2.25.2011

Soul Stories: I see dead people.

There we were, racing down route 78 into Pennsylvania at 3am. I was driving; my mom was in the passenger seat fielding calls from my uncle, who continued to give us status updates every few minutes.

"She's pretty close," he'd say. "We think she might be waiting until you get here."

I drove a little faster and when we were about 20 minutes away, we received one final call. My Nana was dead.

Meanwhile, my dad and brother were in another car, also driving towards Pennsylvania, but headed for a hotel near the town where my Dad's Nana was to be buried the next day.

It was to be a double funeral weekend.

When we arrived at the nursing home, the nurses led us to the room where my Nana's body was. The undertaker had not yet come and they let us have a few moments with her. I hadn't seen her in a while, but I can assure you that even if I'd seen her earlier that day, I would still have been shocked at how she looked. Dead people do not look like the living. An understatement, this.

There was not much emotion at that moment. Mom tried to smooth Nana's hair a bit and I stayed back, exhausted and unsure how to interact with a person so recently dead. I'd been to plenty of funerals before in my life, most of which had open caskets. I was familiar with the way funeral homes attempted to make corpses look more like their living counterparts. This trick never worked, but it sure was a lot better than what we were seeing, I later realized. The image of my Nana's body right after she died is unforgettable and I can really only say one thing about it: she was clearly no longer there.

By that I mean that the person I knew, the personality, her energy, her soft-spoken voice, her calm demeanor, all of the the things that made my Nana my Nana, were completely absent from the scene. And truthfully, I could not believe that she was nowhere. In my mind, she was clearly somewhere. She was just not with her body.

There are a million and one theories about what happens when you die. They range from a soul moving to heaven or hell to ... well, nothing. I've read my science and I've killed ants and I know that, to some people, the answer that nothing happens is easier to swallow than the pandora's box of other possibilities. And after the way religious fanatics go on about it, I get it. The world's a war of beliefs and none of them seem more compelling than the others. But in refusing such zealots, do we throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to the afterlife?

Here's the thing: there is no way that I'M not going somewhere when I die. I'm not suggesting that I have to be going to a gold-gated heaven or the like; I just cannot believe that everything that makes me who I am is just going to -poof- evaporate one day.

Every once in a while I wake up in the middle of the night and roll over to make sure Chris is breathing. (Ah paranoia, you old friend.) For a split second, I worry that he's dead and my mind reels through life without him and the possibility that he was just here and now he's not. Then he breathes again and I lay my head back down, my heart beating ever-so-slightly faster.

It sure is easier to believe nothing happens when you don't know anyone who has died. But when someone you love, someone you adore, steps out of life - well, it's pretty damn hard for me to say that they're gone forever.

Sometimes I make Chris promise to haunt me if he dies before I do. "Not in a scary way," I say, "but just let me know what you're up to."

Because I just want it all to be true. I want the curtain to be pulled back and the grand universe to be revealed, like that moment in the movie when you realize the story you're watching is so much larger than you ever realized. If life is a story, I want the literature.

I need the literature to be true.

3 comments:

Erica said...

I don't know if this was planned before our conversation yesterday or not, but ... thank you for writing this.

Chris said...


“Every once in a while I wake up in the middle of the night and roll over to make sure Chris is breathing. (Ah paranoia, you old friend.) For a split second, I worry that he's dead and my mind reels through life without him and the possibility that he was just here and now he's not. Then he breathes again and I lay my head back down, my heart beating ever-so-slightly faster.”


I do the same thing, with you.

Here's something that I think is important to express: If something terrible does happen and I do die before you, don't be looking for me in every corner of your life. I'll try my best to pop in and say hello, but if I don't, don't assume that means I'm not there. I might just be in some incorporeal plane, waiting for you. Don't give up hope about the universe.

Steve said...

Lovebirds -

watch this movie:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.S._I_Love_You_(film)