When The End Isn't...

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.

---It's The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) by R.E.M.

I can remember, as a child, having a strong aversion to even the thought of death.  I recall lying in the yard at night sometimes and looking toward a sky full of stars and fearing what lay beyond those twinkling lights.  I think of it now, and I believe that the fear came from a combination of my not understanding what death was (we humans do tend to fear things & people we do not know) and my dissatsifaction and unhappiness with my life at that time (to my young mind, if death was worse than the painful existence that was my life, then death was going to be simply terriying).  I have had my mother tell me more than a few times that, of her five kids, I (the oldest) was the one who gave her the least trouble & heartache.  I can't help but wonder if what she said were true at least partly because I was not much of a risk-taker as a child (not entirely due to my fear of death; it was not an all-consuming thought I carried around, but it was one of those things that popped up in my mind from time to time).

It was not until I started attending church that I began to understand not just the meaning of life, but also the meaning of death.  I have had a long & ugly history with Religion, but that is not what this post is about.  Not all I learned or experienced as a Southern Baptist was hurtful and heart-breaking.  I learned about an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving God who created a home for the eternal part of me (my soul) once this part of my journey was done.  As a child, it gave me great comfort to know that; to understand that when the shell which holds my spirit has been spent, there is more yet to experience & more yet to know.  I began to understand that what I am right now is neither what I have always been, nor what I will always be.  Even now, as my ongoing battle with the Religion peddlers of the world continues, I know that this life--this earthly plain on which we currently exist--is neither the beginning nor the end of anything; it is part of an eternal continuum.  There is always another chapter in the Book of Life.

Though the beginning of my spiritual journey began with the Southern Baptists, it has grown into something much more than can be described by such a simple, limiting title, but the idea of a world that awaits us all after we are done here is still the bedrock foundation of my own personal, title-less faith.  I have been told many, many times by my former family of faith that what lies beyond this life for one such as me is "only" eternal damnation, and that unless I change my ways, the world to come--for me--will be an eternity filled with the stench of burning flesh, and an agony mulitple millions of times worse than anything I have ever experiened here.  Fortunately, I know now that these folks are imperfect humans like me, and as incapable of predicting my fate after this life, as they are at determining the winning lottery numbers.  Once I got that--once it finally hit me that simply because someone who never allows a "sinful" free thought or a blasphemous doubt to ever cross their minds, or to tarnish thier golden dogma--just because "they" say it, does not makes it so, I was finally unburdened of my fear of death, and my fear of what comes next.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't welcome death...I'm quite attached to my life after 47+ years, and while---like most of us--I hate the thought of the possible physical pain of dying, I no longer fear what awaits me "over there".  I have peace about that now.

I had recently seen a documentary titled, The Day I Died, about people who believed they had experienced a taste of life "on the other side" after a near-fatal incident (obviously, right? :-).  They all spoke of how peaceful & how different & how deeply loved they were once they experienced life outside their earthly bodies.  One of the women, who was undergoing brain surgery to repair a problem near the base of her brain, which is apparently very difficult for doctors to reach--so difficult, as a matter of fact, that the doctors had to impose a sort of clinically-induced death in her to do what they needed to save her.  While she was technically dead, the woman said she had met one of her uncles who had died quite young, and who was like a guide to her during the time she was dead.  It ultimately was he who guided her back to her earthly body, when it came time for her to take her place again in the temporal realm.  She explained how she didn't want to go back considering what she had just experienced in her time with her uncle & considering what her body looked like laid out on the operating table with the top of her skull removed.  She said that her uncle kept trying to get her to go back because her life here wasn't done, and he told her that her children needed her.  She said that she kept insisting that she didn't want to come back, so her uncle gently pushed her back into her body.  In the interview, sometime after the surgery of course, she said she had forgiven her uncle for the shove.

At the end of the documentary, she said "death" as most of us know it, is a "nasty...lie" (her words), and every single person who shared their story all basically said the same thing: they do not fear death, and they know that--in the aforementioned continuum of life--the end isn't always THE end.

Now that I have grown (in many ways), and have come to understand a little more about what used to carry such fear and darkness for me as a child, that thought brings me great comfort.
MisterC MisterC
46-50, M
2 Responses Jul 25, 2010

Oh my. This was absolutely a pleasure to read. Your experience sounds similar to mine. Although I am only 27, and was brought up in a Catholic home, I too have struggled with the question of what happens next. I agree entirely with what you believe.

Thank you for you kind words & encouragement, sunshine!<br />
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You know the old saying, "If I knew then what I know now..."? That's how I feel about my faith. It really could have saved me a lot of heartache & pain. I try, though, to not spend my life regretting the past; it can be a full-time job! Besides, I don't want my life to be about my past, I want it to be about what I can make of my future.<br />
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The biggest lesson, though, I learned in my battle with Religion is that, in spiritual matters, I should place my faith in my own heart & in my Maker, and not in those who claim to speak inerrantly for Him. That idea sounds like common sense, I know, but I trusted my former "family of faith" because they were the ones who first taught me, as a child, that there was a God. I was too naive back then--too much in need of some "Good News"--to ever doubt anything they told me. It took a world of disappointment & hurt & many years of my life to finally "see the light". Now that I do, I want to live in that light of truth, and I want others, too, who believe they have no reason to hope, to know that--no matter their faith or lack thereof--there is life in the light for them, too--not just here on Earth, but in the world to come. :-)