On the phone with my Dad last night, I asked him where he thought Mom was (she passed away 2 weeks ago). If I had been a kid, maybe he just would have said “in heaven” and left it at that.
His first answer was that at least part of her is in the cemetery. “Her hair is there,” he reminded me. That was a powerful image.
But what about her life, her vitality, her kinetic energy? We miss that more than we miss her hair, after all.
He and I concluded that she lives on in the people who knew her, in our memories and any actions that her life and death inspired.
That’s all true, but there’s more to it than that. Yes, the body goes back to the earth, and yes, the memories live on in the rest of us. Also, there is an eternal soul that lives on. That’s the part that’s in heaven.
As we get older, things change. I read somewhere that with the way cells regenerate, we literally have new skin and bones every few months. Even with that constant growth and change, there is a part of us that never changes. I am the exact same person I was at age 4 even though I’m 3 feet taller, smarter, and look completely different than I did then. Some people call that unchanged aspect of a person the soul.
If the soul stays the same from birth to death, I conclude that it was the same the day before birth, going all the way back to conception. Well, what about a week before conception? I think it existed “in heaven” waiting to inhabit the body and life of it’s choosing. After death, this soul leaves the body, but doesn’t really change. My mother was afraid to ever learn to swim in this lifetime. She had nightmares about drowning–knew it was irrational, but just never decided to overcome it. She’s now in a place where she doesn’t have to worry about drowning in a body of water, but that essential fear is still with her, and it will stay with her until she decides to put herself in a situation to conquer it. That’s why suicide doesn’t solve anything–the same insecurities a person is running away from stay with them as part of who they are until there’s some sort of spiritual evolution in this life or the next.
My father said he thought he saw her shadow in her office recently. This doesn’t surprise me. She worked there everyday for over 25 years and had it decorated to her specifications, so naturally her presence is very strong down there. Also, my father has always had very strong intuition (his mother won the lottery several times in her life). If anyone could see a ghost and not feel scared, it’s him.
So, dead people are in the ground, in our hearts, in heaven, and hanging out at their old haunts. Who says death is complicated?