I can only speak for myself, but I have always wanted to know about the afterlife and given it a lot of thought. Why am I here, where am I going, what is the purpose, all of that, as far back as I can remember. I set out on a search this morning (via my laptop) to find an episode of M*A*S*H I remember from childhood. I did not find it for streaming but the title is The Life You Save. I had remembered it as Hawkeye on a search for answers about death but it was actually Winchester. In the episode, he comes up with a dying military patient’s last words being “I smell bread”. In my mind, this intermingled with an episode with newly passed soldiers carrying on, helping direct each other in a continuation on the other side (This one was called Follies of the Living, Concerns of the Dead). Their afterlife transition includes familiarity and the help of others, but all of these scenes are mysterious. There are similarities with the Raymond Moody and Elizabeth Kubler Ross books I poached off of my older sister during the M*A*S*H years.
During the earliest days after Susanna died I had a dream that I was in a meeting to plan my own burial because I had died. Everyone could see and hear me as always and I was responsible for figuring out what kind of casket I needed. I jokingly related a story to the funeral director about my height (I am over six feet) and how, to the amusement of the nurses and myself, my feet dangled off of the table as I was pushed into the ER for an emergency C section when my son was born. I woke up confused because the line is so blurred now, life and death. I needed as I still do to place Susanna in my new reality. There has never been a time I have thought of her as disappeared or confined to my memory. She has vacated her body but is still around and living a life beyond as well. If you were to ask me how many “supernatural” experiences of her I have had I would say “Do you mean today?”
A part of parenthood and also committed love is that you sometimes go beyond your comfort level to understand your beloved and be where they are. When you are a mother this may mean you will take your child to hockey practice every morning or dance class all afternoon. Regardless of whether you love these sports this becomes your life. I have maybe a stronger desire to know about the other side because I have a kid there. Every day, all day, my heart is broken by our separation. Every day, all day, I know she is with me. This is complicated but not a problem to be solved. As much as it hurts to be without her and piece together a new existence I am still on her sidelines cheering her on (a soccer mom on an iridescent celestial playing field). I see glimpses in my mind’s eye and in my dreams of what her heaven is like and I know on some level that she is meant to be there, though it pains me that it is this way. This is the path I am walking, at times a battlefield if I may.
There are many people and places to go to when you want to ask questions. There are books and classes, traditions with histories of any length. I can say for today where I find my day to day answers. Mostly in nature and silence, sometimes in the words or faces of others. I have no more information than anyone about what is beyond and if it smells like bread or roses or frankincense (I will tell you about the times I have smelled roses and frankincense on another day). I do know more than anything that my daughter’s laugh, her face, her words will be there. And that she is also here because in heaven you can be in two places at once. There is more to life than life.