So I wrote this because I’ve been thinking about death a lot. This isn’t new, or unusual, sort of goes with the territory when you have anxiety. But I was thinking of it, instead of with fear, with curiosity. I always question what comes next, as do most people I would imagine, but I wanted to look at it from every different possibility. From someone who doesn’t know what to believe, to someone who doesn’t believe, to someone who does, to someone who wants to. And then there’s just me. Caught in between. Unsure. And so, as I tell these fictional characters…look to the stars.
LOOK TO THE STARS
When dad got sick. I guess that’s when I really started to think about it. About what came next. After. You know? All of that spiritual stuff. I began to think about Heaven and its possibilities. I began to think of other religions and what they said about the afterlife. There was reincarnation, enlightenment, there was nothing. I needed to know the answer. But I guess the whole point is that you don’t get to know the answer. You’re left to wonder. To believe whatever it is you want to believe. The trouble is, I’m not sure. I like the idea of Heaven. Who wouldn’t? It’s a nice happy place full of happy people always smiling, calm; none of this worldly drama. Plus, it would mean that when my dad does go, I get to see him again. Someday. I don’t have to have this nauseous, deep down in my gut feeling of dread. Of life ending with this. But in all honesty, I don’t know what I believe.
What I really want, obviously, is for dad to never have gotten sick. But that’s the way cancer works. You’re fine one day and then you’re not the next. He was my perfect dad, full of flaws and love, and then he was in bed, barely able to move for all the pain that riddled his insides. Some moments I think we’re all ready, him too, for it to be over. Seeing him in this pain, knowing how much he’s hurting, I feel like I’m ready to say goodbye. But then other seconds, and it can be a fraction of a nano second after the enlightened one I just had, I realize I’m nowhere near ready to lose my protector. I never will be. Never can be. I don’t know how I’ll go on living without him. But I guess the point is, you learn. Eventually there is a new normal, and sadly, you do slowly start to forget.
I think it’s the forgetting that has me freaked out the most. I know it’s inevitable. In time everyone forgets even the most tragic of endings, even the most beautiful of lives. That’s just human nature, survival instinct. We have to go on living. But I don’t want to forget him. I never want to forget how great a dad he was. I always want him to be remembered because he deserves that. He deserves the world to know.
He doesn’t deserve this. But I guess that’s just it. No one ever does, do they?
I just got the news. Not five minutes ago. And for some reason, instead of crying, instead of throwing things, instead of punching every wall I come in contact with, I sat down and began to write this letter. I don’t know if it’s to her, or to me, or to no one. I just know I needed to write it.
She’s gone. You’re gone. The brightest star here on earth, now turned into nothing. Because that’s all it really is, isn’t it? Nothing. One second you are an animated, amazingly beautiful human being, and the next second there’s nothing but skin and bones.
I’ve never believed in an ever after. It always seemed too magical, like the stuff of fairy tales. It always seemed, at least in my life, to be the easy way out for too many people. Of course it would be beautiful to think that this life ends and another one begins, in some way, in some form. But I think that’s just wishful thinking. Something to keep the demons away at night. And if you think about it, and I have, nothing isn’t so bad. Going from all of this to nothing seems peaceful even if its whole point is that it can’t be peaceful because it isn’t anything. I guess that’s the part I don’t comprehend. Nothing. Nothing. You are nothing.
I wish I could believe in more for you Sarah. I wish I could believe for you that you are up there smiling down on me. Because my bones are beginning to ache with the thought that mere hours ago you were living and breathing and because of some drunk asshole and bad timing, you’re gone. How can you simply die from crossing the street at the exact wrong moment? How can you have been here and now you’re not? None of it makes sense.
So since you’re being gone is throwing me into a tailspin of thoughts I never thought possible, I’ll write what I do know. I do know I loved you. I love you. I do know you meant more to me than anyone or anything in this world, without compare. I do know we should have spent our lives together. And I do know this is absolutely not fair. I want to hold you again. I want to be near you again. I want none of this to be true.
Well, I guess this is a letter to you, Sarah, after all. I guess I needed to talk to you one more time. If I had known our time together would have been so short, I would have worked every second to make myself believe that you were in a better place. I would have made sure to believe in Heaven just so I was certain that you had a place to be happy now. I’m sorry I couldn’t do that for you, and I’m sorry I don’t know if you are anything now. I’m sorry. I love you and I’m sorry.
