Death and Stories

I haven’t written for a while. My father died a week ago on Thursday, and I feel so tired. I don’t understand it because my dad was 86, and I’m almost 60. It’s not a shocking death. I wake up every morning from nightmares that seem to have nothing to do with my dad, and then I realize there will be no fresh stories about my dad. There will be the old stories, and that’s it.

I haven’t cried for my father. I didn’t cry for my mother either. When my father figure, Les, died, I didn’t cry either. Or when my best friend Celia died. I seem pretty stoic in the face of death, unless I am asleep and my mind explores the afterlife.

Most of the time, I don’t believe in any afterlife. (This does not mean I don’t believe in a Divine Presence.) If there’s an afterlife, we are swirling energies in the universe that — um, contribute to the Akashic records? Sing the music of the spheres? I don’t think we lived this life as humans so that we could live as humans somewhere else.

When someone close to me dies, however, I want to believe in that paradise, and I clutch to myself the imagery of a big old house and a party where all the people I have ever been fond of show up. There are joyful reunions, even between those who have never met. We fill the house with hugs and laughter.

I go to the kitchen to help cook because I feel overwhelmed by the noise and the hugs; it’s something I often do. I turn to the woman cooking — she’s tall and bountiful — and ask if I can help cook. “No, go out there. It’s your party.” As I go out, I realize that it’s everyone’s party, because this is Heaven and this is God.

I fear death. Not the inevitable emptiness itself; I worry about the knowledge just before one dies, the certainty that there will be no next minute, no stories to tell. Yet it’s the only scenario that stands up after examination, after questions of “Who gets admitted in?” and “Aren’t they going to get bored?” That and the humanized energies scenario discussed above.

We die and are returned to ash. Our stories live beyond us, until those carriers, too, die. This is what makes me cry.

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