The afterlife can be a complicated concept.
From envisioning some sort of “heaven” in the presence of a supreme being to absolutely nothing in terms of life after death, most of the population holds in their minds an idea.
I tell you — and I will make no mention as to my personal beliefs in this column — it’s complicated.
In addition to being in the supreme being’s presence, those that I’ve talked to about the afterlife, hold a general shared notion that there will be a reunion with those that have gone before them. Long-lost grandparents, parents, children, and all manner of family, as well as cherished friends will be there to reunite with forever, presumably.
Even if the afterlife is off of the table for you personally, you have to admit that that part would be nice.
Here is what I’ve been thinking about the afterlife lately, though.
There are lots and lots of ancestors I’d love to meet. My wife has done hours of ancestry research on both of our family trees so I’m aware of dozens of them who I’ve never met and many more members that I would love to reunite with.
For a brief minute, anyways.
Other than my parents, two grandmothers, 10 aunts and uncles and a deceased sister, my afterlife family reunion would be kind of small. Every other predecessor would get a greeting of, “Nice to meet you, I think I’ve heard things about you.”
As for friends: There are dead friends from school, work, and social life that I’d like to see again, of course. Even in this life I love running into people I haven’t seen for long periods of time. If there is true value in social media though, it has been the process of “becoming friends” with a long-lost friend and after a few posts realizing how and why you drifted apart in the first place. Same with the afterlife.
Especially any sort of “eternal” afterlife.
My relatives and great friends might be seen for a meal, an afternoon, a day, maybe even a week. But an eternity? Again, I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone, but aside from the woman I married and the children we conceived and raised, nobody is on my “let’s do this thing forever” list.
But here is the exception — an afterlife with just pets.
You name the deceased family member or friend and I’ll think of the reason to not want to spend eternity with them. But name any dog, cat, or parakeet that has ever shared their home with me and I’ll tell you everything I know about them and find myself missing them more than ever before.
I was out of town last week for three nights and the first person to greet me upon walking in the door was not a person, it was our dog, Jim.
Regular readers recognize the role my pets play in my life but my real feeling is that if a column depends too much upon a writer’s pet business it risks sounding like the writer was scraping the barrel for a column idea. The difference with this column being that its genesis was in a variety of friendly conversations about what happens after we die and my own solitary mental gyrations on the same topic. That it became a newspaper column only crystallized when I returned home to a dog that had missed me as much as I had missed him.
It can often be that simple, but we all know it’s much more complicated.