Death is the only experience you cannot try twice. We get no free trials or test periods. Nobody is offering a premium, ad free version with exclusive daily content. There are not trillions of reviews from customers since the day death opened its doors. Death is not just the physical body stopping its functions, ceasing motion, and decaying. Death is complete separation; separation from our perceivable existence.
The act of dying can be scary or exciting; whatever the expectations, these are created in a tangible way. A near death experience can encompass nearly every aspect of dying. Your heart can stop, you can experience extreme pain, adrenaline can course through your veins so rapidly you become superhuman, and you can even come to terms with death. The act of dying is measurable. We know the causes and symptoms of dying. There are times in our lives where we could have or should have died due to our actions or circumstances. Adrenaline junkies seek near death experiences to feel more alive because that brush with the other side is sometimes what it takes to feel in control of even the smallest, most intimate decisions that we make when it feels like nothing in life can be controlled. Control, or feeling in control, might seem a million miles away for almost every waking moment. A lack of control feels wrong because our minds crave control. Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder are consistent manifestations of the mind seeking ultimate control. I know what it is like to want that control. Death feels uncontrollable.
What is death? Do we go to heaven? Do we all go to hell? Does everything just go black? We cannot remember the time before our birth, but time did exist. Were we a part of it? We are all made of stardust, so in some way or another we were. Stardust, however, is not everything we are. My grandfather was a husband to the person he chose above all others, a professor of agriculture, an international thinker, and he made beer cheaper than he could buy Milwaukee’s Best. Not all stardust does that. I often think of the ways he must still be here. He died long before I could fully enjoy his contributions to the lives around him, yet my mother often tells me I remind her of him. In this way, Loren is not separated from our perceivable existence. His impact lives. Maybe his consciousness whispers in my ear as I write this. Maybe he and Joyce are in heaven or hell together. Maybe everything went black, but his actions created an effect greater than the butterfly’s.
The bonds we make are forever. Someday, my stardust will float past Andromeda as it collides with Via Lactea. My stardust will be with my wife’s stardust, our parents’ stardust, Loren’s stardust, and with the stardust of all those who impacted us. We will form another star, possibly at the center of a new galaxy or even a solar system that attracts a new planet to create new life. The energy we shine upon that planet will be as beautiful and loving as it is intense. When that star detonates the end of that solar system and our dust travels until the universe reaches entropy, I know I will be holding my wife’s hand as all of existence stops to implode so that each piece of us is together for that moment before spreading infinitely into our reborn universe.
Loss is always associated with death. Loss of a loved one, loss of an impact on society, loss of great potential, loss, loss, loss. It brings us to tears when we contemplate it. I know these tears are more than loss. They are more than sadness. They are more than happy. I believe our existence goes on forever because I cannot fathom non-existence, and I still cry at the thought of death. I cry because I cannot understand what it is to not be. I cry because I believe the dead feel no more pain or sorrow, but I remember the pain and sorrow they did feel. I cry because I am excited to rejoin my grandfather someday and I remember the birds he sent to his funeral as a sign he is just as excited. I cry because the thought of living while my wife, my best friend, my everything could be dead before me is even more incomprehensible than death itself.
When we can find peace in death we can start finding peace and control in life. The near death experiences adrenaline junkies seek are exposure therapy with the great equalizer. The control and clarity after coming to terms with our death opens us to life. It is the ability to feel every feeling and be present where you are without worry, fear, anxiety, or longing for control.
Existence can be pain or it can be whatever you decide.