Into the Great Wide Open

Every time I close my eyes
It’s like a dark paradise
No one compares to you
I’m scared that you won’t be waiting on the other side

All my friends ask me why I stay strong
Tell ’em when you find true love it lives on
Ahhh, that’s why I stay here

~”Dark Paradise” by Lana Del Rey, from “Born to Die”

I wonder why I feel so high
Though I am not above the sorrow
Heavy hearted, till you call my name
And it sounds like church bells
Or the whistle of a train
On a summer evening
I’ll run to meet you barefoot
barely breathing

~”As I Lay Me Down” by Sophie B. Hawkins, from “Whaler”

I am not so much afraid that there is no afterlife, I am terrified that there is, but he won’t be waiting for me. It will be a long time, long and long, before I can join him again, and I am not sure how time passes after you die.

I was not raised with religion as a part of my life. I dabbled in Sunday schools, various services, but none of them could get past the twin watchdogs of skepticism and suspicion. Blind faith has never been a skill of mine.

So when I get to the question of what comes next, the pat answers, the conventional stories of Heaven and Hell, leave me cold. I’m left to imagine my own version of the afterlife, and to try to find some comfort in it.

I don’t know how much he is still capable of feeling, of knowing, of seeing. Is he finally beyond the pain and confusion that marked his life? Does he see me suffer, struggle? When I’m alone in the dark, am I really alone?

Am I really all alone now?

One of the few perks of living out in the middle of nowhere, Illinois, USA, is my long commute home takes place underneath the huge bowl of the night sky. Stars are scattered like diamonds on velvet, and sometimes I spend more time watching the moon ride the clouds than I do the road. Looking up at that sky is one of the few times I still feel him, and sometimes I feel if I could just get high enough-skyscraper, plane-I can reach out and touch him, one last time.

I’ve always thought the idea that the divine is something external that you have to work and struggle and enlist intermediaries to connect with or be recognized by is absurd. The divine is internal, and as long as you do no harm to yourself or others delving into it, however you get there is fine by me. Sing, dance, walk a labyrinth, meditate, whatever. Just be on your way.

If the divine is internal, and everyone has a bit of the divine within themselves, then this divine spark must be part of a larger whole, something all life shares and springs from. In this case, our experience of the divine is the connection of our individual spark with the larger whole. Therefore, our divinity is dual, and we are not always cognizant of our place within the whole.

In short, when he passed away, there was a part of me already waiting to greet him. And sometimes, at night, just before I drift off to sleep, I whisper “I love you” into the dark, and feel his lips press against the back of my head again, and feel the weight of his arm around my waist. And I am comforted, for a little while.