Tag Archives: afterlife

Examination of Death, by an Atheist

Just a few days ago, my siblings and I gathered together at an idyllic place in the mountains and, one by one, scattered the remains of our beloved mother.

Many of my family take solace in the thought that they will see her again someday ‘across the River Jordan’.   Yet as my husband and I discuss heady topics such as parallel universes and quantum entanglement, I am instead, solaced by the thought that my mom is more alive now than she was while bottled up inside a frame of skin and bones.   This is the examination of death, by an atheist.

Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so sayeth science.

restingplace

Photo credit to E.W.

This is the reality in which we live. It is incontestable, it is there in the math as assuredly as one plus one equals two. So when the essence of a soul, whatever energy is caught up in our being, is no longer caged by the laws of physicality, then we have to conclude that our energy is dispelled and scattered again throughout our universe, to be employed for newer enterprises (nature is brilliant at recycling and repurposing).   There is great comfort in the thought that my mother is not relegated to just here and just there.  She is all around now, freer in a manner that none of us can conceive, able to effect any number of possible outcomes.  She is life, and that more abundantly.

I will miss her, make no mistake.  I have keened for her passing and will do so again in days to come, I am sure. I will never again feel the sweetness of her kisses upon my lips nor hear the admonishing tone of her voice when my wild nature conflicted with her demure soul.  And while in days past, I might have taken comfort in the hope of ‘seeing her again,’ today I am pacified by a more solid idea.   My mother is ever with me, in every breath I take, in each word I write – in all manner of ways that her energy is now part of the universe itself, I am ever a recipient of her freedom.  Though I may be heartbroken; I am content in this examination.

Yours,

Frankie

In Remembrance:  HEA

Advertisements

The Doctor is My Hero

It’s Saturday which means I’m in for another new episode of Dr. Who.  I’m the kind of Whovian that has her DVR scheduled to record it  and my bestie is often over for dinners on Saturday nights to watch the newest episode with me (I’ve simply got to come up with a special dinner menu for the Christmas episode out of respect for the return of Professor River Song – it’s bad, I know).  In the long list of heroes we humans are so creative at inventing, the Doctor provides a modern day model for unrequited compassion and a dedication to justice so perfect that he tortures his own soul for his own shortcomings.

I’ll give a bit of background before I explain.   Working from the  foundation of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” beautiful book, the characters who have entertained and inspired over the millenniums all share similar traits.  Consider our modern day heroes such as Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter:  both come from meager beginnings yet they’re somehow tied and bound to the evil of their day.  Their personal bond with evil begins with some twist of childhood fate so that the rest of their lives are spent conquering the dark elements of the universe, always, always to overcome (we don’t know how to write the story any other way than to make sure good wills out – I love that about us).

badwolftardis

photo courtesy of rebloggy.com

The Doctor follows a similar plot line. His beginnings were marked with uncertainty and fear, and his path is wrought with a parallel evil that persistently challenges his patience, wit, compassion, and even causes him to question his own goodness and worth – as any decent villain should.  Yet.  He manages to overcome evil while facing his own shortcomings.  For a man who can nonchalantly say things such as “Time isn’t linear, it’s wibbly-wobbly, spacey waycey,” for a man who can hop in a machine and watch the moonrises of Jupiter, for a man who can feel all of time and space at once, The Doctor has made a decision to annhilate his own people, and this haunts him time and again.  He knows he’s had to choose between the few and the many, and he carries the guilt of the choosing.  But if there’s ever a chance to redeem himself, he seizes it without hesitation.   That’s why the Doctor is my hero: in spite of his omniscience, he’s all too human in his failings.   But even in the face of them, he chooses good over evil in the hopes that when balanced, the good is greater than the evil.  Such is the story of most of us, we should have confidence in that ;).

When the twelfth Doctor made one of his first appearances, he asks his assistant if she thought he was a good man.

“I don’t know.  But you try to be and I think that’s probably the whole point.”  The Doctor tries, he demonstrates that horrendous failings don’t have to define us, there is still good within our souls with which we can redeem ourselves.  That’s why he’s my hero.

