I’ve been thinking about the Afterlife lately, the “Other Side.”
Many of my friends have no doubt it exists, others have no doubt it doesn’t. I’m not sure, as there are compelling and interesting arguments either way.
I know when my mother died in 1986, I prayed, mentally and emotionally demanding her to contact me, from Heaven, where I imagined she was, as she was the most devout Catholic I ever knew. I received nothing for my entreaties. No off-beat ringing phones, appliances jump-starting randomly, no voices in my head, no dreams, no emotional or transcendent feelings of surety. My mother, a Swedish woman named Winnifred, simply disappeared. With the exception, of course, of my memories.
Since that time, I’ve experienced the death of my father, my brother, and several dear friends. And again, I’ve never had any communication after their deaths with any of them.
Now some could argue that I lack the receptivity to receive their communication. And they could be right. But I have always considered myself a rather spiritual person, open to possibilities.
I was raised Catholic and considered myself devout. I was an altar boy through 8th grade and attended Catholic grade and high schools. For a time, I plotted a path to the priesthood. I believed in Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and that strange place called Limbo. A moral life would get one to Heaven, a not-so-well-lived life would get you to one of the others. I later became a practicing Buddhist, and wrestled with the concepts of karma, reincarnation, and rebirth. I wrestle still.
But ultimately, I have doubted both the Catholic and the Buddhist systems. Neither heaven nor hell, nor returning as another being, or in another realm made sense to me.
A Zen master, when asked if there was an afterlife, answered this way: “Would you live your life differently if there were?”
That is the essential question for me. And I haven’t answered it yet.