Actually I lied. I did not let my late husband rest in peace, permitting his beliefs to continue untouched. At least when it came to answering our daughter’s questions.
I am a great salesperson if I believe in the product, but I couldn’t believe in Gavin’s stark vision of what happens to us after death: “time’s up, lights out.” And God forbid I let an innocent in my charge come away thinking I believe in a feathery afterlife. (I’ll tolerate it like Santa: if she picks it up, fine, but I’m not going to sell it). O heaven: You are a provocateur.
So when she asked, “Where is Daddy now?” -- when “he’s in our hearts and we can remember him, he’s in photographs and we can talk about him, he left his artwork for the whole world to enjoy” was no longer enough, as the idea of permanence grew for her -- I told her what I believe.
I’d like to tell you I’m a good Buddhist or perhaps that I believe we all are reincarnated as animals, that we fulfill our karma and work continually to complete our missions on earth in another flesh. I love it when other people believe these colorful, justice-promoting stories. They’re getting closer, but those beliefs are just not mine, not now.
After Gavin died, I finally read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, a trilogy touted in the New Yorker as an alternative to Harry Potter, a tale of a heroic tween girl, a fantasy that bears a compelling contemporary sort-of-theology.
And it was wonderful for me. Over thousands of pages I was transported, these alternative realities planted the seeds for my starting to date, fomented breakthroughs in all kinds of fantasies. Best of all, the heroine, Lyra, frees the dead, who’ve been trapped by a false religion/science in a limbo land, ugliness and nagging without rest, a gray soup of souls hopeless of connection or change.
I can’t quote because I gave the books to The First at our only Christmas two years ago, but here’s what I recall:
At liberation, the dead from all eras are at last allowed to tell their stories, and they are led up into a world (one populated with wonderful wheeled elephant-like creatures, but no matter, could be any world) where they dissolve into atoms and merge with the environment: sky, trees, plants, creatures, rocks, water. I cried when I read it, happy to find a beautiful solution that suits me.
This vision is no heaven, but a chance to exist, unrecognized, knowing you’re not quite alone, maybe making silent inhuman difference or maybe just observing with the barest dot of consciousness. Or maybe completely dissipated and melded five minutes later. Only slightly less bleak, maybe, but enough for me.
That’s what I’d like to think, which is another way of saying, it is what I believe.
* * * Comments * * *