Everyone dies. No getting around that…well, I guess if the Singularity happens, we won’t. But let’s assume for this post’s purpose, that it doesn’t. Then, everyone dies. Everyone on the planet dies and we don’t know what happens afterwards. There are all levels of theories on what happens, ranging the religious/spiritual spectrum, but the truth of the matter is that we don’t know. If I had to be defined, I guess I’d be considered agnostic (or, rather, an atheist with hope). But my beliefs, or lack thereof, weren’t nearly as important to me as my sister’s. I wanted my sister to believe in God or gods or in reincarnation. I didn’t really care what she believed in as long as she believed in something after death. I didn’t want her be scared – I wanted her to be comforted in thinking that she was going some place better. That all this pain and suffering wasn’t “it”. That there existed a wonderful, amazing afterlife in a wonderful, amazing place that she would inhabit some day (a day that would probably be sooner than later).
I thought she did probably have some sort of spiritual/religious view. We were raised Catholic and every frickin’ night that I can remember with her, she God blessed every single animal that she had ever owned that had passed away (this list was long – mice, guinea pigs, fish, birds, lizards, cats, dogs…). More than that, though, how could you be as sick as she was and not at least hope for something better?
We didn’t often talk about serious things. We discussed Grey’s Anatomy and our parents. Cute boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But, one day, probably a little over a year ago, I decided to just ask…ask her what she believed happened after we died…
Me: Do you believe in something? After we die? What do you think happens to us?
Me: Well, that’s…
The way she said “unsettling” was so…unsettling! So honest, blunt, straightforward – as if she had dismissed this issue long ago and full well realized that it was unsettling to the rest of us that she didn’t think there was life after death. I was so disappointed. I didn’t want her to be scared. But, she was. And I couldn’t do anything about it.
The last week with her in the ICU…she was mostly unconscious. They had her heavily sedated for numerous reasons. All I could think to do was to make sure no one was sad or cried in her room. If there was a .0000001% chance that she could hear us, I didn’t want her to hear anything to cause fear. I talked to her normally. If someone entered the room and looked as if they were going to be emotional, I started making jokes or talking to them as if nothing was wrong…that’s all I could do for her. Try to make it less scary. I guess that’s what big sisters do.
My beliefs haven’t changed since she passed away. Not like there was much there to start with anyway, but I’m much less scared of death myself now. It’s almost as if the mere notion that she could possibly exist…in some way or some form …somehow….. …somewhere…. is comforting. Maybe she is out there… Or, maybe I’m just hanging on to whatever thread of hope that I can.
Eventually, I’ll find out. We all will.