'd be so sad if that wasn't the case.

May always said that once she got with Ob, her mommy and daddy could rest easy, and they finally flew off to that big church picnic in the sky. (2.38)

Like Summer, May believes in heaven because she wants her loved ones to have the best—even after they're gone. There's some real comfort in thinking that there are better things waiting on the other side.

She had a helpless kind of fear about water, about rain, and she'd say God was testing her sense of humor, setting her up in a place called Deep Water. (3.27)

May believes in a God and an afterlife, but she's not a boring old church biddy about it. She has a good sense of humor about all things in life—and all things after life.

She'd just remind us that there's more places to be together than this one. She'd tell us we don't have to give up if this life doesn't give us everything we want. There's always another one. (3.29)

Summer may have come to Aunt May and Uncle Ob kind of late—after all, they were already elderly when she arrived—but that doesn't really matter because they all believe that they'll be together again eventually.

But maybe God intended for me to sleep in that morning, needed me to stay home, as He counted on all the day's events spreading out just like He'd planned it. (6.5)

By believing that things are happening as they should, Summer is able to stay sane and focused. Instead of losing it over Aunt May's death and Uncle Ob's subsequent depression, Summer has to have faith that things will work out somehow. Surely there's a greater plan, right?

Surely he knew he'd never get Ob and me inside of a church, even if it served a thousand different kinds of doughnuts. (7.3)

Summer and Uncle Ob might not be up for church, but that doesn't mean that they don't believe in anything. They have a lot of faith in a God and afterlife—they just prefer to quietly and personally carry out their faith.

She must be loving it up in heaven, where I figure everybody must just let loose. That's got to be at least one of the benefits of heaven—never having to act normal again. (7.30)

Summer's version of heaven isn't exactly the singing angels and the pure white clouds. If Aunt May is in a heaven of her choosing, she reckons that it will be a party where everyone lets their freak flag fly.

Probably he was praying to her all the way to Putnam County, praying to her to come back to him and tell him what to do now without her. (9.12)

Even though Uncle Ob doesn't regularly go to church, he's still praying all the way down to Putnam County. He needs this miracle to happen, needs to talk to his wife at least one more time so that he can get some guidance on how he's supposed to go on.

May always said we were angels before we were ever people. She said when we were finished being people, we'd go back to being angels. And we'd never feel pain again. (11.1)

If May is an angel again now, at least Summer and Uncle Ob can rest assured knowing that she's happy and doesn't feel any pain. The problem is that they're still people, so they still feel the pain of her absence.

So the Lord let us get old so we'd have plenty cause to need you and you'd feel free to need us right back. (11.37)

Summer may think of Aunt May and Uncle Ob as her own personal miracle and version of heaven, but they thought the exact same way about her. Aunt May didn't just see Summer as a burden like everyone else—nope, she saw her as a gift from God.

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