Allonsy kids!

Frankie


Clarity With Atheism

A family member died this past week and I watched with a breaking heart as some prayed for a miracle that never came.  I watched with an empathetic mind as some wrestled with the very real struggle of justifying the death:  “God must have wanted him in heaven more than on earth,” was the go-to phrase. As I watched and empathized, I was reminded of the ways in which religion would cheat a soul.  I was reminded of the freedom and clarity that come with atheism.

I remember the days of praying with desperate hope for a miracle that would delay the finality of death (even though there was no evidence anywhere for me to believe that a miracle would occur).  I remember hanging on to any glimpse of good news:  the blood counts were down, the iron counts were up, the kidneys are working again – each was a sign that a supernatural healing was just around the corner.  Death would be cheated this one time.

Death is never one to allow itself to be cheated.   It always came, always claimed the soul it taunted for months.  No amount of praying would dissuade it from its duty. No god could stop its arrival.

I remember my struggle to make sense out of a no-win situation when the inevitable would happen.  I recall finding excuses because the reality was too hard to accept; buffering my psyche with outdated memes “thy will be done”  “god is in control”  “so-and-so is with the lord now.” I remember admonishing my self – obviously my faith was weak.

What a mental mess we allow ourselves to be as we work through the conflict of believing in the supernatural and dealing with the fallout when the supernatural doesn’t manifest itself.

As I watch family members work through the conflict – trying to fit together the notion that an omnipotent/omnipresent god refused to defy nature this one time and keep death from claiming its prize – I am thankful for the clarity that atheism brings to such circumstances.  There’s no emotional roller coaster, no disappointment in a benevolent being, no chastising myself for weak faith.  No futile reconciliation exercise in order to come to terms with the failed hope of a miracle healing.

I am saddened by the loss of life. But I am consoled by the many ways in which that life will live on: through children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors. I am inspired to live my life better. I accept the reminder that time is short, we are mortal, death will not be cheated.  I am grateful for the lesson that there is clarity with atheism.

Peace comes with understanding, it does not pass it.

Frankie


Thanks Brittany, For Defining Life for Us….

There’s quite a bit of bruh – ha-ha going on about Brittany Maynard and her decision to end her life at her choosing rather than at the behest of a brain tumor.

She’s been labeled a coward.  A loser.  Ignorant.  And most of all godless (my guess is most of these accusers have not sat by the bedside of a comatose loved one and wiped the bile from their lips, change their soiled sheets, and clean their soiled bodies for days on end until finally the last breath is drawn).

Brittany’s decision gave me courage because it reaffirmed something I’ve long thought:  We define LIFE as a society not by quality, but by quantity.  Consequently, I propose, we cheapen life – and what it means to live.

The reasoning is based on the idea that if the sanctity of life is so broad that no matter how mal-formed, no matter how dependent, no matter how irresponsive, no matter if a life is more full of doctors and therapists and pokes and prods than actual living, no matter how tightly bound a soul might be within a prison of useless limbs and organs, then we do ourselves a disservice because we misplace the fact that life should also have a certain level of value – and health – if it’s to be truly cherished and worth something.

I originally took my cue for this thought from Nature.  Nature doesn’t really let the diseased or malformed or ill survive.  It can’t. Nature has high standards – grade AAAAA – when it comes to quality control, and it doesn’t fudge very often.   We humans forget this.  We’ve gotten far removed from nature and therefore do not necessarily act ‘natural’ towards life…or death.

The reaction to Brittany’s death exemplifies this.  We would condemn her to weeks of pain and suffering, loss of body control, loss of appetite, withering away, loss of consciousness…ad in fin….because it doesn’t matter her quality of life, only her quantity.   As Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, put it Suicide is not a good thing. It is a bad thing because it is saying no to life and to everything it means with respect to our mission in the world and toward those around us.”

Brittany wasn’t “saying no to life and everything it means” she didn’t have a life to say ‘no’ to.

Instead, she chose to say yes to life, but within the strict confines of quality control that Nature operates.  She chose to value life as having meaning and participating in it fully, instead of just existing for existence sake.

