“Is there a word halfway between hello and goodbye? Because that’s the word my soul is trying to say.”
~ Jarod Kintz
A reader recently lost a loved one, and sent me the following question:
Q: I think a lot about my dad, the sadness that comes with time and history spent with him, the childhood we had, his journey. There’s a beautiful scene in Blade Runner where Rudger Haur cries at the end of his life while he says , “We will be forgotten in time like tears in the rain.” Do you know anything about the journey of a human spirit after this life? Are we forgotten like tears in the rain, or does our life mean something? Does one’s soul live on? You might not know, I just thought I would ask.
Strand: When my daughter was born, I had the most amazing and unexpected experience.
As I held this tiny newborn and greeted her into the world, I became acutely aware that, just as she had appeared out of nothing, out of a world that one year ago not even the idea of her existed, she would also disappear in just the same way. Not here one moment and then suddenly here the next. Here one moment and gone the next. It’s a stunning, heart stopping bit of magic that happens all the time, every day and to every one. And yet we live our lives aware of it only intellectually, until we are faced with either a birth or a death.
Life and death are bound together. You can easily grasp this intellectually. But look deeper. We focus on the Life part and exclude Death as long as we can, we trick ourselves into believing that Death comes at the end of a life…not with life, in every moment. Death is not what is waiting at the end of Life. They are always together, essentially the same thing. I would not even say they are two sides of the same coin.
The realization I had in relation to my baby was not fleeting, it was permanent. One day she would be no more. That did not cause me to fear or to be morose. It caused me to see that every moment with her was singular, a miracle. Each moment arose, was born, and died, and would never be returned to me. There were no mundane moments, there were no in between times, or times that didn’t count. Every moment was the same as an entire lifetime. Here and then gone forever.
So life became magical for us. I made time for her, I made space for her, I shared myself with her. We took walks after dinner instead of watching TV. We shut all the lights and turned on music and danced. We drove out to watch sunsets, even on weekday nights. We lit candles for breakfast. The speed and complexity of daily life, of a million and one things, could not drown out this one realization. And so we have lived, fully and vividly and intentionally, because death is our constant companion.
She and I are writing a great love story, and every moment is written into it. We make these moments beautiful, fill them with adventure and fun, beauty or sadness, moments of hilarity, victory, loss. It’s a very rich story, and we are awake to it. In other lifetimes, we’ve also written great love stories, only in those I am the child and she the mother, or we are married or I am her best friend, or we are warriors fighting in the trenches together. Or maybe I am her greatest adversary, because that is a kind of love too. In the future there are more love stories we will write and in other dimensions, in other realities, we are writing love stories, also. All these stories flow together to create something quite magnificent in a very large and expanded sense, and even that lives for a moment and then…
Your father’s parting gift to you was the question. Just listen to the feeling of the question and not the content. All those moments, the love story you wrote together…gone, like tears in rain. The question is the gift, because it will open you to something so deep, but only if you don’t fill that space with answers. Anyone who proposes to tell you what the soul is and what happens after you die is not doing you any service. Stay with the question, the longing, follow the depth. It’s blowing you open so you can know in your being and not intellectually the magic at the heart of life.
If you ask where the soul goes, I would have to ask you what a soul even is. Do you know, really, what a soul is? It’s like asking, “How can I become enlightened?” Who is the “I” that would become enlightened? You assume there is an “I” and you build everything else on top of that. Entire universes are built on top of this assumption. The soul is the same. If you are in pain and ask about the fate of the soul, and the meaning of life, the person who fills in the blanks for you is not helping you at all. I can give you several different takes on what a soul is and what happens after death and each of them will sound as probable as any other. You can pick one and then the question will die for a while. And that would be a shame.
The question is the gift, it is the gift that opens a door for you. You can’t go through the door if you are carrying a bunch of “answers”. You have to go naked, so to speak.
If at some other point in time you want to discuss my experience with dead people, I would certainly do that. But right now you are in this unique and sacred space, right after the death of a loved one. It’s not the time to cloud the waters. It’s time for you to have your own experience. My suggestion would be not to answer your question, but let the question explode in you. To hold a larger, more expanded awareness of love and of life requires bursting through the thin membrane that holds your heart into its current view.
I can hear how much you love your dad, and I grieve with you the loss of him. The door he has left open for you will lead you not to an answer, but to a place where the answer is no longer necessary.