Life After Death

Death is the absolute end of an individual life. Although I’ve often wrestled with these ideas in a philosophical way, I’ve never had to face the reality of death. Until now.

Earlier this month, I found out about a car-crash had claimed the life of an SFU student. For two days I sympathized with the loss, wondering who’s life had just been ended. The hill I had repeatedly found refuge in was now tainted with the knowledge that a human life had ended there.

Two days later, in a philosophy class, that key piece of information hit my ears: the victim of that tragedy was my friend. Shock penetrated me to the bone, and even now I have a difficult time recounting this tale. For this victim had always had a special place in my heart; her self-less nihilism had always provided a beacon for others. This life was snatched from the world in the most horrible circumstances, but more dis-heartening is the realization that this life would no longer mould us, speak to us, or love us. Her act on this planet had ended, and no volume of tears would bring her back.

And the funeral’s images (the first funeral I’ve ever attended) still resound in my head: the hopeless sobs of the parents, the sniffling of the crowd at the memorial, and the embarrassed voice of the funeral-director as he tried to say her Persian name. When her parents gathered themselves together and started toward the exit, they could only gasp out, between sobs, “Thank you for coming.” And my heart broke 1000 times – for I wanted to call out to them,

“No, thank you for raising such a wonderful person”

But words do not raise the dead.

I have always dreaded going to my first funeral; other than an autopsy, I had never seen a dead body in my life. When I learned (during the funeral) that her casket would be open for one last time, I thought to myself, “I must say my last words,” but as I approached her casket and stared at her lifeless figure, all I could do was cry. For I knew that words were useless. Her swollen lips, having uttered so many sarcasms, were now sealed shut. Her vivid eyes were sewn closed; never would another mortal be moved by their spark. And the finality of it all overwhelmed me – there was no afterlife I could hope to see her in: just the black, cold, nothing of death.

But now, I write these words with a new paradigm guiding me. For I have learned something: there is life after death. I, who abandoned my Islamic faith and who has renounced the concept of a God, stand before you, dear reader, and pronounce that there is life after death. Not the afterlife of guilt and reward many people trick themselves into believing, but the specious present of now. These emotions: that I can feel them, embrace them, be overwhelmed by them – these are life. This is life after death.

And, although all that’s left of her are fond memories, I still stand as a breathing man able to embrace this life after death.

It will take me many more months before her death doesn’t cross my mind, but now I act with a conscious understanding of her memory. Now I value each precious second of my living being so that I too may someday leave this planet better than I found it. And now I realize that I have not much time on this Earth. I find myself committing random acts of kindness to total strangers. I find myself wondering where the many faces on the bus have been and will be.

Most of all, however, I find myself living life after death.

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