Sunday, 7 May 2017

Reflecting on After Death.

Lessons from my Father after his death

May Day 2017.  The night before, Father passed on from this life. Death consumed him quietly after a full dinner as he rested; shutting down his lungs, his breathing ceased and finally his heart stopped. At a full life of 90-years old, Father was ready; and has been ready for quite a while since Mother succumbed to her stroke which paralysed her for over a year some 17 years ago.  Their blissful life was survived by 6 children, 6 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren! What a blessed life indeed!      

Death is personal and customised for each one of us.  It accompanies us like a personal shadow, growing as we grow, and at time looming larger or taller depending on the role it chooses as our alternate self. Death’s only story is the story of our life. It has no separate meaning other than whatever we have made with our life.  We are death’s only friend; that’s why it is often confusing as we hear its voice beckoned so welcoming when our time cometh as we then struggle to prolong our earthly time by grasping at the straw of a diminishing life.         

The fear of death is quite exaggerated, and unfounded, when to die is actually perfectly normal.  All natural living things die.  It is such an important part of the natural process.  Death is many things to different people who prefer not to talk or think about it.  Like it or not, though most of us do not like it, it is more like we do not like its often uncertain timing.  If only we can choose when to die, wouldn’t that be great! 

The main problem is that most people are not ready to die. Yet, most would live their life as if death would not occur.  We know life is short, and yet we rush through it without spending quality time to appreciate the beauty of nature or create meaningful moments with our loved ones.  Many eat the wrong diets that shorten our short life-span; others repeatedly poison their bodies with tobacco and nicotine; or regularly drown their stomach, livers and kidneys in alcoholic beverages; and millions others are addicted to consume strange chemicals in the forms of vitamin-substitutes, health “supplements” and man-made medicines. Ironically, death probably never works harder to prevent the onset of massive and pandemic premature human deaths that should otherwise occur as a natural consequence of mankind suicidal life-styles!                

Death is also romanticised by a spiritual interpretation.  Many man-made religions teach death as the separation of the imagined human “soul” from the physical body, and which goes on living somewhere forever … to “heaven” if one has been “good”, to “hell” if he/she has been “bad” or to a “holding” location to be determined by some “gods” or divine beings.  Some religious beliefs would “recycle” the dead back to this world to provide another opportunity for them to live a “better” life … why not send them back to a better version of this world, I wonder?!  Who indeed would want to come back to this wretched broken world again …!       

There is no evidence that the probabilistic existence of “heaven” and “hell”, or “recycling” for a better life, has any effect on criminal behavior or better civic treatment of fellow human beings or more socially responsible behavior in the community.  My take is that everyone knew that no one is really “good” enough to go to heaven … everyone irrespective of our jobs or station in life is guilty of insufficient “good” deeds to qualify for that hallowed “heaven” place.  We are all condemned by the good that we failed to do! That would leave “hell” as the common final destination for the human souls; this is really comforting since many friends, buddies, and enemies, would therefore be re-united after death.      

The notion of the “afterlife” is a denial of death being the end of life.  People are just not ready to leave their loved ones, or to stop enjoying their daily golf games or to cease having their party fun. Others are really happy growing their businesses, increasing personal wealth and prosperity way beyond their need to fuel a greater sense of security and enhance their happiness assets.  To many, the “afterlife” is necessary in order to be truly human. For them, life is a path that must lead somewhere, anywhere … as long as it does not just end!  

The thought of a continuing life beyond death, especially if it be the “heavens”, is seductive and attractive. Some refer to this as the “eternal” life promised by some man-made religions. Indeed, if the “eternal” life awaits us in the “afterlife”, what then is the value of living the present life?  Should not this current life be best shortened so that as many as possible could proceed to the better life hereafter?  Imagine the tremendous benefits resulted in terms of reducing the exploding global population, hereby easing the over-exploitation of earth’s non-renewable resources and making abundant again opportunities for better health, jobs, education and social interaction.  The one billion children who go to bed hungry daily would just become history quickly, if only those who believe in the “eternal afterlife” prepare to depart and embark to their next life as soon as possible!          

For the millions who believe in the happier, more joyous and substantially more satisfying “afterlife”, death is no longer relevant or material.  On any day of their choosing, their spirits can enter the “heavens” as they race across the finish line of this life to enter “heaven’s” pearly gates for another journey perhaps into the life hereafter.  The “afterlife” could very well be just another journey, in an endless series of never-ending journeys.  When would it all end, I wonder? 

When shall we reach the “everlasting” life, our final rest where we no longer have to face the pains and frustrations of disappointments and betrayals, of unfulfilled promises by failing man-made Gods and gods, of unrequited love and gratitude forlorn, and of social exploitation and economic deprivation?  I found no answer here.         

Death does not deserve our worthy consideration.  The loss of life and consciousness, followed by the systematic shutdown of vital organs as life’s important energy is drained as it is slowly enveloped by death is a picture of abject indignity.  Flesh shall turn to dust and bones shall turn to stick or be crushed into powder. The mouth opens but no sounds can come forth. The body as a shell for the soul is exposed; empty now, it awaits to return as dust to dust.    

Death is truly exaggerated, as I have said in the beginning.  No one needs to fear death. Death is irrelevant to life.  Death is but a necessary station along life’s journey.  For most people, it’s the end of their journey; for others merely the beginning of their next journey; and still others, just a pit-stop before recycling through this life again.  Death as a necessary milestone cannot be conquered. 

We should not feel less afraid to die, whatever we believe.  Truth is, after you are dead, you would not even know it!  Death is not the end of life.  It is an integral part of it.  Even as Father is lowered to be cremated, I was not thinking about his death. I celebrated his life in my mind, recalling memories of our moments together and he reminded me that we are blessed with life, that he was the one who blessed us with his life in the beginning.  


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