Growing old is a contradiction in terms. It’s more like “shrinking” old. Aging is like doing the bad kind of pucker-up. But before I pile on and make growing old sound like a death sentence (which it is), let’s remember it’s perfectly natural and obviously part of our architecture. Reaching one’s expiration date might seem unpalatable, but it can actually be quite tasty when we sugar-coat our terms and serve it up with a dollop of perspective. What’s actually being destroyed here? It’s the body and not the spirit. In fact they’re 2 completely different animals – one really is an animal (the body) and the other is eternal (the spirit). Isn’t that comforting? Maybe it’s cold comfort, but I find great solace in the natural rhythms of the universe. Of course I might not revel in the virtues of nature if I’m attached to a morphine drip because my self-driving car decided to drive myself off a cliff. But that’s another story (Note to self: Make next story about a suicidal self-driving car.).
For those who appreciate Zen-like simplicity, one must remember that death is the path of least resistance – until there’s no resistance. And then what? Exactly. And then what? Well, that’s what I hope to address: What are our posthumous options? And I would address death directly, except it left no address – not an email, cell phone number or PO Box. Appropriately death doesn’t seem to live anywhere. It just lurks. And right now it’s not lurking so good.
Death leaves few fingerprints, however it does leave a string of cadavers. It’s good at what it does and has been getting away with murder since organisms first began metabolizing in the Primordial Soup – a soup so teeming with life that you could literally dip into it for a cup of Joe. Death is a cunning and non-violent serial killer. Do you realize 151,600 people die every day (true) and Earth SVU hasn’t a clue to solve these murders, even though we all know who’s responsible for each and every one? It’s death.
Death is in a pitched battle with births in a life and death struggle for global supremacy. One is trying to populate the planet (with a great assist from sex) and the other is trying to depopulate the planet (with a great assist from tobacco). And because these two behemoths can’t get along, who ends up getting hurt the most? It’s the children. In this case God’s children (us).
What Are Our Posthumous Options?
What’s a person to do about this passing show? I mean it’s all fun and games sitting on your beach chair with an umbrella drink watching the parade go by until the Minister of Planned Obsolescence taps you on the shoulder to inform you, “Times up hombre, we’re gonna need your chair for a little bambino coming down the pipeline.” Then you become part of the passing show – your passing. It’s a kind of gun boat diplomacy as death trains it sights on you and declares: “You need to evacuate your body now and we’re only going to ask you nicely once.”
Yeah, well what’s death gonna do if we don’t comply – kill us? I mean it’s gonna do that anyway. And this may be the basis for the 1953 Dylan Thomas poem: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, in which Mr. Thomas encourages us to not take death lying down. Unless of course you happen to be lying down, in which case death will take the path of least resistance; until there’s no resistance.
People of great character and deep introspection wonder, “Where do I go when I die?” This is certainly valid, but the more pressing question might be, “Where am I now?” We don’t seem to be the least bit fascinated at roaming a planet with fellow creatures 93 million miles from a fusion furnace within a universe so vast it not only boggles the mind, it boggles the mind’s friends.
We relish the known quantity of Earth with its TV remotes and its airline-miles reward cards. Conversely we’re discomfited by the unknown quantity of the Afterworlds where light and sound rule, and nobody cares where the remote is or how many frequent flyer miles you accumulated. These kind of details don’t matter in the Afterworld and they don’t really matter in this world either. But these oblique analogies are a lot more fun to read than: Specter of death promotes anxiety and questions in local writer.
Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t want to read that. I wouldn’t even want to write that. I would rather write killer humor like this:
- I try to avoid death like the Plague – as I would try to avoid any lethal epidemic.
- Remember: You can’t spell “hated it” without “it death.”
- Does the fact that I donated pre-tax money to the World Food Program get me better seats in the afterlife?
- When I die, instead of a Will, I’m leaving a Won’t.
A Death Primer: Presented by AfterLife Industries®
In an attempt to ease the troubled mind of future decedents, AfterLife Industries (a certified contractor to The Almighty) has provided this instructive Posthumous Primer with FAQs highlighting What to Expect When You’re an Ex:
When your time comes and you’re out-processed from Earth there are some bookkeeping considerations to be aware of. For example your cell phone is automatically set to Cemetery Mode. And bear in mind, despite flowery poetry to the contrary; it is in all cases better to Go Gentle into that Good Night. We’ve talked with Dylan Thomas about his poem and even he agrees with us now. He’s recanted and would’ve much preferred not fighting so desperately to stay in his body as that “good night” closed in. So once you’re in your death rattle, relax and don’t fight the inevitable.
