Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Do It For the Dead


There is the skinny (the facts), there is the endless (and often fanciful) speculation, and then there are all our wishes and hopes for what goes on in the afterlife. Is there anything we can do to help our dead get to where they’re going? And how do we know if what we’re doing is effective?

The facts are few because no one has been “there” and come back. There have been numerous near-heaven experiences where people see the bright light, and maybe the doors open and there’s a throng of people milling about in ecstasy, but I don’t recall someone actually living there for a time and coming back. Their impressions seem to pertain more to the transition phase than actually being there.

There have been speculations by esteemed spiritual teachers who have received visions about the afterlife, but their numinous insights don’t help me survive in this world. I like Judaism’s take. It doesn’t speculate on what the afterlife is like, but focuses on how we can take care of each other now.
And while I hope to be reunited with my loved ones when I die and pick up where we left off, I realize that what I value on earth may not matter much there. I doubt that we will keep our physical bodies, or have even hazy representations, although maybe we will have lost some of the weight we’ve been trying to drop, but then how are we going to recognize each other? Maybe we can have secret hand signals.

I also want to believe that when our loved ones die, we can help them make the transition from here to what comes next. I want to believe that saying prayers, lighting candles, and doing penances for their sake will help them see the opening, overcome the angelic barriers, and gain entrance.

For example, Russian Orthodox Christians prayer for the dead to find the way through, believing that they have forty-nine days to do this or they stay here as ghosts. Tibetan Buddhists pray to the deceased to encourage them to accept the light they see on one of three chances, set their confusion aside about where they are, and move on.

As for transworld communications, there have been enough unexplainable events that I’m willing to entertain the notion that I’ve had communication from Ev, although I don’t know if this is temporary and occurs only when she is in transition to the afterlife, or will continue after she arrives. I will have to get back to you on this.

Once in heaven/nirvana, can our loved ones do anything for us, like offer guidance for our activities? Do they watch over us from heaven like some believe our patron saints do? Or as the ancient Greeks believed happened with their pantheon of gods who looked down from their lawn chairs in the clouds and controlled the actions of humans like tiny soap operas?

There is a double transition that goes on when someone dies. As Ev makes the transition to her new realm of being, I make my transition to a new life that I never imagined. Her change is more dramatic, but mine takes more work.

One of the unexpected transworld events was a message that came from Ev through a psychic via a friend. Ev said that heaven was so much more than what she ever imagined. That, in itself, tells me to not to spend much time trying to figure it out. But it’s also a relief, because what I’ve imagined about heaven isn’t very exciting. Borges thought it could be a vast library. I would like that. If it’s singing all the time, Ev would be in heaven. John Donne sent his wife off to what he thought would be the perpetual beauty of an autumn day. These are all nice, but I would like the afterlife to be a really long hike through the wilderness and being surrounded by splendor day after day, with a glorious new mountain appearing just as I get to the top of one.

If our dead are aware of our actions and wanted to offer guidance, I think they’d say, do what you can to help others, be kind to yourself, and don’t be so serious all the time.

May heaven be for each of us whatever blows our minds. 

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