Short Story on the Afterlife

A Dream I Had About the Afterlife

Last night I dreamed that I had died. It wasn’t the normal kind of dream. It wasn’t the kind of dream that you wake up enthralled, afraid, or tearful from. It was something deeper than that. When I died, there was no white light to walk toward, no staircase in the clouds, no golden gate atop them, no heavenly chorus scoring each and every one of my footsteps, as if each one of them pounded on the drums of destiny, no heart, no passion, no feeling that every breath I took in my mortal life led to this moment, and that now my dreams were coming true, and I was ascending towards everlasting glory.

There was none of that.

But equally there was no fear. There was no anxiety, or panic, or hopelessness. The four emotions I had forever associated with death. The emotions that had left my mind crippled, contemplating other alternatives to constantly living with the big day forever looming over me. Emotions that had rendered me useless, unable to function, wondering what we are doing on this planet, and why something as spectacular as life on earth, with its inconceivable beauty and ability to emote human euphoria, could have such a terrifying and mind numbing opposite as death, and how we could know so little about it other than at its existential core, it is nothing but the absence of life in a previously living body.

No. Instead of fear or euphoria, there was realism. Quite frankly, there was no commotion. I had died in a hospital, in a small room, my loved ones surrounding me as I lay in a bed drifting off courtesy of an incurable disease, as so many have done before me, and so many will do after. As I faded I felt my woes fade also. I don’t think we realise it when our lives are so busy, but we always have our woes or problems on our mind, we just don’t notice them as much. I thought about my family and friends. They held hands and sobbed around my bedside, knowing they were witnessing the last moments of my human life. I guessed that I should have been worrying about them, how they would cope without me, but three familiar words kept circulating in my head. Life goes on. Life would go on for them. They would be sad, but they would find closure, and then eventually it would be their time to go too. None of these things worried me. I had always pondered the afterlife, and by this point I had accepted that I would either see them again, or that I wouldn’t need to. I understood that love transcends life.

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And then it happened; though it didn’t happen instantly. Throughout life I had always imagined that the moment of death would be similar to an abrupt power-outage, where in a split second, darkness would engulf everything. But it wasn’t. It was a gradual process and I wasn’t quite sure when life had ended, and whatever came next had begun. Those around my bed began to leave the room. They left in an orderly fashion, as if it had previously been decided how they would do so. Each of them did so matter-of-factly, and that was the first sign that I may have passed over, as I’m sure in normal circumstances they would be crying and mourning uncontrollably. Instead, each of them just left. Some of them held my hand before leaving, and others kissed my forehead. And then, just like that, I was alone, albeit for just a few seconds.

It was in this moment that I realised that I was witnessing my death out of body. I was standing in the corner watching this happen, not lying in the bed. And then I realised that I now had a purpose. I sat at a table in the middle of the room. It was small and there were only two chairs. The version of myself that I had just been watching got out of bed and sat at the table also. I was sitting across the table from myself. Somehow looking into my own eyes and staring back at them at the same time. Only when you look into your own eyes can you comprehend your existence. And then we talked for what felt like an hour, and yet it could have lasted for a thousand years because any comprehension that I had of time in my human life had faded, and I began to think that maybe time didn’t exist anymore. We talked about the life I had lived on earth, about the relationships I had formed and the feelings I had had, what I had achieved in life, and what mark I had left on the earth. And then I asked myself what was going to happen next, and of course didn’t know the answer.

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Just as quickly as I had realised what my role was in my own passing over ceremony, I became clueless even faster. And there I was. At a table with another person, and yet somehow completely alone simultaneously; with the most pondered question of all time, and not a single answer. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I took two more, long, similar breaths, and I held the last one. I opened my eyes.

And then I saw everything. Every sunrise and sunset from every possible corner of the earth. Every flower that had ever bloomed, every tree that had ever grown, every mountain that had ever been conquered. Every creature on land, in the sky and in the oceans. Every man who had ever made his dreams come true and every woman who had ever accomplished her greatest feat. Every new-born baby that had ever been born, potential in their eyes. I experienced every sensation that could ever be felt, and saw every note that had ever been played, I tasted success, I smelled hope and in all of these things combined I saw the face of God.

I awoke in my bed and questioned my own existence again. As I write this I am still unaware of what my dream means. I believe that we are more than skin and bones. I believe that our bodies are nothing but vessels, and I believe that our souls are always yearning to escape them. I am unsure of the afterlife, and I wonder whether or not this life on earth is simply the afterlife to a previous one; that maybe every life is an afterlife and in each one we are promised something different for the next. I wonder how many times I have died before, I wonder how many times I will die again, and I wonder whether or not there is some end to this cycle. The only thing we can be sure of is death, for without death there is no life. There cannot be one without the other, but I do not believe that birth is the beginning and death the end. Until it is my time to become knowledgeable of what is next to come, I will just keep dreaming.

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