Writing “Stories About Death” recently got me thinking about my own personal story. What do I think, have faith in, about what will happen to me when I die?
“Think” is of the mind, “have faith in” is of the heart. I do not believe that the mind can help us much with such a question. It is a poor tool for relating to the infinite.
What does my heart tell me?
I do not fear dying, although I have some trepidation about what might lead up to it.
I feel quite sure my spirit will not die with my body, that I will go on in some way.
I cannot credit the concept of hell, an eternal inferno torturing the lost forever. In all my years of searching, praying, meditation, what I have learned with certainty—if anything can be certain—it is that God is Love.
Being burned is excruciating pain. If we are burned in our human bodies, we either recover or we die. One way or the other, it is over. That the Love I know as God could inflict that level of pain on any of Its creatures for eternity is unthinkable to me. Such a concept can only be the projection onto God of the worst of human perversity, a tool used by earthly authorities to control through fear.
There is hell enough on Earth. Daniel, the minister in my novel The Purest Gold, realizes at last, after almost destroying his family over his concerns about salvation, that hell is being cut off from God and that it is not God but we ourselves that create such separation. The minister in the novel Gillead, says, “If you want to inform yourself as to the nature of hell, don’t hold your hand in the candle flame. Just ponder the meanest, most desolate place in your soul.”
In spite of my regrets about the many failings in my life, I do not fear going to hell when I die. I’ve already been there, and Love has lifted me out.
Some years ago, I had a recurring image in meditation of a ocean of Light, ecstasy that made me weep, color, flow, music of the spheres, a limitless sea, and I a bubble within it. What greater heaven could there be than bursting and becoming One with such beauty?
But perhaps I am not ready. Reincarnation seems a likely hypothesis for me. I have had what seemed to be memories of other lifetimes, strong and clear, echoing within me in a way that felt that they must be true. My almost-finished novel, The Purest Gold, is based on such a memory. And off and on throughout my life I have met strangers that I felt I knew, knew really well, though I had never encountered them before in this lifetime.
Who knows? I have a vivid imagination. After all, I’m a novelist. I could have made it up. But it doesn’t feel that way.
I like the idea of reincarnation because now that I’m old, I’m finally figuring out so much that I wish I had known earlier when I was a young wife, a young mother, and later, when I was an impatient, busy, middle-aged woman caring for my mother. I have hope all this learning might bear fruit, that I might have another chance, that in some way I can carry the hard-won wisdom of this lifetime forward, that little by little I may become a clearer channel.
The only sad part of the reincarnation story is that it may take me many lifetimes. Perhaps it will take a long time before the walls of my bubble become thin enough to burst and free me into the ocean of light.
But I trust. I have faith that the Love, the Light, that continuously creates, enfolds, and enlivens me and all creation, will hold me still when my body dies.
As I washed the dishes this evening, I found myself humming a chant we used to sing in the sweat lodge—
“We all come from One,
And unto One we shall return,
Like a ray of light
Returning to the sun,
Like a stream flowing back,
To the ocean.”