I have recently (as I often do) been wondering about death. Death has been a close companion my entire life.
Having hemophilia will do that. Some of my earliest memories are of being cautioned to not do something because I would bleed to death. I grew up hearing stories of that happening to people in my family.
Growing up on a farm will do that. Rabbits, pheasants, cows, pigs, and chickens being killed for fun or slaughtered for food.
Funerals in the living room of the house I was living in will do that.
So, I have always wondered about it. This most recent set of wonderings had me considering what I have “learned” about death over the 7+ decades of my life.
I’ve noticed that there have been times when theologians and scientists have changed their stories, about so many things. Things like what being a human being means. How old the earth is. How long have humanoids been a part of this earth.
I have noticed, as new facts about such things emerge, the above mentioned are forced to (1) deny the new information is accurate, (2) change their story, or (3) find some way of weaving the new information into their old story.
“Well, we weren’t suggesting that a ‘day’ (as mentioned in the Christian Bible) is a 24-hour day” (actually that is exactly what they were suggesting that I should believe at one point in time). “A Biblical day could very well be 10,000,000 or more of our years”, they went on to say.
As new scientific facts emerge, ‘they’ are often forced to change their narrative. So, I was thinking, what if what I have been told and taught about death, isn’t complete? What if it has some holes?
Theologians, scientists and their followers’ stories and explanations about what death is and isn’t, its meaning, and what follows it, have changed over my lifetime.
Seems to me also that because there can be no hard evidence of what happens to the part of us that we call our “life” after death, everything that is said about it is speculation (some would argue “Inspired” speculation.)
As far as we know, no one has been there for a day, a week, a month, a year and returned to give us hard data on what exactly what happens. The basic need for a good story about death is that it can never be irrefutably proven or disproven.
Many people in my world, have accepted the story made up by an outside authority. They adopt some religion/spirituality practice/philosophy, which explains “it” all, at least to the satisfaction of its believers.
Some of these people will fight, kill, and sacrifice their (and their children’s) lives to defend that story. Sometimes their “explanation” demands exactly that and promises significant rewards for followers to do so.
These stories are set down by some “unassailable” authority, (human or otherwise) which is not to be questioned, or doubted, at the risk of being banned, ex-communicated, even killed with an additional bonus sentence of eternal perdition.
By the way, those of us who can’t compose or buy into some kind of story will be institutionalized. If you would like to know more about that read Ernst Becker’s book, Denial of Death.
If you, like me, are one of those people whose story ever fell apart, you know the existential crisis that causes until we can compose or grab hold of another one.
I’ve been privileged to travel to and study a significant number of other cultures and their belief systems. The one thing they all have is a story about what happens after we die. They are not the same story that I grew up being told.
That led me to some thinking and speculating on my own. Understand, I am not a theologian, scientist, philosopher, or anything more than a human being, whatever that means.
The following “wonderings” are a part of my current ‘story.”
I wonder if, when I have a memory of a deceased friend, relative, family member, stranger, pet or …. By the way, the word “deceased,” a fascinating word in and of itself to me. What does it mean? Decease. Is it another layer of ‘ceasing,’ like doubling down on the original ceasing? Does it mean to cease; ceasing, or does it mean that if one de-ceases, stops ceasing, that they can start up again? (My mind is a dangerous neighborhood to visit.)
Anyway, I wonder if when I have a memory or dream of a departed (I won’t go into that word, departed) pet, friend, colleague, family member, President Lincoln, etc., is that a visit from them to deliver a message or maybe just say “Hi.”?
If I think about someone and they are still a part of this earthly realm, are they visiting me? Am I visiting them? Do we sometimes run with parts of our psyches to the object we are thinking of? Do we sometimes run into each other on the way? (“That’s weird that you called, I was just thinking about calling you”).
When I see, really see, or experience, a bird, or a fox, or a sunset, or a moonrise, or a hear a chirp, or smell a rose, notice a weed, touch a rock, listen to a tree, and a memory of a loved one comes to me as I am doing that, I wonder if it is possible that a part of ‘them’ is coming to visit me through one of those things just mentioned?
My friend Tony Scruggs (https://theempathyguy.com/) describes what we call death as “giving up our earth suit.” Do we then get a super-hero type suit? I know the body I have is powerful, but it doesn’t allow me to fly, or stick to the side of a building, or see-through stone, or be immune to pain. Or are we all done with suits of any kind because they are too confining? (Tony, can you help me out here?)
I wonder if shedding our “earth suit” is similar to what happens to the Monarch Butterfly’s development from egg to worm, to chrysalis to butterfly? Does our death mimic those stages of development? Why not? Is the butterfly stage the final one? How do we know that it actually is the last stage and not just another stop on the way of becoming a …….?
I’ve actually had a moment, when it felt like my body was too small to contain everything I was experiencing. It was an amazing physical experience. It felt like I was on my way to becoming the amazing hulk.” I wondered if I was dying, and it actually didn’t matter if I was.
I wonder if when someone says, “the song, or book wrote itself, or I just had to call you, or write you”, or “the picture painted itself; the pot I was trying to mold, didn’t want to be a cup, but rather a saucer,” is that a “visitation?”
I wonder if perhaps when a loved one dies, when we have a memory of them, they aren’t visiting us? I wonder if when I die, and someone remembers me, I am actually visiting them. I like both of those thoughts. In fact, I live as if that is true.
What is your story? Where did it come from? What do you wonder about?