So thanks Brittany, for defining life for us by keeping a high standard of quality.  Your afterlife is secure.

Here’s to Life….healthy, full, and vibrant.

Frankie


The Meaning Of …. An After Life

“The spirituality of certain death requires acceptance that our stake in the future springs, not from an afterlife, but from whatever ideas and creativity we can muster and then pass on – through our family, friends and work.  The greatest joy is to challenge ourselves to contribute.”    Sean Faircloth

There is nothing like impending death against the stark relief of life to drive us to search for meaning to both.

In a few days I’ll make a short flight to Boise Idaho where I will spend a week with my terminally ill brother.  Probably the last few moments of his short time on earth.  He’s only 55. He is the first of six siblings to make this journey.  My heart is broken.

As I prepare to tell him goodbye, I am like all humans, transfixed upon the finality of death and the force with which it makes us contemplate our beliefs, our sentiments, and our maturity towards life and its ending.  As I try to come to terms with the idea that my time left with my brother is brief, I also find myself subconsciously bringing balance to his approaching death by reflecting upon his life. Doing so has allowed me to acknowledge that my brother will live on well past his physical presence on this earth.  As Mr. Faircloth muses …”our stake in the future springs…from whatever ideas and creativity we can muster and then pass on through our family, friends and work.”  My brother’s afterlife, his personal stake in the future, lies in all that he has done as a man with his short time on earth.

My brother’s stake in the future lies within the hearts of two sisters, both of them quite a bit younger, whose older brother managed to take time out to teach them football and the art of spitting between one’s teeth.  The same brother would later invite me to Genesis and even later give me a much-needed survival talk before I moved to California.  His Robin Williams-esque humor has given us many wonderful laughs and will always be the topic of family conversations.  These two sisters, and the rest of his siblings, will keep their brother alive in their hearts, his future is secure in their memories.

His stake in the future lies within the potential of my second son, who became my brother’s namesake.  No matter where he goes, what he does, and how he does it, my son will carry on my brother’s name and affect his own circle of lives.  I am always reminding my son of the man he is named after and the example he provides and the responsibility he has to carry on the name in good standing.   My brother’s stake in the future is secure in the form of my son.

My brother’s stake in the future lies also in the three children who have had him as a step-father.  I know his love and adoration for them is unmatched – and unsolicited – which makes it even more significant.  I am certain that each of those persons have learned what it means to be a father, a husband, a gentleman, a provider, and a friend …all from my brother.  His stake in the future is secure in the lives of the children who’ve been lucky enough to have him as a dad.

His stake in the future lies in the life of his wife as well.   For several years now, my siblings and I have watched as he has cared for his wife through her own health struggles.  His devotion and love, not unnoticed from a distance, stand as a testament to all of us and reinforce that our wedding vows really do mean ‘in sickness and in health.’  He could have scattered to the four winds long ago and left the care of his wife to others, but that’s not his style.  His style was in being there for every appointment and conversation.  His style meant clean sheets for his wife when she got home from a major surgery.  My brother’s stake in the future lives on in his sweet wife whose current health is a direct result of his diligent care from yesterdays.

His stake in the future lies also in his work.   During this rough time, his boss and cohorts have extended support and advocacy towards my brother and his wife in only the way that us compassionate humans can, and WOW, they’ve gone way beyond anything that could ever be asked of them.   Why?  Because of the way he’s lived his life and contributed himself to everything around him, even in his job.   His stake in the future is secure even in the lives he has touched even in the workplace.  We should all be so fortunate.

In the past, we have relied on the idea of an afterlife as a means to bring peace and a way to cope with the finality of death.   But our afterlife does not exist in some far off, mysterious place.  Our afterlife exists here on earth, in the thousands of ways, positive or negative, that we contribute to life and those around us.  It exists in the lessons we pass to others, in the love we share with others, in the memories we create with others.  I can say with all conviction that my brother’s stake in the future is well guaranteed here on earth.  There is where I find my comfort and peace, and death’s sting is made much less painful because of it.

Be Well, and LIVE your life!

Frankie