All the Dead Return to Us as Vultures in the Sky
We see a hearse; we think sorrow. We see a grave; we think despair. We hear of a death; we think of a loss. Not so in heaven. When heaven sees a breathless body, it sees the vacated cocoon & the liberated butterfly.
- Max Lucado
When I die, I won’t be sad. I think I won’t be anything. I will be gone from here, into a nothingness so vast that the idea of space and time as a relative continuum are nothing but fool’s gold. It awes me, never irks me, this unstoppable notion. There is no escaping the fact that, according to my 51 years of critical analysis- and my own gut feeling- that I am headed for the flick of an off switch so powerful that it makes the idea of a God or a Heaven seem kind of naive and simplistic.
Which is why I guess so many people opt for the religion. For the afterlife and the so-called comforting idea that death is simply a bump in the road/ an inconvenience, if you will/ on the miraculous path to everlasting never-ending eternal life.
In the sky. More or less.
With all your already dead loved ones gathering in around you, touching you gently on the back, welcoming you with their angelic greetings.
You are in Heaven.
You are a lamb of God now.
You will never gain weight here.
Check your bank account…you’re fucking RICH, BITCH!
I don’t mean to sound snooty about it. But then again, I guess I do in a way. Since, I mean, all of this talk of more/ so much more/ after you die/ drops me down into the middle of a place where my life loses all meaning instead of gaining so much like you God-fearing folks do.
What do I mean?
Well, let me try to explain.
My days, my life, it is well along the way to being over. Before long, I will perish. My lungs will stop taking oxygen in and my heart will beat one last beat. One last poetic thwap, one final pump gush of blood, and then silence. Dead silence. My brain will continue to electrocute my synapses with currents spark thought and some kind of weird conscious unconsciousness. In that chamber I will continue to live a while. Perhaps I will hear the sounds of my own passing. Maybe I will hear, clearly, the weeping begin/ of a kid of mine/ or my Arle/ wordless/ sniffling/ sucking back the storm of rain welling up behind the faces of the people who knew me best and spent years in my presence, often agains their own free will (kids end up where they end up/ choice be damned).
I don’t know. There is a reasonable scientific chance, I reckon, that my muscles begin to contort and rigor up and yet, at the same time, I can still feel their hands on my chest. Her hand on my face. Light fingers, curious fingers, tracing my beard line, stopping purposefully beneath my nostrils to feel for breath.
And when no breath is detected, much as expected, her hand might withdraw or it may go on moving. Across my cheeks and down my neck, checking for pulse in all the throaty places where pulse once ruled but where no pulse will ever be found again.
The finality of it all, the poetic grandeur of a the weight of true death, is misappropriated so often by artless people. By God-fearing copycats whose loss is very real, of course, as is there sense of the thing, and yet, they must begin, instantly/ at once, with transporting the strange powerful moment that comes with understanding that you knew a person/ and that they will remain a part of you until you die/ into a fictional realm that denies the opportunity to live better now with the death lingering always in unanimous favor of living so-so now in favor of absolute perfect life later. In the “next world”. In the “promised land”…promised to you by humans from long long ago. Humans who would almost certainly burn you at the stake today for witchcraft were you to saunter into their presence with your iPhone tuned into Tik Tok or ESPN or whatever the fuck you do with your largely lost self.
The intense and wonderful celebration of a life, when it ends, when the person is gone from us, has been hijacked almost entirely by a narrative in which we say goodbye, but not forever. Just for now. We will see you again. To imagine anything less is unimaginable.
I know you know.
Deep down, okay maybe not YOU you, but others sort of similar to you, they know. They know deep down that there is at least a good chance (despite even what Mom and Dad beat into you with Sunday School sticks!) that the end is the end.
That dying doesn’t mean more living.
It means no more living.
It means, quite frankly, the opposite of what we have been told all along.