A Writer’s View on Death and Dying

In my lifetime, I have experienced many friends’ deaths.  First through the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s, and later, as my friends and acquaintances aged, or experienced life-altering events that they perhaps could not deal with, taking their own lives, the number of deaths I’m somehow connected to ranges well into triple digits.  Those deaths that came early in my own life were difficult to understand. I’ve had friends die in my arms from mortal injuries, or from drug overdoses.  Friends have died in climbing accidents, car accidents, gunshot wounds…the list goes on. For a kid who had religion forced upon him from an early age, I was confused and conflicted about the true nature of death and dying.

I’m not religious, and have never been a believer in any sort of deity, after spending more than twenty years exploring every religion known to man and doing my own research, coming to my own conclusions.  My explorations were based on the seemingly contradictory edicts that the Christian holy book provided.  When attempting to decide what my personal views on death were, I tried first using religion to put it into perspective.  But there was (and is) something wrong with the system.  How can organisms coming from a natural world be transmutated into angels, gods and demons?  Nothing in our universe even remotely suggests that we are the result of “intelligent design.”

This information forced me to reexamine all that I knew and compare it with the information that I learned every day.  I couldn’t reconcile all these seemingly senseless deaths with anything any of the religions taught.  But looking at the world around me, I began to suspect there was a pattern I had overlooked.  I suspected that death, like life, was a wholly organic function of the earth.  Trying to force definitions into vague parables from a book written eons ago made little sense to me, and so I began to look more closely.

It’s been a number of years since death has touched my life.

Until today.

Around two a.m., my elderly black Lab woke me up by climbing into bed, her breathing labored.  I had expected this for weeks, as she had been struggling with various health issues that were untreatable, and related to her advanced age.  As she lay beside me, I stroked her familiar fur and urged her to let go.  Not much time passed before she drew her final breath.

I raised my pup from her litter, and we’ve been amazing companions for nearly thirteen years.  Her death leaves a hole that extends into my future days.  But it was also a relief.  Her quality of life had dropped off to the point where it was almost painful for me to watch her struggle.  Immediately upon her passing, she came to me in a dream.  Not as the elder dog of our household, but as the vibrant, younger personality that I’d come to know and love.  She approached in a very dignified manner, laying a fresh and new tennis ball at my feet.  The dream woke me up, as intuitively I knew it meant she’d transitioned from life to physical death.  All the teachings of my childhood tried to rear its head within me.  I thought I *should* feel sad, or depressed, or some other emotion that, truthfully, I just wasn’t feeling.

I sat with her body for awhile, letting my thoughts float out into the ether.  I had no idea whether she could sense me talking to her in that way, because I have not come up with definitive answers as to what happens to our spirit energy when our bodies stop functioning.  My rational mind tells me that there’s a middle ground between what religion preaches and what atheists claim to believe.  A kind of “some from column A, some from column B” situation.

We are all made of energy.  Where does that energy manifest?  From the Big Bang?  From some other source?  I believe that our existence comes from a confluence of sources.  Organisms from regions beyond our atmosphere,  bacteria and other basic functioning energies from the planet, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of other sources.  So when our bodies — an organism — dies, it reverts back to its most base energy.  Bacteria deconstructs cells.  Insects further work to tear down the host organism.  The identity that we held in that body is gone.  As is our awareness of that identity.  Like electricity that traverses the air, like unseen radio and micro waves that bombard us in every waking moment, I believe our spirit — that which provided us with our identity — transforms into another type of energy.  Electricity does not carry the knowledge of its existence, or its role.  It’s merely a conduit for information.  Same with radio waves, microwaves, and other unseeable forces in our universe.

Like water’s ability to be liquid, solid, and gas, our spirit extends beyond the body that held it captive.  We humans have not determined exactly how that happens, or what it looks like, but this explanation would go a long way toward finding answers about supernatural and paranormal activity that we are able to capture under certain conditions.  Not a magical transformation implemented by some invisible man in a place called “heaven,” but a truly organic transformation that has not yet been defined.  This transition transcends our perception of time, space, and energy.  I believe it’s a mundane function of the universe, and it’s our human minds that find a need to place mystical or godlike properties onto the process.  To minimize it so we might be better to understand it.  “Dumb it down,” as it were.

For several years, I considered myself atheist, even though that system discounts and possibility that spiritual existence is possible, and probably happens everywhere.  Not bible spirituality…a series of stories concocted and imagined by the puny human mind…but a sort of master story in which all processes and functions are possible, regardless of our ability to comprehend it.  A program I viewed recently said this about skeptics:

“I don’t try to convince skeptics that what I am doing, or what I do — converse with spirit energy — is real.  Skepticism is a form of pre-conceived doubt in which it’s nearly impossible to sway its practitioner from his own biases.  Basically it’s, “I don’t believe, and I will never believe” sort of mindset that closes off so many avenues of opportunity.   My philosophy is “never say never.”  Because in five, or ten, or one hundred years, we’ll have completely different information to go on, and it might fly in the face of every skeptic’s insistence that spirit energy does not exist.”  

With all the personal research I’ve performed, I can’t see slamming the doors of perception on the potential that what we know right now, in this moment, is going to be the same as what we’ll know tomorrow.  I have experienced seemingly unexplainable events, rely heavily on intuition for making choices and decisions, and still cannot provide an accurate answer as to where that energy or thought process comes from.  I can only guess.  For now.  Or until I have better information.  In the meantime, I have removed the blinders of skeptical thought and have made as my mantra: “I believe in the complexity of possibilities that this universe has to offer.”