Hereafter, Heaven, and Afterlife

Afterlife

As this year draws to a close, I’m reflecting on other endings, chiefly the afterlife. With my mother’s passing, I’ve become preoccupied with questions about death and heaven, if there is one.

The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox priest at my mother’s funeral said she is now beginning her new life. He told the mourners that martyred saints are commemorated the day they die, as that’s the day their true life begins. It’s the beginning of their life in Heaven. I want to believe that, but as I see Jesus Christ as a Jewish reformer and a prophet, I struggle with what this all means. And yet there’s something there.

afterlifeAs a child, I prayed to my guardian angel nightly. But when I grew up, and saw so much hypocrisy in organized religion, and so much anguish on the news—in stories about war or poverty or famine, I began to wonder which God was looking out for which people.

Jerusalem

And then, when my husband and I went to Jerusalem two years ago, I felt envious watching Christian pilgrims on the Via Dolorosa walk by with crosses in hand and stop to kiss every station of the cross. If only I had that kind of faith. How much more secure I’d feel.

I also envied the certitude of the Jews who lined up at the Western Wall to insert their prayers in the cracks between the ancient stones. I used to have that deep belief and fervour, but it was wrung out of me over time.

I find it hard to understand how a Jewish carpenter—who said the meek shall inherit the earth—is now represented by men in regal robes in palatial buildings festooned with enough gold to eradicate poverty. I know this kind of practice upset Martin Luther, and the Protestant movement was born. But even there, a hierarchy exists. There are rules and dogma that are not inclusive. As you can see, I’m a little messed up at the moment.

The Film ‘Hereafter’

As Heaven is the reward for many, I was curious to see the film, afterlifeHereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood. I found it curious that he made a film about the afterlife without identifying any major religion. Was that why this great film got bad press?

America is largely a Christian society. The fact that Heaven and Christ were not mentioned in this story, did that have any bearing on the ratings? I found the film outstanding. It was beautifully executed and sensitive in its exploration of this larger question—what happens after we die?

I wouldn’t have minded if Eastwood had inserted some teachings from the Bible, the Torah or the Koran. All of them have much to teach us, but he didn’t. Buddhist philosophy was also missing but the spiritual was by no means neglected.

Belief in God

In spite of my confusion, I do believe in God. There is still too much unexplainable on this amazing planet, in this universe and whatever lies beyond. The fact that our universe is expanding, accelerating, and that there are patterns in space, not some randomness, that’s enough to make me believe in a Higher Power.

My Mother’s Passing

There’s also otherworldly events that support the Divine. afterlifeHow else to explain what happened just before my mother passed away? Two nights before she died, I dreamt of a black bird, sitting on a fence. I woke up, thinking someone might die. I worried first about my daughter, who’d been diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer this past year, and was actually relieved to discover it was my mother who’d been taken ill. She was 96, so I could accept that reality better.

A Supernatural Element

The other incident, that suggested the supernatural, was told to me by an evening nurse. She approached me while I was in my mother’s room at the care home taking family photos off the wall. She said, “A funny thing happened the week before your mother died. I saw a tall man in dark clothing go into your mother’s room. I was scared. He looked like the man in that picture.”

She pointed to my father in my parents’ wedding photo and said, “I get chills just thinking about it now.”

I understood the nurse’s qualms. My mother lived on an all female floor. It was after visiting hours, so it’d be unusual to see a man there. In fact, in all the time I visited my mother, I rarely saw a man on that floor, even during the day. Was it my father’s ghost she’d seen?

My Father’s Passing

afterlife

There was also an odd occurrence when my father died on Sept. 11, 1985. After I’d received a phone call saying he passed away, I ran down the hallway to pack my clothes for the trip out east to be with my mother. I passed our younger daughter’s bedroom and  noticed a strange smell. I backtracked, and saw a white lily in bloom on her night table. We had put the lily plant in her room for some greenery, but it was fall, not a time for flowers on that plant. I talked to both my daughter and my husband and neither one of us could recall seeing a bud earlier. So where did that flower come from? As we could not come up with a reasonable explanation, we all assumed it was my father, saying everything’s okay.

An Afterlife? Hereafter? Heaven? I have enough stories to believe there’s something more. What do you think? Do you have stories that make you wonder about the beyond?

