Sorry for the blog silence yesterday, but it was a very, very, very long family day, some of which included visiting my mom in the hospital. She’s not in imminent danger of dying (although, in her high 80s, it’s always a possibility), but she thinks she is, and she’s terrified.
While I was sitting with her listening to her saying over and over “I’m so afraid,” I remarked to her that it was a shame she wasn’t religious, because that would give her something to help deal with her fear of death. She scoffed. “There’s nothing after death. Nothing.” For her, death truly is the end, and that black void waiting for her is unbelievably frightening.
I’m a little different. I fear dying in a frightening or painful way (and, having been in a bad car accident once upon a time, I know fear), which explains my fear of flying. Death itself, though, doesn’t frighten me. I used to think it’s because I thought, “Well, nothing is nothing. I won’t know I’m dead, so it won’t matter.” After my father died, though, I realized that I do not believe death is finite.
You all know that I have no formalized religious belief. I do not believe in the Christian idea of Heaven (or Hell), I do not believe in the Jewish notion of resurrection, and I do not have the Eastern philosophy of reincarnation. But I cannot accept that our unique life force vanishes when our bodies cease to operate. We are so manifestly more than the sum of our chemical parts. There is no reason whatsoever why a bag of atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, bones, synapses, blood, muscles, flesh, or organs (depending on whether you want to view our bodies on the micro or macro level) should achieve sentience, let alone the extraordinary higher intellectual development humans have achieved.
Since I’m convinced that the essence of that is me, a human being, is infinitely greater than my limited corporeal form, I also have to believe that this spark (divine or otherwise) does not necessarily terminate when my body finally returns to dust and ashes. A few days after my dad died, whether I was suffering from wishful thinking or not, I definitely felt his presence near me as I walked down Market Street towards a client meeting.
I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t in a sacred space, I was certainly not in a space associated with my father but, suddenly, there he was. I felt him. I’ve never had that feeling again. I think about him often, especially when I write because he was the one who taught me to love the English language, but I’ve never again had a sense of his presence, except in my heart.
Sadly, I’m unable to convey this . . . not really a philosophy but more of a . . . well, a “sense” to my mother. She’s left alone with her fear and, despite the heavy emotional demands she routinely places on me, there is no way I can comfort her. That’s frustrating, even maddening for me, and desperately sad for her.