A few years ago, my wife, Jamie Donnelly, she of the double-wide smile and wide-river heart, sat beside the sickbed of a friend for a week as her friend gradually passed away. Transitioned. Jamie told me how they prayed and, when her friend’s strength allowed, sometimes even sang together each day until, finally, no more days, no more songs, no more no more. I listened carefully as Jamie related all this, respectfully, because Jamie truly believes in ways that I do not, ways that give her comfort but, having tried, give me very little. I don’t have what she calls Faith. Nonetheless, I am not awash in existential despair, am not adrift and despondent, am, actually, in a pretty good mood these days. Most of ‘em, anyway. Am I really in a universe without meaning? What’s meaning? And who cares?
“Jamie,” I said, after she’d finished relating her week, “When my time comes, forget the prayers, the singing, the holding hands, tears, all the Planet “O” stuff. Just bring me a bucket of fried chicken.”
Of course, as I grow older than I ever anticipated, I do think about these things a lot, even have an exit plan should anything truly dour present. Yet, even with an exit plan it’s hard to conceive that everything absolutely positively forever comes to a full-on, screeching halt. But, it does. Transition? To what? I do not wonder about an afterlife unless physics has something in store for me I probably won’t ever even know about, anyway. Here’s something I wish I’d said, but William James beat me to it.
“We may be in the universe as dogs and cats are in our libraries, seeing the books and hearing the conversations, but having no inkling of the meaning of it all.”
True dat. I have no inkling because I believe there is no inkling other than what I bring to it, in other words, an inkling of my own of which, although I would never rule one out, I now have none.
Do I have unanswered questions? You know the ones: “Why did I?” “What happened when?” “What would have happened if…?” “Why didn’t I?” Suppose I had?” “If she had?” “If he had?” You see, my questions all seem to pertain to choices I made here on earth. I’m not about to say never ask a question when one already knows there is no answer because there’s always an answer out there somewhere…except…I have no answer to this one other than the physical stages of what will happen to me after I die, a biological and chemical process that will begin immediately after my body’s official check-out. Metamorphose? Into what? Transition? To where? The implication being something beyond the state of my body’s inevitable degradation into dust. It ain’t a pretty picture but it’s all the picture there is. For me. So how does a “me” find comfort? Then, again, do I need comfort? And why?