Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Life Before and After Death

Recently I heard (yet another) fascinating episode of RadioLab that has kept me thinking for a couple of weeks now. The episode, Black Box, featured a story about butterflies, and specifically the transition of caterpillar-to-butterfly. I am no scientist, and can’t really explain it well (and definitely not in the fascinating way RL does) but the part that stuck with me was that someone had written in to the scientist in the story saying that the findings on butterflies had answered a question he had about The Afterlife. He said he’d always wondered if, in heaven, he’d remember his previous life.

That came as a surprise to me. I’d never considered that a person in the next life would have no memory of their life now. I’ve never even questioned it- I have a rosy image of people in heaven (as the Church teaches) watching over us and praying for us. But what if? Would that be a bad thing, to be in a whole new consciousness? A living person doesn’t remember their time in the womb- but it doesn’t mean that the time spent there was worthless or negative in any way- on the contrary, I imagine gestation is an overall pleasant time for a baby- floating, sleeping, growing to the beat of the mother’s heart. For whatever reason, it’s not important for a person to remember their life-before-life. Is it important for us to remember our life-before-death?

Last night I served a vigil for hospice and as I watched my patient’s breaths grow ever shallower and shallower, I wondered what he was experiencing. Was he seeing a light? Was he being greeted by his loved ones? And, I wondered why he would hold on so strongly to this life- laboring to keep breathing, keep breathing, keep breathing.

I thought about how a youth group kid of mine had once told me that his religion teacher said that heaven is just staring at the face of God for eternity. He was upset by this description, asking “what if that’s not what I want to do??” But I remember Jesus saying in the Gospels that we have to love God more than our parents, our spouses… I remember Him saying that there is no marriage in heaven. Maybe this is true, transcendent faith- to only want to gaze on God’s face.

Still, last night, my patient breathed on for whatever reason, and as I crawled into bed I couldn’t help but think- what in heaven could be better than Scott’s toes touching my toes, a cat on my hip, a snoring dog nearby?


1 comment:

HerMajesty00 said...

Margo shortly after my Dad died but before my mom died I was in the play Our Town. Halfway through the play, my mom left the audience, right before we did the graveyard scene. She left, she told me later, Because she did not like the lines my character says about the dead slowly losing interest in the living, slowly forgetting. Her grief was so raw, and watching the grieving Doc Gibbs, stop by my 'grave' and the other characters talking to the newly dead young woman was too much for her. She, would remember every precious moment with my dad did not for a second want to contemplate that perhaps he and she were going through two different experiences. Meanwhile around the same time my friend who belongs to a Pentecostal type church told me that their faith teaches in heaven you do not recognize your own children or spouse or anything. This really disturbed me since I lost tow children through miscarriage and was really looking forward to meeting them one day. I cannot imagine that God who so loves us would end these things that matter so deeply down to our very soul. I imagine heaven to is just beyond our comprehension but it must include not only reunification with our God, but with those we cherished as well.