As to your initial movements: The newly departed will pass through a membrane of noble gasses which scrub away all preconceived notions, biases, genders and the ignorance barnacles one accretes from possessing a Localized Consciousness. Ignorance barnacles occur from being exposed to the idiocy of young souls trying to make their way on Earth. It is an admitted flaw whereby AP Souls are stuck in classrooms with Short Bus Souls who do nothing but shoot spitballs everywhere. We admit, it is a diabolical system. However, in your new state (far, far from Iowa) you are now free to roam about the Cosmos. But without a GPS or Moral Compass you might get into trouble so you’re actively encouraged to check into the Flatline Hotel for a symposium: What to Expect When You’re an Ex. Preregistration is not required because there’s always room for the disembodied.
At this transition point, death is through with you and you’re someplace else without a road map and zero bars on your cell phone (which is in Cemetery Mode allowing you to only receive flower emojis). You will be unclothed and will have available only one substance to both eat and drink – it’s called ambrosia and it’s always delicious (and no, you can’t have it “on the side”). The Flatline Hotel is all one class. The staff doesn’t care how “handsome or savvy or Caucasian” you were while on Earth. It’s the level playing field you always wanted everyone else to play on and now it applies to you.
- Can you give us an idea of what it’s like in the Afterworlds?
In the Afterworlds you’ll find everything the same; only different. This is especially true when it comes to sidewalks and cocktails. For example all sidewalks in the Afterworlds are moving sidewalks, and once you step aboard you’re immediately transported to a deeply emotional place – they’re very moving sidewalks. Similarly the cocktails in heaven are all complimentary cocktails. Before you can even put the drink to your lips they start in with their, “Looking good today Mr. H,” or “Have you lost weight?” They’re very complimentary cocktails.
- Will I meet my loved ones?
There’s an expectation that the recently dead will be met by a greeting party of pre-deceased family members welcoming them into a plain ♫where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day♫. In most cases this gauzy reunion never happens because it presupposes that deceased family members have nothing better to do than just wait around for you to die and make your appearance. You’re loved, but you’re not that important. The wheels of the universe don’t stop turning just because “Caitlyn” is no longer an Earthling. Loved ones will be getting on with their lives (actually their deaths). Why should they wait and then appear just as you remembered them? This is your doing not theirs.
- Does my behavior on Earth and the thoughts I secretly harbored count against me?
You betcha’. Of course the beauty part is, they also count for you.
- What will I be breathing?
I wouldn’t really concern yourself with these kinds of questions. On Earth you never think about what you’re breathing so why worry about it in the afterlife. Let’s put it this way: You won’t have lungs. Things are less separated in the Afterworlds and the need for specialized organs is minimal. Get it? You’re getting closer to the singularity of God and things are beginning to unify.
- Where will I go?
A good question of vital distinction. The dearly departed do not necessarily go to one place. It’s a Multi-verse, not a Uni-verse. And souls migrate to the level they have an affinity for, based on how self-aware and flexible they were in their beliefs. For example, if you cling to a rigid model of “How it is” or “How you need it to be” that narrow model will more or less manifest. Conversely if you’re a soul who wears his circumstance lightly and whose attachments are more evolved, you are more likely to migrate to worlds of higher vibration and greater purity.
To recap: the low-slung, primitive souls who illegitimately used handicapped parking spots (we know there are too many, but still) will find themselves conducted to the Life’s Lessons plane; aka Juvy Hall. Self-aware souls who donated to NPR or the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and can laugh at the Cosmic Joke while fully participating in life, become liberated of all that held them back and bask in the sunshine of God’s love without the need for sun block.
- Does intellectual capacity or clarity of mind count for anything? I mean I seem to understand a lot, but it doesn’t provide any relief or permanent elevation of consciousness.
Again, another great question and comment. Whoever wrote this question please see us about future employment. AfterLife Industries® offers portable pension and health plans that stay with you through all your reincarnations – our benefits follow the soul and not the body.
Now in answer to your question – No. That stuff doesn’t count. It’s just the raiment the body armors itself with to operate on Earth. Its development is Earth-centric and bears no relationship to the Afterworlds. When the body goes, certain proclivities follow your soul, but you definitely lose your mind – and we mean that in the best way possible. Who wants to lug a trunk of memories through the Cosmos? It would hold you back. This is the same reason you’re unaware of your past lives in your current incarnation. Your fascination with them would militate against the lesson plan for your present life.
- Why can’t I just be with God now and dispense with the laborious process of reincarnation, karma and all this me-ness?