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12 thoughts on “Hereafter, Heaven, and Afterlife

  1. Shari

    Interesting reflections, Diana. Strange how often our search for answers leads to more questions…. Very interesting, too, about the nurse seeing a figure — I never believed in such things, really, but after spending time working many quiet nights in long-term care and being with people as they passed, I’m much more open to such stories.

    Peace be with you….

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Thanks for sharing. When the nurse shared with me her belief that she saw my father’s ghost, there was another nurse standing by. She said, “I’ve been working here a long time, and I’ve heard similar stories from other nurses.” So much we don’t understand.

  2. DblogEdition

    Its good to know that I am not the only one that sometimes find the concept of organized religion intricate to decipher. Its amazing how many cultures and religions have different interpretations of the after-life.

    Will be visiting your blog more often. I find the topics you write about very interesting.

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Thanks. What’s amazing to me, is that if we go back far enough, we were all joined in similar beliefs. But as time went on, there were more fractures, built on more. It seems that if you get a group of people together, there’s agreement at the beginning and then invariably there will be dissent, and those dissenters will break away and form their own group and what they believe in time becomes the antithesis of what once was. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back and talk with Jesus, or Mohammed or Buddha or any of the other wonderful prophets who spoke of God and the mysteries of the universe? How different would it be than what their believers say now?

  3. Mike Cleveland

    Diana,

    I believe you do have a growing faith. I believe as you do, a person has to turn a blind eye to the fact of all things around us of intelligent design. And think about morals that we have. We know in our heart that certain principles are just right. And when we violate these principles something in tell us we are wrong.

    I believe it not that creator that was wrong, but mankind that went wrong. Like you said even in religious circles somethings not right. It not God, but man that off the path.

    I believe you are on the right path. Just by the fact you understand some higher power had to put things together in the universe. You might not call this God or Jesus, but I do. Keep seeking to know this creator….

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Mike, yes, I do have a strong and growing faith. I agree with you that those of us who have a well developed conscience know right from wrong and try to live accordingly. Thank you for your thoughts on our Creator.

  4. Dr Ahmed Adam

    Hi Diana

    Thank you for a beautiful and thought-provoking piece on “Heaven, Hereafter and Afterlife” – the question that has plagued Philosophers and Scientists for Centuries. The Beauty in your writing stems from your neutrality in neither criticising nor condemning alternative viewpoints; you have encapsulated this very aptly in one of your replies:

    What’s amazing to me, is that if we go back far enough, we were all joined in similar beliefs. But as time went on, there were more fractures, built on more. It seems that if you get a group of people together, there’s agreement at the beginning and then invariably there will be dissent, and those dissenters will break away and form their own group and what they believe in time becomes the antithesis of what once was. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back and talk with Jesus, or Mohammed or Buddha or any of the other wonderful prophets who spoke of God and the mysteries of the universe? How different would it be than what their believers say now?

    Some of my thoughts:

    I am firmly grounded in my belief as a Muslim; but i am neither an apologist, nor a political agitator nor an ordodox radical; I embrace “words of wisdom” whereever i find them, irrespective of the belief systems of that person; who am I to judge another person’s view? For me, life is a Journey: a journey of self-discovery which we are all travelling one minute at a time, moving inexorably towards the waterfall of Death which no one can escape. Hopefully, before we reach End-Stage 9which can be at any time), we would have grasped some of the heavy questions such as: why am i here on Earth? Who Created me? What is my Purpose in Life? How do I know if I have fulfilled that Purpose? What happens at the time of Death? What happens after Death? Fortunately for me, as I reach the winter season of my life on Earth, i have embraced the study of the Qur’an and the “Islamic Viewpoint”.

    Best regards and all success in your Journey of Self-Discovery as you seek the Ultimate Truth that gives you the tranquility and stability that you need, from Dr Ahmed Adam, South Africa

    1. Diana Stevan Post author

      Thank you for taking the time to make such a thoughtful reply. I am sorry I had to edit your piece, only because it was long, but I’m sure if anyone is interested in learning more about the Qur’an and the “Islamic viewpoint”, they can find the information. The more I learn of the different faiths, the more I’m convinced that we started from the same place, and for that reason, should find peace with one another. Best wishes on your journey through life.

  5. Karen Lopez

    I’m really interested about the after-life. What will happen to us after we die? I don’t know. I also believe in God. The forces between good and evil exist. Well, really. Life after death is mysterious.

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