Thursday, April 29, 2010

When I Die...

When I Die…
Is that morbid enough for a title? To take off some of the edge, I should have put that title in quotes.
Let me explain. We (some of my adult friends; all of us with our peculiar idiosyncrasies) were sitting around a dinner table just last night, when the topic of ‘near-death experiences’ came up. One of the guys ran through some of the more common features of the reports of such an experience: out of body experiences, the tunnel, the light, and so forth; and he recounted how these reports came from all cultures and all ages. And then he asked me what I thought of the matter. Did it have any meaning for me?
I ran off a few lines before I took on the task of answering. Here in stylized summary is what I said: what means more to me than the near-death experience is the death experience. I then went on to recount being there when my parents died—not just at the exact moment of death, but more for the dying experience. The same went for my spouse’s father. I saw in all of them an acceptance of their fate. I said I needed to have that experience; it was important for me to see my elders in their acceptance of their own death.
I finished, more or less, by zeroing in on that phrase, ‘moment of death;’ for it embodies an understanding that this is a special moment: it is something we do and something we experience at the same time. It exists, in a sense, out of time; it does not belong to this time, or the next.
What I did not talk about (it came to me only much later) was another phrase we use when talking about the experience of death: “When I die…”
We often make the claim that words fail us; and we can say that when talking about the moment of death. But sometimes, while words do not capture everything there is to say about a topic, they do give us clues and point us in the right direction. This I believe to be the case with the phrase “when I die…” Most of the time we use it in the context of talking about what we want it to be like when we die: peaceful, free of pain and suffering, surrounded by loved ones. But we also use it thusly: “When I die I will be in heaven with the ones I love.” Note that we do not say, “After I die…”
I will suggest that we do not say “After I die…” because we do not mean what is clearly intended by that phrase; we do not mean to separate the moment of death from the experience of heaven. What we intend to say is this: When I accept that I am in the moment of death, at that moment I will be in heaven.
There; now you can take it from here. Thanks for listening,

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