OK enough questions. We’re a contracting company not a Spiritual Advisory Board. Those questions are above our pay grade, however many of our graduates report merging with the One in indescribable ways. We know this because the few that have returned can’t describe it. They just smile and say, “I feel so sorry for you.”
The management at AfterLife Industries® want to assure spectral entities of all shapes and sizes that dying is a completely safe and natural part of the Master Plan. To the degree you identify yourself with the Master Plan and not your individuality, determines your success in the Afterworld. And finally, one more thing. When you get to the threshold, the password really is Swordfish.
Even I’ve Stopped Reading at This Point – and I’m the Author
I may have stopped reading, but I haven’t stopped writing.
When I pass on, I can’t imagine loitering at the entrance to heaven like a Wal*Mart greeter congratulating friends and relatives on their entry into Sam Walton’s Kingdom. When you pass on you’re not going to put your afterlife on hold just so you can say “hi” to Fido or your college roommate when he dies 20 years later? I believe these gauzy notions of reunifications with loved ones is promoted more to soothe the living than to edify the dead. Either way I would take these superficial speculations from a handsome, savvy Caucasian with a grain of salt.
And I don’t want to sound smug or hostile. I want to sound clear-eyed about a topic that couldn’t be any murkier. I’ll grant you that in addressing death all I can do is cause you to reevaluate any preconceived notions you may have about crossing over. I’m neither experienced enough, nor do I have the literary tools to describe in real concrete terms what penetration into the other side is like. I’ll analogize it by citing the difference between jumping into a pool (something we’re all familiar with) and trying to describe jumping into a pool: the contraction of skin, the bracing sensation of being immersed in coolness and the all-enveloping wetness and pressure of plunging your entire body beneath the surface. I mean it sounds realistic enough, but written descriptions can’t match the frigid intensity of having your testicles ascend into your abdominal cavity when the icy water invades your sac.
Similarly my ardent attempt to convey a post-partum environment fails significantly. I mean how can I describe the multi-dimensional factors of the immediate posthumous experience when I can’t even convey what it’s like to jump into a pool of refreshing water – and we know what wet and chilly means. Death is another matter – we don’t know what “tunnel of light” or “rapturous love” means. Since we can’t define our terms precisely we can only approximate a description of something that’s already fearfully murky. I hope I’ve made myself clear.
Pretend This is the First Time You’ve Heard This Question:
Where do you go when you die? Death shouldn’t just be a faithless plunge into oblivion; or even a faithful one. I’m sure established protocols are followed once a soul is released from its former body. You read about these NDEs (Near Death Experiences) where souls travel through a tunnel of light into a world of rapturous love that dissolves all anxiety. From this privileged vantage point some have been able to hear the albums the Beatles would’ve released if they stayed together: Canterbury Vortex, Live from Antarctica and Future Nostalgia.
We need to be aware of the mechanics of the Afterworld so we can operate with the same kind of long-range planning and careful consideration we practice here on earth in preparing for our dotage. It’s a fine point I’m trying to make. I know we all consider what will happen when we die, but there’s an undeniable practical side to it that is mostly brushed aside and tossed into the laps of the gods. I abandoning an Afterworld strategy is blithely irresponsible and I’m going to play the bullsh*t card on that one. We need to send in a Navy Seal Team or institute a cabinet level position called the Department of Death and Human Services that explores the mystery of the Afterworld so, in time, the entire process of dying is reduced to, “Oh that boring thing.”
Geriatric Dreaming, on Such a Winter’s Day
Growing old is nothing more than managed decay. Entire industries support the aging process by ensuring our elders have enough money in retirement to make it worthwhile for other industries to slowly drain it away.
Most of us attempt to feather our beds for old age. It makes perfect sense. We act logically and prepare for our infirmities. And while we’re preparing for aging, we avoid preparing for death and we certainly don’t prepare for an afterlife. What is it we don’t like about death? Probably the hours.
Well, what are we supposed to do when we die? Or, if we’re not proactive, what is to be done to us? Many try to sneak back to their funeral to see who actually shed a tear. Others regard their misspent youth and unspent adulthood with great regret – “Why did I cling so much and why weren’t their more alternatives to operating in Safe Mode?”
And while death has proven itself to be a grave situation, the dead don’t seem to mind the forced eviction from a body they called home for many years. They’ve never returned to complain about it, leading me to believe there’s a great liberating release to be found in executing this natural and ineluctable act. Dropping the body has been compared to the relief one feels after taking off a really tight shoe – quite a feat when you think about it.