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.


Joel said...


Margaret said...

lol, Joel. It's been the summer of craziness. I foolishly thought I could blissfully continuing working and meeting my goals with the boys home full time, a 5-day camping trip, 7-day trip to San Diego and an 8-day driving tour of Oregon and Washington. Not to mention the recovery time in between. I stand corrected. I'll try to maintain at least a once a month pattern again, but can't guarantee anything :).

Anonymous said...

Bring out your dead!

I cannot remember what I thought about death as a kid. I do know I wanted to be a dog and a boy, in that order. I have grown into neither. My high school biology teacher implied this might have something to do with something Darwin and Mendelev discovered. This was further confirmed by those guys Watson and Crick. I'm a human female, and there's nothing I can do about it--in this life. So I modified my career goals and did something different.

Reincarnation holds some possibilities. As I get older, I find myself pondering the concept of death--haven't formulated too many coherent opinions yet.


Margaret said...


Your comment stunned me, not possibly for the reason you expected. Bring Out Your Dead is the title of one of the novel ideas I came up with this year.

Interesting on the wants. I wanted to be magical or telepathic and I was (and am) a cat, but I never really wanted to be different than I was. I always thought the "boys are better" was a crock--not, mind you that girls are better but just that we're pretty much the same except some plumbing differences.

I wish you luck in figuring out your approach to death. Personally, I think this approach influences how you look toward life, especially if some of your friends and family fall into the older category. I was just talking about this with Jacob because one of our cats is going on 17 and his great grandmother is 95! I truly believe in enjoying the time we have together and building up experiences as we go, but I don't see death as either an end point or necessarily a sad moment. There are sad deaths but natural ones mean the person (or animal) has passed on to a place where they can learn and do new things while you have been given the space to meet a new person and have them make a difference in your life as you make a difference in theirs.

Okay, enough Psychology 101 from someone to whom thoughts of death are always near, but not in a tragic or melodramatic way. Death is the ultimate What if.

Joel said...

Wow, Margaret. You're definitely optimistic with that type of schedule. But we're glad you're a moderator over at FM AND you're writing.

Margaret said...

Thanks. One of the reasons I stopped writing for a while was the lack of a community. The Internet has done wondrous things and I want to do my part in making it available to other writers :).

Holly said...

I keep circling around on the life-death-reincarnation issue. Keep hitting physics -- that energy is transformed, but not lost. That down at the sub-atomic level, that's what we are: one big mass of humming vibrating energy, along with trees and rocks and other people's annoyingly yippy Small Dogs.

I keep playing with this issue. There are so many events in my own life, and in the lives of people that I know, that don't make any sense at all unless there is some sort of "after." Things I've seen, things that others have seen, event ... and I can't explain them unless I say, Well, energy doesn't die. It just changes, and in some form, in some fashion, we go on.

Do I believe that? Sometimes. Do I hope it's true? Of course.

But does it matter? No. How I live my life is driven neither by hope of eternal reward, nor threat of eternal punishment, nor promise of a second chance if I get it all wrong this time. I'll do what I can to make my life matter now, and the future will have to see to itself.

Your mileage, of course, may vary wildly.

Margaret said...

Fascinating. I never thought to connect physics with philosophy but that makes a nice bit of sense. Just one more way in which the natural world connects with what we are.

And yes, curiosity drives me (though not enough to find out early ;)), but I agree. This is the life I've been given and I plan to make the most of it regardless of what may or may not come after.