Death, is the topic and here is a first hand story from my past:
I was eight or nine years old when our family hurriedly rushed to see a relative whose imminent death had spread like a dark cloud over my parents. Never having met Great- grandmother Woody, if it wasn’t for the sadness felt especially by my father, I would have had few feelings at all.
Because of my young age, I had little experience with death, excepting a few pet frogs, but still sensed the power that the final act must have had. We had literally sped our way there as fast as humanly possible in a brand new Cadillac offered by a close friend. Our arrival in the huge finned beast caused serious gawking to those already present.
Immediately ushered into my grandmother’s bedroom, I purposely hung back so to allow others who had known her to say their tearful goodbyes, leaving me feeling small, out-of-place and lonely. Watching my father cry, an action I had never witnessed before, disturbed me much more than the pale, still figure lying on the bed.
Soon, murmuring questions spread throughout the rooms, wondering if she were still alive, alerted the old country doctor to bend over the body to listen for a heartbeat. After what seemed a lifetime, he arose with a saddened expression and formally announced she was dead. To confirm his statement he began lifting up the sheet which had been tucked under my great grandmother’s arms in order to cover up her face.
But, before the sheet had reached her face, Grandmother Woody’s eyes suddenly sprang open, and then in a voice as clear as a nightingale and with perplexed eyes gazing off to someplace beyond our room, she spoke these forever haunting words, “Oh my, I wish I had known before what I know now.” She then closed her eyes for the second and final time.
To say everyone in the room was shocked would be a grave understatement, for everyone was frozen still. Time had halted. Even the doctor stood as rigid as a stovepipe.
Chills running up and down my spine, I still remember looking around the room at those present and knowing for certain from their expressions that something rare and profound had just happened in this hot, overfilled bedroom in a small, lazy Texas town. The silence hung as thick as the densest fog, the reverie actually palpable, until the doctor revisited the old woman’s heart now with a stethoscope and assured us all that this time her life had ended.
Tugging on my mother’s arm, I asked the question that, though it was on everyone’s mind, somehow broke some unwritten rule, “What did she mean, Momma?”
My mother’s embarrassed yet shell-shocked gaze silently informed me that first, she had no idea, and second, to shush up.
This scene would prove to be paramount in my life, would baffle me to this day, and would be one that I would replay over and over while continuing to wonder about those two potentially cataclysmic questions, “What did she mean?” and, “What did she see?”
My question to each of you is this: What do you – no one else – believe happens when you die? I know, no one knows for sure. Just guess. Perhaps, whatever it is you believe about the afterlife determines much of how you live.
E-mail me with your stories and beliefs! Remember, this is all about life, actually …