Wednesday, May 02, 2012

What Happens When You Die?

Man's fanciful image of God - Michaelangelo style

I don't know.  Okay, that's my post.

Oh yes, I have more to say on this subject.  This morning, after eating breakfast and bushing my teeth, I positioned myself before my iMac 17 inch big screen computer, all revved up to finish posting all my Lewes Presbyterian Cemetery photos to Find a  

I click on the Find a Grave icon on my toolbar.  Nothing.  I click again.  Again, nothing.  Okay.  Next step.  I reboot my computer.  Maybe I have to clear out my cache (look it up).  Then I click on F.A.G. grave icon again.  Still nothing.  

Then I search the Internet to see if Find a Grave's website has crashed.  Nothing except complaints about Find a Grave and all the "drama" (whatever that is).  

So here is my backup activity plan for this morning.  I'll write a blog post about what happens when you die?  I don't know.

Perhaps I should expand.  What I am pretty sure of is that when we die we don't ascent to Heaven on giant white feathered bird wings, dressed in a gossamer white nightgown to meet God sitting on a gold throne int he clouds.  You all know God don't you?  He looks like Charlton Heston (in his Moses "Ten Commandments Days", not in his Right Wing, "pry my cold dead hands from this gun"  days).  God, a white haired and bearded old man dressed in a white over one shoulder toga which displays his massive triceps, THAT GOD.  Oh no,  you're not going to meet HIM.  

Here is what I THINK happens.  NOTHING.  Yep, a BIG NOTHING.  Just a big deep VOID.

Oh sure, I'm all for folks having a "belief" (aka "faith") in what happens.  If that what makes you comfortable and able to get through life, then I'm all for it.  I'm not one nor have I ever been to foist my beliefs on someone else unlike many others of "the faith", whatever religion.  I've always said "If that is what works for you, then go for it!"  But by the same token don't get all sanctimonious and issue your "I'll pray for you" condescending remarks to me.

Joan of Arc being burned at the stake because she didn't Believe

I imagine death to be like the time I was given anesthesia to knock me out before having a colonoscopy last year.  Actually, that was quite a trip.  I don't even remember going out nor do I remember waking up.  Sort of nice actually.

To me the worst part about death is getting there, not actually when you die.  Dying is the release from our bodily form. This overcoat our spirit inhabits while we're on this earth.

I remember the first time I saw a dead person, in person.  It was at my Uncle John Tipton's funeral. My Uncle John died in 1962 from burns he suffered from getting his coverall pants on fire from spilled turpentine and a carelessly discarded cigarette butt.  Ironically he had survived World War II in spite of being captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war.  Uncle John as a paratrooper who was captured behind enemy lines in Holland.  He escaped twice from the German prisoner of war camp only to be recaptured twice.  Uncle John survived World War II but didn't survive a cigarette butt.

John Hannum Tipton 1922 - 1961

I was in the Army at the time of his death and called home to be a pall bearer at his funeral.  I remember going past his open casket and looking at my 39 year old uncle, who was so vibrant and full of life the last time I saw him.  I looked at his body and realized I was looking at a shell.  He wasn't "there" anymore.  His body in that open casket could just as well have been an overcoat with his name on it.  

Since that funeral I have seen other dead bodies at funerals, including my Mother and father.  I've always had the same reaction...there weren't "there" anymore.  I had no feeling at all for their shell.  They were gone.  Only their memory will stay alive.  And what keeps their memory alive is a memorial that the family leaves behind.  Thus that is why I believe in funerals, cemeteries, headstones and any other kind of memorial. 

So where does the essence of that person go when they die?  Again, I don't know but the only thing that makes sense to me is that the "essence" is dispersed throughout the universe.  We are not somehow magically transported in our bodily form or spiritual form with our memories intact to another place.  Just doesn't make sense, faith of not.  

So to all of you who have the faith, more power to you.  I'm happy for you that you have that comfort and don't have to think about what really happens when you die which is nothing.  

