When I was young, maybe in 4th grade, I had my first experience with someone dying. Down the street, in our middle class neighborhood, there was a young boy named Kyle, a stud, who excelled at racing BMX bikes. In fact, this young man was so good and rising so fast, he had sponsors and he traveled the country racing bikes and winning trophies. One can imagine the “whoa” factor on the faces of the neighborhood kids. In the parlance of the day, he was as “rad” and “trick” as one could be.
During one cross country event, the car Kyle was riding in tried to beat a train across the tracks and did not win. Kyle, along with others, was traumatically killed. A day later the news reached me and I remember not really knowing how to respond, how I felt. I was confused, I didn’t understand, I had a lot of questions that would, even to this day, remain unanswered.
While a senior in high school, another friend, Brent, was electrocuted and died. I was sleeping on the couch and the phone rang. This was back in the days when you had to get up off your ass to answer the phone. “Hello.” “Kelly, this is Jennifer, Brent’s sister.” “Yes?” “Brent died today…”
A few others died in high school, a few more after high school.
Then I joined the fire department and saw more than my fair share of dead people, dying in a host of ways.
I’ve studied a lot of religions and as of yet, I don’t have a satisfactory answer on what happens when we die and where one goes, what happens. I wish I did.
This is on my mind today because my grandmother, mentioned in a previous post, did die and her burial ceremony was today. The funeral is in California, so I am not there. Perhaps in spirit I am there, but not in the flesh.
It sounds sweet and nice to say that our deceased ones are in heaven with their family and friends, and this may be true, but I guess I am still just a little 4th grade kid learning about his first death and I am confused, I don’t get it.
Where did I come from, what am I doing here, and where am I going when I die? These three questions have exhausted philosophers from day one, and I feel their pain, as these questions exhaust me too. Especially on days like today where death is so manifest, standing like a beast before me.
All of this waxing, and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have an answer for what happens after death. I notice in myself that over the years I have quit worrying about it.
I am going to try to live a good life. I want to walk dogs, teach students, read, learn, drink craft beer, eat artisan bread, hike, snow ski, travel, hug family and friends, cook, eat good meals, meditate, listen to music, write, blog, observe, drink coffee, and help others.
I am going to be true to this internal vine within me and… let things be what they will be upon my death. I love life, I really do. Life makes me happy and I enjoy it. I don’t want to die, but I know that I must one day. Thankfully, I have learned courage over the years and I would like to think that I could approach death courageously. One never knows, but it is my hope.
As I reflect on my grandmother’s funeral today, I do pray that her soul is at peace, that she is surrounded by love, family, and friends. I hope this for her and send these loving wishes her way. May she finally and infinitely be at peace.
Namaste, Grandma. You did well.