The Afterlife: What my Dead Husband Believed

I’ve been asked recently whether I believe in heaven. Gavin didn’t, and since it was his death, I felt that his beliefs should be those that governed.

I know, it doesn’t make sense; I can imagine him wherever I want to. But somehow it doesn’t seem fair to insist his soul do what I ask when he isn’t even on this plane anymore. Isn’t compromise at the heart of all marriages? Even the ones that are no longer active?

Gavin was raised Catholic and he thought they were great stories, but he never had any expectation that there was truth there. He studied science and Buddhism but the afterlife was not among his primary theological concerns. He told me clearly, once during his last four days of life (when he was in inpatient Hospice), that death was a nothing: whatever the process is, the finale is that your body dies and the lights are just shut off.

In all things, it’s what you do when you’re alive that matters, the legacy you leave, the love you make. That he took very seriously. Whether his artwork, reputation, or relationships continued to send good vibes after he was gone, he was sure wouldn’t matter to him.

So I have to believe, if I follow my wifely logic, that right now he’s nowhere. Just gone.

It’s not a great movie, but Mr. Magorium’s Magic Emporium has this quote about the end, which I felt expressed Gavin’s vision very well:

Mr. Magorium: When King Lear dies in Act Five do you know what William Shakespeare has written? He’s written, “He dies.” That's all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of the dramatic literature is, “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare’s genius to come up with, “He dies.”

And yet every time I read those two words I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, not because of the words, “He dies,” but because of the life we saw prior to the words.

I’ve lived all five of my acts ... and I am not asking you to be happy that I must go. I’m only asking that you turn the page. Continue reading. And let the next story begin.

And if anyone ever asks what became of me, you relay my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple, and modest, “He died.”

* * * Comments * * *


Jen said...

Hmm, I definitely had that opinion before I lost my husband. As for what he believed, though we never talked specifically about it, I'm pretty sure he felt the same. However, now I'm not so sure -- I'm willing to be open to the possibility of something more than "lights out, game over". I'm a tad embarrassed to admit, because perhaps I'm just searching for comfort in the face of the unfathomable idea that I'll never see him again. But the comfort is real.

Christian Sinclair, MD said...

Thanks for this post SDF. I may actually have to watch Mr. Magorium just for that scene even though others have panned it as well. I think many people are in Jen's shoes in not having really discussed the core of our beliefs with those most important to us. We may gloss over things and stay superficial for many reasons: assumptions, not wanting to embarrass ourselves, or others, even if it is those we love the most.

Dynomoose said...

I don't believe in any kind of existence after death although, with Joe dead, I would really like to. Joe didn't know. Didn't wonder. Didn't care. But then we thought that if he died, it would have been months later than it was. It was all so very sudden.

Vanessa said...

My husband was a mostly lapsed Catholic, but he did believe in God, and in some sort of afterlife, though perhaps not the traditional angels-on-clouds-with-harps one. At the end, though, he was so tired of being sick that I don't think he cared much if there was anything more. Even nothing would have seemed preferable to him.

As for me, I don't know. I would like to believe we all continue on somehow, and I've had some weird experiences that could be taken as evidence that we do, but I have a strong feeling that it's just wishful thinking. I guess one day I'll find out. Or not, if it really is just "lights out, you're done."

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Friends, see my next post for my own solution. Gavin's belief was not satisfying to me, either.

My soul made me find something with just a bit more "presence" and color. See if you like.

Why in the world would anyone found a religion that doesn't permit you to imagine the answer to this question a thousand ways? I'll never understand it, but then, I'm not an insider.



P.S. Christian, watch the movie if your kids have a chance of enjoying it or at least playing through. If they are restless during movies that don't grab them, you should skip it; I've given you all the grown up parts now. Unless you really love Natalie Portman.

Mama_Bear_Sarah said...

I believe Brett is waiting for me on a white, sandy beach somewhere. Beer in hand, lying back on a chair, shirt off, sunglasses on, smile on his face ...just waiting for me to join him.

thanks for linking my blog.

peace to you.

Lonesome Dove said...

I read this post a while back and had never heard of the movie. Then a week ago or so(time seem unimportant to keep track of these days), my 20 YO daughter who is a huge movie buff had it playing and I watched it with her. I thought it was entertaining. But even then, I did not make the connection to this post. Until this very moment when I happened upon it once again. And I have to wonder yet again, is it true? Is that all? If so, that certainly does make this life and the one's we share it with a very precious gift indeed.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...


I think that even if we believe in heaven we can only choose to see this life as unique and precious. But then again, that's just my lens again. Maybe I'm a humanist.

Working on it!

X to you!


queen of my heart said...

There must be more, I just simply switch light back on every dark moment by remembering my beautiful Jimmy. We did not believe in a so called god but we did believe in the wisdom of wyrd an energy & our consciousness. A month past since that tragic day and there are no magic potions to ease the pain (well... there drugs) but for me there are endless cards, love messages on napkins & little notes, poems & drawings. We just wanted to live happily ever after... Fairy tales we shared and now I must live on that dream of love & beauty.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Queen, that's a fairly beautiful way to look at it. I like it. Enjoy.
Come visit WidowedVillage.org some lonely evening if you like. We have chocolate! :-) (that's a joke though).


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