Thursday, February 08, 2007

And When I Die...

I've been thinking about death a lot lately. Not so much because I'm old (though the reality that I'm not 20 with my whole life ahead of me has been hitting me in the face a lot lately), but because of a book I just finished reading. I picked up A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier after the holidays and have been recommending it to folks since I finished it.

In Brockmeier's book, the dead populate "the city," a Dali-esque sort of place where they "live" almost normal lives (eat out, make friends, but never age) so long as, well so long as what? The dead come up with the hypothesis that they live their so long as someone on really alive remembers them. When they are no longer remembered, they vanish from the city and go to ... Well, we don't know. What we do learn is that a wildlife specialist in Antarctica named Laura may be the last person alive on Earth. Which is of grave consequence to "the city's" populace. It's a good book, disturbing, affirming, and raises lots of questions -- not least of which is "so what happens after, after all."

So what happens after, after all is a question that has occupied humankind since the first fella or gal passed on and the those left behind realized that someday they'd be joining their companion. My wife Nancy tends to hold with the great theologian Iris DeMent who sings:

Everybody's wonderin' what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
But no one knows for certain and so it's all the same to me.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.
(from the song "Let the Mystery Be" on "Infamous Angel")

Me, I'm a bit more orthodox -- the resurrection of the dead, Heaven, the whole thing. Still, what comes after, after all? The Brief History of the Dead helps me think about that question which I'll be facing more and more each day.

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