After death

Between discussions on religions, the anniversary of my father’s death, and a book I just read, I got to thinking about that old question, what happens to us after we die. I certainly don’t picture the kind of heaven where people in white robes sit on clouds and pluck harps, and I don’t believe in hell at all.

But everything leaves something behind. Our molecules break apart as we are digested by worms, but what we really want to know, of course, is what happens to our consciousness, our spirit, our soul.

This afternoon we took a walk on the beach and for a while sat on a wonderful old redwood stump. My eyes and fingertips could read so much history in its grain: a tree growing gnarled and imposing in life, chopped down and the stump uprooted, probably tumbling into a stream to reach the sea, buffed and smoothed by the waves, then at long last come to rest on the beach in a semblance of life.

A lot of this happened after the tree was cut down, the events still leaving marks in the wood. The tree is dead, and yet it continues to age, to hold the tree-like shape, to be part of the world. Maybe our lives are a bit like that: after we are gone there is a memory, in the shape of our spirit, still interacting with the warp and weft of life. It’s in the way we live our lives, the legacy we leave, the grain and polish of our deeds and the way they marked others.

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