Thursday, June 5, 2008


A blog reader asked, "You mentioned in this post that you're counting on there being no afterlife. Given that, do you ever find yourself envisioning yourself in an 'afterlife' (such as heaven), especially as it relates to your children (i.e., 'watching' over them)?"

This blog is a written record of my thoughts that I'm leaving behind for my children. I'd like to be able to tell them that their mother will indeed be somewhere out there, watching over them for all eternity. But I'd be lying. It's not so much that I don't believe there's an afterlife; I just feel better believing that there isn't.

Most people are reassured by the idea of an afterlife. I find it unnerving. I don't want there to be an afterlife for two reasons:

1) It's the "undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns". Nobody knows for sure what's out there. It could be heaven, it could be hell. It could be somebody else's idea of heaven but my idea of hell. The fact is, we just don't know. In the absence of definite knowledge of what's lying in wait for me in the afterlife, I'd rather there weren't an afterlife at all.

2) I find the idea of eternity boring and scary. I can't think of anything I'd like to do or be for eternity. Life is precious because it's finite. Love is sweet because it's elusive. Happiness is prized because it's not guaranteed. Take away the limits that put life and its pleasures into focus, and you end up with everything you ever wanted and nothing to live for. What kind of existence, on Earth or elsewhere, is that?

But I'd like my children to feel that I'm around for them, even after I'm dead. And I will be. Not from heaven or from some afterlife, whatever form it takes. I'll be in their lives as long as their hearts and minds can hold me.

I've told them that if they ever miss me, they can look up at the night sky and see me as one of the stars. I've told them I'll always be in their hearts. These images might be good enough for them while they're young. But as they get older and can think beyond the metaphors, I hope they'll understand that I'll be with them, watching over them and loving them in the same way I am now when I'm not in their physical presence.


Anonymous said...

It's a tricky question. When Jerry asks questions about God and where we all come from, I'm conscious how woolly I sound by starting with "some people think..." and naturally he wants to know what "I" think. As time goes on, I'm not sure but I probably mirror your thoughts on the afterlife.

In terms of being a constant presence in their lives, I often say to my children that as I literally grew them in my "tummy" from my cells, we are utterly entwined and our blood is completely mixed so I'm in their blood and bodies forever, no matter what, whether they like it or not! (for any biologists out there, I do appreciate that technically our blood did not mix in vitro but I think I'm allowed some artistic license!).

So when either of them are feeling a bit scared at night or apprehensive about being somewhere without me I remind them that part of me is literally inside them, always.

Perhaps I labour the point but while they're young and in case anything happens to me, I want them to be aware of how fundamentally connected we are to each other on a physical level.

So even if there is another "mum" in your children's lives one day, it's your DNA that flows through your children and always will. Our children might be a bit young to understand what DNA is but they know what blood is and that's the bottom line, we are in each others blood.

There was a school bus accident here a few days ago and 7 children were killed. Along with your circumstances, this is another reminder that we don't know what's in store for us so without wishing to be morbid we all have to prepare in some ways for the worst to happen. That's not to say living in fear but just remembering not to sweat the small stuff and making the most of the good stuff while we can -as corny as it sounds.

I agree you can't live each day like it's your last and you can't part company with everyone on the basis that it might be the last time you see them when they pop to the shops, that would be unrealistic.

As you said in a previous blog, the most realistic would be to try to live with few regrets.

You posed a question for those of us who might have known you BC ie whether you've changed much.

I guess we never really had the need to talk about these soul searching issues before. Would you have conveyed the same wisdom then as you do now -I really don't know, maybe. Then again I think wisdom comes with experience and you're the one that sadly has the experience. So it's not that you've changed but you've had to adjust to your circumstances and experiences and ultimately, get wise.

Would your blog and thoughts on life, love and the afterlife be so compelling if you weren't in your predicament -chances are probably not!

It's not that cancer has made you more interesting but your experience and how you're handling it is captivating because you're challenging, honest, articulate and entertaining. That hasn't changed, cancer or no cancer!

A xx

stella said...

thanks for responding to my question shin. it's true, the after(life) is the land from which no one ever returns - the concept is very odd. appreciate your thoughts :)