Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Is There Life After Death?

My friend Mari wrote a comic called "Is there Life After Death?" (See her link in my sidebar). This piece reminded me of an essay I’d written for a philosophy class in college on this same subject. I can’t find the essay, but started pondering over my beliefs some more.

Seeing people die - watching as they leave this world - definitely makes me feel more strongly that there is something more than this life, but I have no idea what that might be or mean.

I met a patient recently who was waiting for a biopsy result that would tell him whether or not he had cancer. As he sat with the anxiety of his wait, he told me about his beliefs and how they’d come to him during an LSD trip. And the funny thing is that is the same time that I decided there was some kind of after life. I had this profound revelation while on acid - this was the summer after high school. I stopped using LSD after that, but my beliefs definitely stuck with me through the years. During a seizure caused by an overdose, I had a vision of white sparks of light that were connected to each other – as we all are connected to all living things. And there was a larger light that all the other lights were connected to as well. As I woke up from the seizure, I immediately decided that when we died, we went back to that light and when we were born, we were born out of that light. There was a constant flow of energy from the main light. Some people may call that light God, though I am not comfortable with that word. I have too many negative associations with that word after having survived Catholic school – visions of an old white man with a grey beard sitting in a cloud making judgments about me.

This job also makes me believe in some kind of afterlife that is at least to some degree tied to this life. For example - people can be demented, can be in a coma, but they'll still stay alive until things from their life are resolved. It's like there is a spiritual self that is not trapped in the confines of their comatose body or demented mind that understands they are dying and wants to leave with their life in a sense of peace. When an estranged family member arrived, the patient who had been in a coma for about a week died an hour later. When I suggested the adult children give their demented, comatose elderly mother permission to die while they were at home, they had a very tearful goodbye and the patient died about an hour after they left her bedside. The physical brain of these dying patients does not seem like it should have 1) the ability to hear and comprehend what the family members were saying (especially the patient with dementia) nor 2) the control over when to die that these patients clearly seem to have, hanging on until their business in this life is finished. But the question remains – what happens after we die? Our body decays and that’s it? Or does the energy that once was our body get recycled into soil to feed a plant and that is the spirit reborn? Or is there some fragment of our person captured in that energy that leaves our body at death? What do you think?


Jennynyc said...

I'll be the devil's advocate ;)

1)Psychology comes into it too. Someone in a coma might exert energy not to "let go" until comfortable. People in comas function at some level; otherwise, they'd be dead. Or take the spouse who dies right after the other spouse. Some people might take that as evidence of something outside science, but stress and heartbreak cause illness so why not death? A similar example of what I mean: a psychic can be thought of as having "magical" abilities but may simply have a keen sense of intuition and perception. Do we turn experiences that can be accounted for with what we know into something Other so that we can believe that there is an Unknown, such as an After Life?

2) What do you make of all the people who deserve to have closure but die without it? All the people who die with unresolved circumstances, with unfinished business? What accounts for the difference?

big seester said...

Wow, I had a very similar LSD epiphany about eight years ago, where we came up with the same exact theory (luckily, without the discomfort of seizures and overdoses). Coming and going from the light was essentially the agreed upon result, and that we were all god because we were all part of the light. Since then, I've substituted the term "light" with my own interpretation, "energy," but it's really the same thing without the visual cues. Very interesting indeed!