Sunday, February 05, 2012

Unto Life Eternal

Yesterday, my husband and I attended the funeral of one of our church friends.  As is customary, the minister comforted the family members with the traditional words of the promise of life eternal.  

As I thought about our friend's funeral, one concluding irony occurred this morning, when I checked Facebook.  There was a suggestion that I might want to "friend" the woman whose funeral we had just attended yesterday.  So, even after our deaths we live on in many ways.  

We live on in blogs too--one of the first blogs I began reading was written by an incredibly brave woman who was slowly dying from ALS.  She had been a vigorously active woman in her life before her disease.  Her blogs were inspiring, warm, and full of a happy love of life.  But, over time, the entries she wrote became fewer and fewer--with longer distances between posts.  Then one day, there were no more posts.  I kept wondering--how was she?  And I kept checking her blog for news, any news.  Finally after a year of silence, there was a sweet final post--she had died.  Her name was Pam, and the final tribute to her was a quote from her: 

I have ALS, it does not have me
Art does.

She was an artist who, as she lost her ability to draw with her own hand, found new ways to express her creativity.  So she lives on in many ways:  in her art, in the memories of all who loved her --  her children, her grandchildren -- and in her blog which is still "out there" for anyone to read.

Some researchers assert that we humans are hard-wired from the moment humans began to exist to contemplate a life beyond our human existence.  Early burial sites are discovered that include various items placed around the deceased to ease passage to the next life:  food, coins, clothing, various objects to speed the journey.  Many religions have woven into their belief systems various concepts dealing with a life beyond earthly existence.  No one religion has a claim to an exclusive belief in the next life.
But, an amorphous promise of life beyond our present existence does not satisfy our human need to be remembered.  We want our existence to be acknowledged--some of us have children, and grandchildren.  That's one way to achieve immortality, for a while.  Some of us have places--roads, buildings, bridges--named after us.  Some of us give MONEY to make sure we have places named for us.  Some of us do great or terrible deeds, and history remembers us.
Please understand, this is not an invitation to argue the subject, nor is it even a challenge the assertion that we do or do not continue to exist.  This post is not to elucidate the merits of a belief in eternal life; rather it is my rumination on our human need to contemplate, and sometimes even insist, on a life beyond the life we know.  I suspect part of this drive on our part is the human need to be remembered.  After all, the only way we experience anything is through our lives.  When we no longer live, we wonder what comes next.  Do we continue? Will those who remain remember us? 
A closing thought--one of the theologians whose works I enjoy is Bart Ehrman.  His own faith journey has moved to a point where he now considers himself an agnostic.  When asked by someone whether it bothers him that his agnosticism robs him of the comfort of a belief in an afterlife, he responded--no.  Here's his reasoning: before he was born, he had no consciousness and was not troubled by that; after his death, he assumes he will have no consciousness, so why would he be troubled by that?
I know, I know.  I have tangled up two separate streams of thought--the need to be remembered with a contemplation of life eternal.  Are they different?


Beverly said...

I recently attended a memeorial servicefor a young man who died in a horrific accident in his home just two weeks ago. I have seen his name three or four times already on Facebook suggesting we become friends. I smile when I see it.

I have been thinking about you with the Oscars coming up, wondering if you were going to post about any of them.

Anvilcloud said...

I have read both Pam and Bart and like them both. Now that I am almost a senior in the legal sense, I sure understand the desire to be remembered.

Did I write this to you or to someone else?

"There are three deaths: when you heart stops beating; when they bury you; and, when your name is mentioned for the last time."

KGMom said...

Beverly--thanks for asking about movies and the Oscars. Yes, next several posts will be about movies. We haven't seen all the nominated ones, but we have seen some. So I will begin firing up the movie critic mode.

AC--I remember you were also one of Pam's readers. I admired her courage a great deal.
I don't recall your telling me the
"three deaths" observation. An interesting way to think about death.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

The blog that I read by the homeless man, Tony, I thought would end when he died. His friend, Philip, who wrote the blog entries that refected Tony's life, does not seem to be able to let go as he has occasionally posted, post mordem, entries on Tony's blog.

I have no interest in eternal life. In fact the ideal of going on and on scares me and offers no comfort. I want and expect a true exit to oblivion. I guess life for me has not been all that good.

KGMom said...

Philip--I remember you writing about Tony.
As for eternal life, I can't quite wrap my mind around the concept of eternity. I am too time bound in my thinking. And forever? What would that mean? It's incomprehensible.

Grizz………… said...

For me, the certainty in life eternal is easily comprehensible. Believing or not believing doesn't change anything; what is will be the case, regardless of our opinions.

However, I suppose the desire to be remembered comes from our human nature. Some would like to leave a legacy, others simply a mark or impact—and they often don't care what it is, so long as they're remembered, which may stem from feelings of not receiving their due while alive. Does it matter whether we're remembered in a positive light or negatively…or just remembered? Apparently not to some.

One of the things about being a writer is that occasionally practitioners are remembered for centuries—even millennia—after their passing. I have no delusions about my own work being remembered for any great length of time. Stories can fool you, though. You create one, tidy it up and send it off, get paid for its publication, and think, that's that. And they somehow take on a life of their own, getting passed around to reappear decades later like feral children. So, who knows? But I certainly never began writing with any notion of being remembered; I just wanted to fly fish around the world, poke into things which interested me, and get paid to do things I liked. Being remembered by those I care about would be nice. After that, I think we're back at the question of eternal life.

KGMom said...

Grizz--(who I prefer to call Scribe)--this is my THIRD try to write a response to your comment. My own blog keeps refusing to post it.

I understand your assertion that what comes after life is not controlled by one's belief.

On writing and writers being remembered--yes, that's another kind of immortality. Surely your writings will last longer than mine.