To kick things off, let’s assume you died. For argument’s sake, let’s further assume there is a Heaven (we’ll leave “you know where” alone for now). Most of us have heard stories of “near-death” experiences, known as NDEs. No matter who you talk to about an NDE, you’ll get differing accounts of what their experience was or wasn’t.
The interviews I remember reading or seeing on TV, most of them seemed to have the same story. The first thing they saw was a bright tunnel of light, followed by the usual cast of characters sent to greet the recently departed. Usually first on the list are long-deceased friends, relatives and depending on religious and cultural beliefs, Jesus sometimes makes an appearance. Occasionally others claimed to have had a brief chat with the Almighty himself. Others reported seeing a hellish world filled with demons and fire. In either case, naysayers, those of a “science-y” background, will say a deteriorating brain is the explanation. That a misfiring of neurons in your brain during those last seconds of death which causes the experience. They say it’s more akin to a hallucination than a heavenly family reunion, or on the flip side, a weenie roast in the fiery pits of hell! What they fail to explain, is how dead people miraculously came back to life, most of the time with no apparent brain damage. The heavenly visitors were often saddened to have return while the other crowd couldn’t wait to get back!
Regardless of which direction people reportedly traveled, critics continued to explain an NDE was due to a rotting brain but had few words about the experiences of firsthand witnesses. Most NDE folk reported their journey lasted from a few seconds to several minutes. After a brief recovery and a hospital news conference, the enterprising survivors sign a publishing deal, followed by a book tour and several rounds of church testimonies. Finally, it’s off to the talk-show circuit for the conclusion of their fifteen minutes of fame.
What is your vision of Heaven? The Bible speaks little of it, and when it does, it’s in cryptic language and symbolism. Are there streets of gold? Perhaps. Big fluffy clouds? Probably. A nonstop chorus of singing angels? I hope not! My vision? It’s a free-for-all! And no, I don’t mean a heavenly frat party lasting an eternity. I liken it more to an all-inclusive vacation package tailored to what I want and the things that made me happy. I like golf and had some of the best times playing. Guess what? God likes golf too! He told me there must be a bunch of religious people on the course because they mention His name quite a lot. The point is; I believe one size does not fit all. You can do everything imaginable— within limits. The word is anything goes in Heaven except what He refers to as “those worldly things.” No hanky-panky goes on there if you know what I mean. God nudged me and said, “They should have gotten that out of their systems before they got here.”
It is said death and taxes are the only two realities of life. Not true. You can avoid taxes, and you’ll go to jail, but it won’t kill you. Death is a certainty for all of us, and sooner or later, tax cheats as well.
My wife took a statistics class in college, in her opinion the most skewed science known to humankind. All they do is keep asking the same question over and over again until they achieve the desired result. Remember the toothpaste commercial which raved that “four out of five dentists surveyed recommended…?” I don’t need a survey result for one particular stat, and you can take it to the bank. One out of one of us will die.
Death comes in all shapes and sizes. Some die moments after conception, and sadly, sometimes between then and birth. Others may meet their “maker” in an instant, and some will “check out” on the “installment plan” with a painful and prolonged illness. A lucky few last for more than a hundred years, but the majority of us seem to “die off” somewhere in the middle. The only ones with any inevitability of when they will “cash in the chips” are the folks on death row—for the rest of us, it’s a crap shoot.
Recently in the news, I noticed how many famous and influential people who have died, and it occurred to me death really is the great equalizer. Never once did I witness a U-Haul being towed by a hearse. So, it must be added, wherever it is you travel and in whichever direction, “you can’t take it with you.”
Like so many, there was a time in my life when I felt ten feet tall and bulletproof. All of that changed a while back. Unless you own a bulletproof, mortality vest, — you, me, and everyone we know, sooner or later, will kick the bucket! I am at an age and have been through enough for one lifetime, especially heart-related issues. I’m impressed when I wake up in the morning! And thank God when I do—every morning. I had a close friend, Larry, who was the most religious and spiritually devout man I ever met. He considered this life “the warm-up act” before going to Heaven and couldn’t wait to get there. Me, given the choice, would like to live forever; well maybe not forever, but a long time. Things are going pretty smoothly, and I’d like to keep it that way. I have a successful law practice, and as a bonus, a lucrative contract with Saint Grenadine Hospital. I’m married to a loving wife and have three great kids, and somewhere along the way, made lasting friendships. With all I have, I’m aware one day this life will end, and a new journey will begin, and perhaps catch up with Larry.
Here’s a question to toss around in your brain: Is death the end or a whole new beginning? I have a spiritual faith, not as much as I should, but I hope enough. I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. If I’m wrong about my belief, who cares? I’ll be a memory and rot in my grave, and that’s about it. But if I’m right, you, the unfaithful, to quote Ricky Ricardo, “Will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do!”