Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I have been mentally writing this post for a while now, unwilling though to sit down and type the words.

Truth has been a very straightforward concept for me for quite some time, and I have put its importance at the top of the list. Friends know that if I don't want truth, I will bluntly say so -- "Tell me this skirt doesn't make me look like a cow." Otherwise, gimme the truth. And I will give it to you.

But in some certain arenas, my opinion about truth is a bit more fluid.

My father tells of the time he had his tonsils out, as an adult. The regular recovery floor was full and so, ironically since he couldn't talk, he was put in a ward with men who had had eye surgery and couldn't see.

Each of them was bandaged up, completely blind. One morning, an janitor came through, cleaning floors and such. One of the men asked him, "Hey, what's it like outside?"

The janitor said cheerfully, "It is a bright and beautiful day, gentleman. Flowers are blooming and birds singing."

My dad stared, speechless both by surgery and by what the man was saying. Was he crazy? It was rainy and grey outside. Completely miserable!

The janitor went on, "Here comes a young mama walking down the street, pushing a baby carriage. Ooh-eee, she is switching her hips side to side, just sashaying. What a pretty sight."

My father moved his eyes from out the window and onto the faces of his fellow patients. They were all smiling, their faces lit up. Nodding. They could just see it.


What happens after we die?

The Boy asked me that, a few years ago. Actually, born UU that he is, I believe he phrased it as, "What do you think happens after we die?"

And he and I talked about different theories and agreed that neither of us had a strong belief one way or another.

The Princess and I have also had a few of these conversations. Never been a very pressing thing, more just interesting discussion. They've enjoyed stretching their minds to come up with all kinds of ideas.

And we always came back to a good-natured, "I dunno," followed by a smile and a laugh.

Life changes.

If I knew that LW was going to leave us, as a child ... if she and I were talking about the end, would I give her that kind of answer?

No. I can't. Between developmental stages, wanting to give her something good to hold on to ... and wanting to give myself something something to hold onto, I would not go with vague answers.

We would talk about heaven. And seeing each other again.

I'm getting some picture books. About heaven. So that she and I can talk about what heaven is like.

Maybe when she's 6 or 7 ... or when she hits 5 years off treatment ... we can talk about whether it exists.


ms. kitty said...

That sounds like the right thing to do, LE. I'd want to share those picture books too.

What I believe is that when we die, we rise to a new level of understanding. And I do believe I will see my loved ones. And that they will also have that new level of understanding, maybe way beyond mine. And we will hug and kiss and talk about old times and be together.

And I don't care whether that's rational or not. But the truth is, "I dunno" either.

Patricia said...

True story:

A friend of mine was present at her father's death. She had a vision, her mother (who died years before) reaching for her father, both of them looking young again. It happened at the moment of his death. Her sister, also present, didn't see it but knew mom was there. My friend is very spiritual, having had brain tumor surgery some years ago and still living with the remnants of the tumor. She absolutely believed what she saw as truth, and as she told me my thought was, "it's true, heaven is real!"

While I've heard of near death persons talking about seeing heaven, this was someone looking in, getting a glimpse, and what a comfort. Even though my faith had told me heaven was real, ever since hearing her story, I know it's true.

plaidshoes said...

That seems like the exact right thing to do. I know when my grandmother died (at 85) she was concerned whether or not her deceased husband was waiting for her in heaven. I know it was a great comfort to think that he was. That she would see him again.

elizabethslittleblog said...

And, I think when it comes down to it, none of us really know. How could we know know really know? To me, that is the whole mystery and wonder of it all that there are still things that we cannot know with our simple, human, earthly selves. I have always felt strongly that the experiences that people have with what is Beyond us are authentic, even if they are not a direct reflection of Reality. And have erred on the side of, "There is no way we can know exactly about the Hereafter, so we might as well imagine it as we hope it will be." So in my mind, the Hereafter involves playing with kittens, hanging with Mammaw and Pappaw and Aunt Carol and Bob, sitting on a porch, breaking beans, singing and talking. Will it be exactly that? Who knows, but I do believe it will be something equally as wonderful. I appreciate your thoughts on this, and also how real and painful and timely they are. I pray with every ounce of my soul that neither you nor LW will have any good reason to Really need such assurances for many many many many years. Yet, I understand why you think of such things. I hate it and I understand it. Peace, Elizabeth

kim said...

I dunno, but I have faith that whatever it is, it's alright. So many have gone before. The universe is cheering us on, how could it not be alright?

fausto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fausto said...

The Rev. Roderick Stebbins, minister of my church about a century ago, once preached that in our liberal tradition we do not presume to take a vision of the afterlife "out of the hands of God, where we are willing reverently to leave it," but he also spoke of "the hope that, having done our best, God will do his best, and his best will be better than we dare hope or think."

Regardless of what we may imagine about the sweet bye and bye, in the meantime, as he said, all we can do is hope and think. And do our best. And jeezum crow, how you're doing all three.

Damn, you're going to make a great minister one day.

The Change said...

I just finished reading "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch and the following passage really resonated with me. In particular, it made me think about you, LE and what I would do if I had to have this conversation with any of my children (I, too, have a three year old daughter and cannot fathom walking along the same path you are forced to journey now). Like the others who have posted comments, I don't know what awaits us after death, but I believe that there is something and that it is beautiful. But, back to the book...

'I heard from a man in his early forties with serious heart problems. He wrote to tell me about Krishnamurti, a spiritual leader in India who died in 1986. Krishnamurti was once asked what is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who is about to die. He answered: "Tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Wherever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone." In his email to me, this man was reassuring: "I know you are not alone."'

You are not alone, LE and I wish for you and LW from the core of my being that she will go with you many years from now and not the other way around.