Death cracks you open. Watching someone you love take that final journey leaves you flattened and groundless. We don’t know what’s next for them. We can’t follow. We can’t understand how it feels to face the end of your life or the mental, emotional, and physical territory that comes with it. I don’t believe that those who die are lost. I don't believe that we're purely biological lights that flicker out when bodies give up. I believe we have an essence. A soul, if you will, that soldiers on after our body gives up. But it's a very human thing to want proof and science still doesn't know quite what to make of death. So each of us has to choose what we believe - and then, more importantly, choose what to do with that belief.
Sitting in the car with my father and talking about god is one of my earliest memories. I told him I didn't believe in any religion that taught us to fear god, because I didn't think god worked that way. His reply didn't survive my precarious and sieve-like memory bank, but I remember feeling like he was proud of me.
The idea of god as a judgmental white-bearded dude in the sky never seemed quite right. One night when I was young, seven or eight maybe, I decided that god was made of people - the best parts of people, what we are at our purest and most loving. I saw each person as a bright pinprick of light, like a star. I remember deciding that we’re our own individual sparks here in this body, in this life. But when we die, our light gathers and joins that of everyone else in a much larger light, bright and vast. God as a separate entity doesn’t exist, because we are all god.
I’m not sure where this came from - maybe I absorbed this idea from the metaphysical books that lined the shelves of our living room when I was growing up, maybe it was a burst of intuition that came through before my brain and ego began to shut me down, maybe I invented it because it seemed like a nice idea. But I remember feeling comforted by the idea of a great light to return to as I lived my relatively average but not exempt from pain life.
But when your father is dying, all you can do is feed him ice cream when he asks for it and play John Coltrane you’re not sure he can hear and then send him off into the deep unknown and trust that whatever comes next is better than where he was.