09 February, 2017

The Afterlife

Having been raised as a strict Catholic during the 60s and 70s, my notion of the Afterlife was heaven, hell, and purgatory.

Somewhere during my grade school catechism classes, I had an argument with the Irish priest giving us a lesson on baptism and how only those souls who had been baptized into our church were given the chance to enter heaven. When I asked him if babies who die are allowed into heaven, he said not if they haven’t been baptized. He explained that their (poor innocent (my words)) souls still possessed the stain of original sin. As you can imagine, it was at this point that my young mind began to dismiss belief in the Catholic church and the concept of heaven and hell in the Afterlife.

The one good Christian lesson I did learn was from my grandmother, a staunch Catholic. She told me that every night before she said her prayers, she would count her tender mercies. She would think of three good things she did for others, and three good things others did onto her during the day. This is one of the best exercises in gratitude I have had the joy of practicing. It influences the way I interact with those dear to my heart, as well as those strangers I encounter randomly.

Later, in my late teens, I dabbled in Zen Buddhism. For a decade or so, I attended regular retreats and meditated daily. Along the way, I learnt (a bit) about reincarnation. Not enough to say I understand or believe in it, but certainly enough to see parallels with the thermodynamic rules of entropy and enthalpy.

A friend of mine, who was raised as a Buddhist in Thailand, told me something about karma that I carry close to my heart. She said we are put into this world with three types of karma. The one is filled with challenges from past lives we are meant to overcome. The next is one is lessons we are meant to learn, now, in our current circumstances. And the last, is one we fill to carry us into our future lives. So, each kind deed or word spoken can fill any of the buckets…

Today is the anniversary of my father’s death. On such a day, I tend to think about his Afterlife. Where he is. What he is doing. It is a day, which begins with meditation. I will also go to my favourite cathedral and light a candle for him; in gratitude, for having had him in my life. Yet, I also know he still lives on close to my heart. I believe his spirit will guide me today, as it does every day. Wherever or whatever Afterlife is, I believe it to be interlocked with sorrow and joy I’m experiencing right now.

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