Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In the Meantime

Here is a test
to find if your mission on Earth is finished:
if you’re alive, it isn’t.
~Richard Bach, Illusions

Statistics are out:  10 out of 10 people will die!”  So said the random card I found on the ground by my gas pump.  Like a splash of cold water to the face, it lifted me right out of my head where I had been stuck worrying about something that I had little control over.  It’s easy to ignore the inevitable when we’re healthy and young and living our dreams, or just caught up in the mechanics of life. But we all have an appointment with death sooner or later, which begs the question:  What happens when we die?  

I am drawn to this issue—life after life—because I can’t wrap my head around the idea that when we die we are finished.  Sure, our bodies return to the earth, entombed or scattered as ashes as we’re reminded of the universal law that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it simply changes form.  Our loved ones will gather around our caskets and mourn our passing, comforting each other with comments like, “She looks so peaceful,” or “They sure did a good job with him,” staring at the body as if we were in there somewhere.  Yet if ever there’s proof that we’re more than our bodies, it’s in these moments.

When my grandfather passed a few years ago, I had the honor of being with him in his final days.  He was concerned for my grandmother, and asked that we take good care of her, but otherwise, he was ready to go.  He wasn’t afraid.  And as he moved in and out of consciousness, through labored breath, he shared his final thoughts, “We are born with a framework for society . . . or so we think . . . but it’s an illusion . . . there’s the body and the soul . . . but only the soul lives forever.”  It was my greatest spiritual experience, witnessing the soul of a man leave his body in the wake of his words. 

For the better part of a year, I had intense dreams of my grandfather. Not the man who suffered congestive heart failure and passed in his hospice bed, but the vibrant young man he had been when I was a little girl.  At first I would wake up startled when he appeared, and I could never return to my dream.  But in time, I willed myself to talk to him and he revealed some fascinating truths about his life in spirit form.  I’ve often wondered what informed those dreams.

In his book Life After Death:  The Burden of Proof, Deepak Chopra points to talking to the dead and near death experiences (NDEs) as two of six lines of evidence that the soul is real and eternal.  He studied many cases of NDEs, where the person had been pronounced dead and was brought back to life, and he interviewed those patients about their experience.  Intriguing to me was the discovery that across the board, people experienced what they believed.  Christians reported seeing angels and white light and Jesus.  Muslims reported meeting Allah and scenes of Islam.  Those who believed that they had wronged others, or that they had been “bad,” reported an experience of torture and hell.  Those who believed in nothing reported an experience of nothingness.  And so on, weaving the thread between life and death.
I know a guy I like to refer to as a “Militant Agnostic.”  I don’t know and you don’t either” is his motto.  I never understood this thinking.  Sure, evidence based science has its place, but not in the realm of faith.  If there exists even a possibility that there is an afterlife, why not reach for that hope? Why not believe? What do we lose by being open?  Maybe, just maybe, we would be more peaceful and relaxed and far kinder to every living person and thing around us.  Perhaps we would not fear death as we do.

It’s your life.  What will you do in the meantime?

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