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
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?