What’s going to happen when I die? Will I become crispy like fallen leaves and dissolve into ash? Will I droop as the frost bitten flowers of yesterday’s spring? Will my soul transcend into a nether realm of eternal light? Or is the “soul” nothing more than a connection of synaptic flashes in the brain that dim under a gray winter sky?
For centuries prophets, gurus, talk show hosts, and phone mediums with fake Jamaican accents have investigated the question of death. Perhaps there isn’t one answer, but many. Egyptians have their hearts weighed by a talking alligator and Mormons inherit their own planet – I call dibs on Saturn. Would Mormon Jesus let me do that? And if he did, would I automatically have dibs on Saturn’s moons as well? Maybe I’ll convert and start my own real-estate business in the afterlife. Or maybe we’re already dead, and Adam and Eve were the Mormon souls who inherited the Earth.
I hope not. What a disappointment.
Does each animal have their own heaven too, or is heaven a human only zone? I hope for the former.
Heaven is a celestial zoo for all life-forms. There is eukaryotic heaven, prostista heaven, fungus heaven, an ethereal realm for all – except bed bugs of course; bed bugs burn in hell.
Cows roam eternal pastures of lime green grass; cats retire to the land of yarn; and goldfish swim the Elysian bowls of porcelain ivory – the clearest, bluest waters that a toilet can offer.
What happens though, if the bureaucratic process of heaven selection gets mixed up? The angelic clerks who preside over this process are privy to a mistake every now and then. Why do you think the platypus exists? God can make mistakes, okay?
What if I die, and I am accidently teleported to Lady Bug heaven, and I’m doomed to lick aphids off of leaves for an eternity. Or maybe I’m reborn as a shoe in a closet that breaches three different time zones. How I became a part of Mariah Carey’s heaven? Don’t ask me.
When I was six years old I became obsessed with the question of death. My parents weren’t particularly religious – so I was never given a finite answer about the process.
I had religious neighbors who tried to fill in that spiritual void. They were the kind of Christians who said “God Bless” on their answering machine and they wouldn’t let their daughter, Rebeccca, watch 90 out of a 100 television channels because that 90% was “satanic.”
On Sundays they took me to church, which my secular parents didn’t mind, because it was a form of free babysitting. I didn’t mind because Rebecca and I got to make glitter Jesus t-shirts.
“Only believers go to heaven,” Rebecca’s mom told me.
“What if the person is a baby, and doesn’t know about Jesus?”
She explained that all the unbaptized babies went to purgatory along with pre-Christian pagans who never had the opportunity to hear the Good Word. I conjured in my mind an image of people like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra – surrounded by a sea of screaming poopy babies.
My Catholic grandmother had a different story. According to her Jesus died for our sins, so everyone had a ticket to heaven.
“Can my pets come to heaven too?”
“Heaven is a paradise where you can have whatever you want, right?”
“Therefore, if you want your pets, they’ll be there.”
My father’s story was less optimistic.
“Heaven doesn’t exist,” he said flatly. “But maybe there’s reincarnation?”
With all these conflicting opinions, I realized that I would have to find my own solution. The solution came to me in a dream. Death washed over me not as a bitter winter wind, but as a warm, amber ocean wave. I woke up on a beach of toasty sand. The angel of death stood above me, and pulled me up with her white arms. She had choppy, mosaic features like an image shining through a stained glass window. We were on the other side of the horizon, she informed me.
She took me to the beach shore, which was populated by empty Condominiums. There was no furniture, carpeting, insulation, books, supplies, or anything in these units; only hard floors of concrete and missing walls. Yet the people who lived here were blissful, content.
Death is the greatest happiness. It is peace without material supplication; Liberation from the needs of existence; a departure from Samsara – the Hindu wheel of continued existence and pain.
Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor Iron bars a cage
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free
Angels alone that soar above
Enjoy such liberty
~ Richard Lovelace 1618-1657