I guess I have to go deal with the reality of this thing instead of sitting here writing to my now dead fiancé. I guess I have to go take phone calls of condolences and go visit your family, see our friends. I guess all that real life stuff waits me. I guess I’m supposed to do all that stuff even knowing your soul no longer exists.
Forgive me Sarah, for being unable to believe for you. I need you to be here with me telling me that it’s okay, that you are watching over me, that all those who spoke of the perfect paradise up in the sky were right. That you’re there. That you’re happy. That you’re waiting for me.
Yesterday, I lost my grandmother. She was 89 years old and one hell of a woman. She lived a long, strong, enviable life. She fulfilled all her dreams. She went everywhere she hoped to go. She loved her kids. She loved her husband. Her whole life was filled with love. Of course there was heartache along the way. She lost her father early in life and it stuck with her forever. She was the last surviving member of her family, and near the end she was starting to feel quite alone.
Even before she got sick, I could see in her eyes that she was just about ready to say goodbye. She was ready to join my grandfather, to see all her family again, to finally visit those pearliest of gates.
So tomorrow we mourn her. But I don’t feel there is anything to mourn. I miss her, of course, but I know she did what she was meant to do, and not everyone can say that. And what’s more, I can say with complete certainty that our Lord is taking care of her up in Heaven right now. She is happy. She is at peace. She is completely taken care of and loved. I know I will meet her again one day, after I have fulfilled everything I need to in my life. And then I will join her and my grandfather, and anyone else I have met along the way.
I understand that death is sad. It is hard. It is a complete change to your life, to what you were used to. But it doesn’t need to always be sad. Sometimes we can rejoice. My grandmother has reached her final destination. And if we live our lives right, we too can reach paradise.
What more could you pray for?
Today I put my son in the ground. My son. My son. My son.
I want to put into words what that means, how that feels, but even for someone like me, who lives for the written word, I am at a loss.
He was a beautiful boy, an amazing spirit. He was all those clichéd things people say about those they love when they mourn. He was all of it. But he had his problems. He partied too hard. We always knew it and tried to help. But it’s just like everyone says. They have to want the help, and he wasn’t ready to deal with life on his own. He needed his crutches. We all do in some ways. And I don’t blame him for them. I just wish…..well, you know what I wish. I wish I could have saved my little boy.
As for what comes next? That I don’t know. I always wanted to have concrete beliefs, but I never could. I always just decided it was not something I was meant to understand and left it at that. So I don’t know where Michael has gone. I don’t know if he’s in a better place. I don’t know much of anything at all. Is he something? Or is he nothing? The idea of the end seems too much for my mind to handle right now so instead I’m going to believe the best I can that he’s somewhere. That his candle didn’t just burn out. For someone who’s never believed in anything, now’s the time when I need to more than ever.
I miss you Michael, and if you are somewhere, if you can hear me. If you are a ghost floating around or an angel in the sky, please know I don’t blame you for your demons. We all suffer and deal with the harsh realities of life in our own way. I will never blame you, I will only love you and miss you my boy.
I don’t know what to believe in. I guess I’m most like Candice, or maybe Diane. I want to believe, I’ve thought about it all, from every angle. But I don’t know where that leaves me. So here is what I’ve come up with. I can’t decide if there is a Heaven or not. I don’t know if we all become nothing. I don’t know if we wander the earth as ghosts. I just don’t know. So for me, for now. I’m just going to look to the stars.
I think that’s where our loved ones are. The stars can be your Angels or your ghosts. They can be your vast assurance of nothingness or they can be your hope that one day you will believe in something bigger than yourself.
There’s no certainty about anything, about what becomes of our so-called souls. Even those who believe with all their hearts that their afterlife is the right one, they don’t know. They can’t. Not really.
But the stars? The stars are right in front of you. The stars are there for you every single night, shining down for you to see. Each one shining bright as a reminder that this giant universe is more than just dirt and plants, more than just skin and bones. From the very first star to the very last, bask in their glow. So for me, I’m going to believe in the stars.