I am not a good sleeper. I know that I was not, even as a child. I hate naps and resent that I get tired and must sleep. There is just too much good stuff going on in life to waste time sleeping. My children however, have always been able to cast a spell on me. They learned early that holding a book in their hands as they crawled into bed or asking me to “just get beneath the covers” and sing one verse of Summertime would weaken me and I’d nuzzle into their sweet necks and be seduced by a sweet blanket of sleep. I’ve taken to saying, “Oh, so this is what heaven feels like” as I drift off. My nine year old, Elias, has adopted the saying. It seems that it serves as a good catch phrase for everything from beating the final level of a video game to savoring a bowl of Hagen Daz, Vanilla Bean ice cream. I imagine that line will come in handy with the “ladies” one day.
If you know me or have read my stuff before you know that I think about the afterlife a lot. I am not a religious person but I tend to think that the “human spirit” or animal spirit for that matter is far too powerful to simply stop when life ends. I am inclined to think that when we take our last breath we pass onto a sort of holding area to rest up and recharge for our next journey to learn the lessons that we didn’t learn from the last life. We move into the next chapter. My philosophy is that life is the ultimate recycling program that offers us the opportunity to reinvent ourselves until we get it right.
Although I don’t claim to have it all figured out, I hypothesize about that light that people report walking into. I imagine that the people that we have loved are there to greet us. I think about the people that I want to see again, like my Dad. I want to tell him that sometimes I hear his words when I write. I want to see my sister in law Patty and just bask in the warmth of that beautiful smile. I want to remind my mother-in- law that we still have a deal for the next life. I want to tell my friend Don how sorry I am that I didn’t recognize his agony before he extinguished his own beautiful light. I don’t fear death when I think of it in those terms.
I want to believe that that light holds the answer to the things I don’t understand. I expect that we will learn that every element of life, each animal, each insect, each microorganism has a function in the balance of what is really a perfect world. Like the arteries and veins that carry oxygenated blood from our hearts, I think that we will learn that our lakes and streams carry the vital blood that nourishes our earth. I think that we will find that like our bodies which react poorly to excessiveness, our earth too suffers as a result of abuse and neglect.
I think that the “light” will offer us the ability to understand the people that have confounded us. It will help us to understand what lies beneath the grumpiness of the neighbor who looks at us and scowls. It might help us to decipher the thinking behind violence committed in the name of religion. It might give us a real peek into the frailty of a mind that snaps and kills innocents. It will offer us true empathy.
Recently my childhood friend lost her father to a long battle with cancer. She told me that in the last moments of his life, her father, a devoted democrat, said “I am wearing Bobby Jindal’s jacket”. She told me jokingly, that she feared he was going over to the “dark side”. I’d like to think that it meant that it that he entered into the “knowing” and that he found underneath all of our garments we are souls on a journey to have experiences, to see one another more clearly and to “get it right”. In my mind I can see my friend’s dad as he looked the last time I saw him. He is young and healthy and he is wearing Bobby Jindal’s jacket and it’s a black leather motorcycle jacket.
Javetta Steele Over the Rainbow