Monday, August 30, 2004

Official "I'm Not Dead Yet" Blog Entry

I started this entry to assure all those faithful readers who check back week after week to find I've posted absolutely nothing that I haven't given up. It's been a busy summer with a lot of trips and a scramble to get any work done on my writing goals. And then, being me, the title made me start to think about death and my odd relationship with it.

Okay, so I made you curious at least.

Does anyone remember what they thought when faced with the concept of death as a child? Oddly enough, raised an Irish Roman Catholic though in unusual circumstances, I developed a different concept that I never quite let go of even though I wasn't consciously aware I held on to it.

When I was little, I decided there existed a baby pool. This pool contained the souls of every living being that wasn't currently alive. And yes, this is rudimentary reincarnation. The concept was based on when babies were conceived, a soul came down to fill them and, if the baby didn't survive, the soul returned for another try later. The same is logically true of souls that manage a full and healthy life, but I was obsessed with babies, possibly because my mother had a miscarriage before my older sister was born.

If you've been reading this blog, you already know I'm a little strange, so having a concept like this when really young, probably around 5 or so, shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Now scroll forward approximately 20 years (if you can figure out my age from that, more power to you...I certainly can't remember it), and imagine a first-time mother taking her 2-year-old son on "nature" walks through the heart of suburbia.

I can't remember how the conversation started, but I remember when it jumped past all appropriate discussions with a toddler. It was right around when I tried to explain rocks weren't alive and so couldn't die. Then, I'm explaining all living things die, plants, animals, even people. Uh oh.

"So what happens after death, Mommy," pipes a little voice.

I'm Catholic; my husband's Jewish. These are two diametrically opposed religions when it comes to death. There is no "after" for Jews, just hope for an eventual resurrection. Scrambling for my comparative religion class work, I give this 2-year-old some options, explaining I grew up believing in the Catholic Heaven. Oh no, that wasn't good enough. In desperation, I trot out the baby pool, only discovering then that I remembered it at all but reaffirming that it was what I thought when young, rather than what I think today.

That 2-year-old, in all seriousness, explained back to me the basics of reincarnation. "I believe when people die, they come back just exactly the same," he says. I fumble, stunned for a moment, then nod encouragingly. "Well, some people do believe that," I say. "I wasn't brought up to think that way, but some people do."

In the possibly eeriest moment in my history as a parent, my son turned to me and said, "You just wait and see, Mommy. You just wait and see."

Should we go to our children for the answers to the great deep dark? That place where none can tell us and we can only find out by crossing the ultimate line? Or is it ultimate at all? Should I trust in the words of a 2-year-old and my own fragments of memory?

To some, death is cut and dried. You're there and then you're not. But, to others, myself and my son included, death is a complex, layered concept with possibilities that should overwhelm and often do.

You know what? I'm curious. This concept has risen in some of my oldest writings with enough frequency to get me committed if I were still in high school in today's paranoid environment. And yet, for all of that, I'm planning on letting this question simmer, planning to explore it thoroughly through supposition, and take my own sweet time in following the scientific method and finding out the "truth" for myself.