I'm not quite sure exactly what it is about death that has me so intrigued lately but something out there has kind of been dogging my mind from time to time over recent months. I'm wondering if it has to do with the recent passing of my father in law. Or that my very own father passed away 15 years ago today (Series Part I, Part II, Part III). It could also be that my own mother is nearing 80 quite respectable years and, quite honestly, that makes me nervous. I'm not ready for that day at all.
You know I'm 47 years old now. Definitely middle age. That doesn't bother me much at all. But I do think about the cold fact that I probably have used up at or above 50% of my lifetime on this earth. And that's weird. I don't feel "that" old -- whatever "that" means. Time has passed so rapidly. And, I must say, I don't want to die. It kind of scares me -- the actual dying part and what may or may not come next. You know, dying when you're a gay man with no children or other younger family members close by to help out is a scary place to find one's self. I mean, there is nothing more depressing than a quiet journey down the hallway of a nursing home with very few visitors coming or going. I have my Partner and we'll always be by one another's sides -- but who knows which of us will go first. Seriously, who is going to take care of me...or us, for that matter? Who is going to come and pick me up for meal out or send birthday cards?
And then there is the very difficult-to-shake religious piece of the whole deal. What actually happens after my heart stops beating and I've breathed my very last breath? Do I see a bright light? Are there pearly gates to pass through? Is there a separation of sheep and goats as prophesied? Do I see or feel anything at all? Is there a heaven and hell? You know that spending much of my life on a church pew has given me more than enough concern about my final moments and the afterlife. Let's just suppose that the pastor was right and that gay people don't go to heaven -- which I don't personally believe, by the way. It's just that all those many years of listening to fear-based sermons seem to have some sort of lingering hold on me -- minimal as it may be. It's hard to shake. You know, it's perfectly acceptable to believe in something, or to not believe in something. But the fact remains that, if you're reading this post, you have yet to actually die and go through "whatever comes next." It's 100% unknown no matter what you believe. And my born-again Christian friends will now be saying to themselves that it's the Holy Spirit reminding me to be ready for death by "accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior." I've been down that church aisle before and already knelt at that alter. Many times. If it hasn't happened by now, it just ain't gonna.
We live next to a very large cemetery. We walk our dog (well, truth be told, HE walks the dog) along the side of the cemetery twice or more a day. Sometimes, I look in at the grave stones with a little angst -- I just don't relish the thought of my life coming to an end. I see the grave of a five-day-old little baby girl and a father with his young son buried together in the same plot. I look at the names and wonder what they were like. Who took care of them. And what they may have gone through after they died. I watch the hearses come and go and it crosses my mind regularly. I'm really not a morbid or dark person. It's just that my heart stirs a little about these big questions of life -- and death.
I just want it to all be okay. Easy. Not painful or scary. Without pain or belabored. And I don't ever want to discover that there is an afterlife that I wasn't prepared for (Que: Christians start putting me on prayer chains -- to be healed of my homosexuality and secondly for the saving of my soul). Or maybe it's quiet, and dark, and peaceful. And nothing happens. Who knows. But maybe by the time I reach the end, I'll have come to a place of contentment with my beliefs. A sense of resolve. Let's hope so. I think I probably will.