What’s Left?

I read a fascinating book by Peter Ward called Life As We Do Not Know It regarding NASA’s search for alien life. While 99.9% of the book was way over my head, one thing he said stuck with me. How can we expect to find alien life when we haven’t found all life on this planet? Basically, we redefine ‘life’ because as science changes and new discoveries are made, that definition of what life is also has to change.

If we must redefine our definition of what ‘life’ is, so, too, must we redefine how life changes and is altered by the death of the physical body.

Dad with duckling

Please be kind and respectful in your comments here, because I’m going to move into a topic that people not only feel strongly about, but also one that many feel must be pushed on others who feel differently. Please tell us how you feel, but don’t tell us we have to feel the same way.

I tried different religions but never found one that fit. I personally feel religion was simply early man’s first attempt at a moral code. I don’t believe in some great hereafter, and I don’t believe people go to heaven or hell, or some other variation of that theme, after death.

Mom at cabin

Yet, when you lose a loved one, beliefs on the afterlife get seriously challenged. Because we don’t want to let go. We don’t want to believe they are gone forever, beyond our reach, or beyond any hope of ever seeing them again. So how do you reconcile love and loss with no afterlife?

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I’m not ready too say there is nothing after death. My siblings and I had an unexplained moment when our dad died. We were far apart at the time, in our individual homes, and didn’t realize we’d each had similar experiences until days later. But even with that mystery, I don’t believe in some heavenly afterlife.

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I just don’t think it is something we can know or understand, or maybe even wrap our minds around. I think people’s attempts to define it in the language of religion are limiting something that is unknown because we, as humans, are also limited in our knowledge of the world around us.

I don’t believe in some all-knowing god. But I also can’t truly say, after that experience with dad, that there is nothing afterwards. I just have to settle for ‘I don’t know’ and try to accept that it helps not one iota with the loss that comes from death.

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We are made of energy, or as some say, we are made of stars. I think that energy dissipates, maybe stays around, maybe becomes something new, maybe swirls out there in the universe forming new planets and new life. Who knows? I sure don’t.

If I haven’t learned about all the life that exists, then how can I begin to fathom all the possibilities of what happens to life when it transitions, or dissipates, or moves on, or simply ceases?

Mom's wedding

I hope that there is something after death mainly because it eases loss. That comes from selfish longing, not from some sense of fear about what will happen to me. Personally I’ll be happy fertilizing some trees.

But for those I have loved and lost, I hope they are among the stars.

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13 thoughts on “What’s Left?

  1. I think this is a very well-written opinion piece. I have questions of my own when my mum passed away slightly more than a year ago and I still wonder and yet, I am fully aware that I will not be able to grasp the answers. However, I am contented to believe that she is now somewhere out there with my dad although often times the cynicism creeps in. Perhaps as you wrote, she is now amongst the stars. Whatever the case may be, this belief provides me with some measure of relief and comfort and for the time being, I am prepared to take that as it is.

    • As you say, for the time being we take our comfort where we can. My father was brilliant (really, not just a prejudiced daughter) and I always figured if anyone could find a way to come back and tell me there was an afterlife, he would be the one. But so far nothing. So far.

      • Stay strong as I am sure you will to ride it out. Grief is a funny thing, it comes and goes, sometimes you think it’s all ‘done with’, next thing it hits you like a bolt out of the blue. I now tell myself and I believe that my mum remains with me. It helps to provide comfort only because I believe it to be true. Believe that your father is still with you; his words of wisdom imparted to you throughout the years, all his love, his legacies…will always remain with you. Stay strong, Lisa.

      • Thanks. I don’t worry too much about what comes after life. I figure eventually we’ll find out…or not. But it surprised me how, when you lose someone, you WANT to believe, and struggle to believe there’s something else after life. I think it comes down, partly, to the difficulty of letting go forever.

  2. Lisa, I’m so sorry for your loss. We want to hang on to our loved ones anyway we can when they leave us. When my father died I wanted to stay grieving and I did for a long time. I thought it was the only way to stay close to him. In my faith in Jesus I have the believe of life eternal when this body of mine is done and the hope of something better here on earth. I hope your search will continue and you find answers.

  3. I’m sorry for your sense of loss. I believe that in life there is a beginning and an eternal end. My elderly mother tells me that you’ll be ready when the time comes.

  4. One of life’s greatest questions, as they say. Do they say that? I think so, lol. Anyway, great thoughts! I love to listen to opinions, it is a great satisfaction of mine, to know what is rumbling around in peoples minds and hearts. Maybe even more so, if it differs from mine. 🙂 I do believe in an after-life. I do believe in God. Whatever or however it comes to me, and it will. As death is certain for us all. I have seen instances, felt unexplained things, dreamed them even. So, that is why it is certain for me. All that is just a personal journey of mine, we all walk our own paths, come to our own conclusions. Does it matter in the end? I guess we will all see someday 🙂 Always enjoy reading your journey of thoughts and stories! ❤

    • Thank you. And I also love hearing how people think. It’s one reason my son and I love to debate. Not argue. But have debates on all sorts of things where emotion is removed, and the desire to change someone’s mind is removed, and you’re just simply having wonderful discussions on your thoughts and opinions and beliefs. And the reasons why you feel the way you do. I wish more people could talk things over that way, by removing that assumed imperative to convince or change.

  5. You know I am religious, even though I dont believe in the Bible or in a god the way the church portraits it. I do think there is so much out there that we don’t understand or can’t grasp. After my mom died I wanted to hold on as well, but now I know for myself that she will always be a part of me, because I am a part of her, literally. I know what she would say to things, its just hard when you have things you would want to ask them about, where you never heard their opinion on. I’m also believing that they are out there somewhere and are coming to greet me when I die. This believe gives me mostly no fear of dying, because I will be happy to see them again. 😊

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