I find it quite serendipitous that the rain botched my planned science experiment with Aidan yesterday. A new children’s book on the concept of energy took the place of our outdoor lab time. It’s a difficult thing to teach, energy. Constantly manifesting itself in various forms, cycling in a myriad of ways, and perhaps most interesting of all, is how every living creature would cease to exist without it. But where does that energy go once the body relinquishes its last heart beat, its last brain wave, its last breath? If energy is perpetual and cyclical, where or whom does it get transferred to following death?
A year ago today, I, along with my siblings and father, watched Mama breath her final breath. Death from end-stage cancer doesn’t happen like you see it in the movies, at least for her it didn’t. It was raw, brutal, and organic. I’m not sure what I was actually expecting, but the reality was a hell of a lot different than anything I could have imagined. In the end, I wanted to sense her soul ascending, to feel some holy presence wrapped around each of us as we held on to the one who gave us life in so many ways, but I didn’t. Instead, I felt empty, exhausted, and bitter, yet relieved she had crossed over. But into what….
I search for answers regarding faith and spirituality constantly. I have many friends with an unshakeable belief in God and some with unshakeable unbelief, both so secure in their convictions that honestly I find myself envious of both camps. What makes it easier for some to take the huge leap while others tiptoe around the edge of the precipice, constantly doubting and questioning the outcome of the jump? I simply can’t force myself to believe in the idea of a Christian God any more than I could force myself to fall in love with someone. And my lack of faith has nothing to do with me wondering why God would let bad things happen to good people. Life just is what it is–for better or for worse. At least I can accept that with certainty.
But this notion of energy…if there is in fact a “soul,” something intangible that leaves our bodies at the time of death, is it yet another form of energy, just continuing to ride the wave it’s ridden, well, forever? I like the way that concept makes me feel on this day in particular. That her life wasn’t necessarily finished, that she hasn’t amounted to a pile of ashes forever resting in a cold columbarium niche.
Was she perhaps the wind against my back this morning on the most meditative run I’ve had since she died? Is she the energy driving the heart beat of a child across the globe who will soon become our son? Is she the energy behind the friends who say and do things that speak to the depths of my soul, sometimes without even realizing how much they have directly or indirectly touched me? Is she the energy that orchestrated the conception of a friend’s child, who by all biological accounts was impossibly conceived? This child, I proudly add, was given the name Martha. Or is she the energy that keeps her smell, her touch, and her memory so vividly alive in my mind? Because without these memories so indelibly etched in my brain, truly she would be dead.