Friday, December 28, 2012

Spiritual atheism - the afterlife

My parents have been much on my mind this month.

The death of a loved one is always a test of faith. When I was young, I believed in heaven as a place where grandparents went when they got too old. St Peter welcomed them at the gate and they checked in to their room like a vacation hotel with a great view and all the amenities. It was a place, I was told, I should not fear. It was a place so wonderful that we should rejoice rather than cry when our loved ones passed over the threshold.

Later, I started to hear about reincarnation, about a vast nothingness, about hell and purgatory. Death’s destination was far less certain than I had been led to believe. And, it made sense; how would anyone know, really? It was all a test of faith.

I failed the test.

Then, my brother died. I was in college; he was a few months shy of his 40th birthday. His life had been . . . complicated; his death equally so. I believe the last thing I ever said to him was an expletive I couldn’t repeat in front of my mother. I was angry with him; had been angry with him for a long time. And I loved him; have always loved him.

What happens when we die? My mother hoped that she would see her love once again. I have to hope that is somehow true. There was that movie with Matt Damon and an actress whose name I do not know – where she died in the tsunami that hit the Philippians and saw a crowd of people before she came back to life. Were those others who were dying along with her? Or were they people waiting for their loves. Was that her grandmother she saw? Damon’s character could communicate with the dead when he touched the living who had been close to them. Are the dead around us, caring for us, watching out for us; ready whenever some wandering psychic happens by? When my sisters went to visit one of those who claims to communicate with the dead she found someone, I think she identified him as Bob, who didn’t want to come too close because he didn’t want to be seen as he was. My dad died in bed – not the way he wanted to go. At my mother’s wake, my Dad’s old friend Joe told us about a dream he had where my Dad said he was finally better and could walk around without the boot. He even jumped up and down to prove his foot was as good as new. Joe said that was great and now he could go back to work at the mill but my Dad said Ronnie didn’t want him back. He got in his truck and drove away. How did my Dad get better in the afterlife? Why did it take so long? Was he simply preparing himself for Mom? If so, are they dancing now? Can I have this dance, for the rest of my life? . . . I want so much to believe that my parents are holding hands again. What more could you ask from heaven? 

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