Now for those of you who doubt me, I can only say one thing.  Prove it to me.  As far as I know God and Jesus only talks to people like Pat Robertson and the Pope.  He doesn't talk to regular folk like me. 

Does He talk to you?  Tell me about it.


  1. God, or whatever you want to call it, doesn't talk to me, personally. I must be on some cosmic Do Not Call list, I guess.
    But, I'm cool with that.
    As for death, I am a firm, hardcore, steadfast believer in reincarnation.
    So, when I die, I'll be right back

    1. Bob,

      I'm on that Cosmic Do Not Call List too. Actually, I lean more toward reincarnation that I do any other belief. Seems to make more sense to me.


  2. Wow...there are a few big topics in this post!
    I don't think about after, just now. I've told my mom that I live a good life hurting no one, but maybe myself, and trying to be kind and helpful to others. If there is an after life, I'm good. If not, then it doesn't matter.

    I'm not afraid to die. I've been very close several times, once only hours. To me being dead would be freeing, it is getting there that is usually painful and I've had my share of pain already.

    I think you said in this post the very reason why I don't care about what happens to my body, I'm no longer there. As for a leaving a mark in the world, I think that's what loved ones, friends and blogs are for.

    1. Sean,

      Same here, I've lead a good life not hurting anyone. Where I lost it in formal man-made religion was when a friend of mine told me that "doesn't matter, what matters is that you MUST accept Jesus Christ as your savior or else you DON'T get into Heaven." Bullshit. I mean no disrespect to sincere believers in the man-made religion but it is really all a fairy tale isn't it?
      I too have been close to death and have no fear of it. My only concern is how I get there. If I should die tonight in my sleep, no problem. I do not fear that exit.
      I do care though about my mark. Maybe it's the control part of me but I want to have some say in the mark I leave. Too often in my life others have defined me. I want to have some say in the final definition of my stay here.


  3. Come on Ron, you are not that stupid! When you die, you stop breathing, THAT'S what happens. Geesh I can't believe I had to tell you that. You are welcome, Max

  4. Anonymous5:09 PM

    Hi Ron,

    I consider myself a very spiritual person. I must say though, that I've always questioned how the end of life plays out according to the bible. That is until the past few months when I've been in the final presence of my aunt & cousin.

    In Feb. my cousin died of liver cancer. I was with her the last 2 weeks up until she passed. She was in a coma the last few days of life except for the final few seconds. She then opened her eyes, looked up & over the family members heads who were with her, me included. She then waved & smiled the biggest smile ever, closed her eyes & stopped breathing. These final seconds were so eerie to all of us & got us thinking. Hmmmm.....

    In April, I stayed with my cousin for 3 weeks off & on & helped her care for her mother, my Aunt. She had a few strokes & gave up the will to live. The last week she was in a coma also. During the last few hours before she died she talked to her deceased husband, parents & brother & sisters like they were there with her. She would reach out to hug her husband & told him it wouldn't be long now. During the last minute or so of her life it was almost the identical scenario. feelings have changed somewhat & I'm still sorting it all out. What do you make of this?


    1. Fran,

      I've never been with anybody to witness their death but I have heard of similar stories. One I especially remember was one my good friend Bob McM. told me when he father died. He said his father died of lung cancer. He was in a coma and right before he died he was talking to relatives who had died before him.
      I really don't know what happens when you die. I don't know if these stories are the brain reliving our wishful thinking. If it is then that is alright too. I know recently I have been having flashbacks of pleasant memories that I haven't thought of in years and years. I am closer to death now than I was forty years ago so the time may come soon that I will know, that is if I have conscientinous. I would so love to be reunited with those I loved. That to me would be Heaven. One thing I absolutely do not believe in is Hell. That was made up by church authorities to keep the poor and ignorant in line. Of that I have no doubt. Another thing I don't believe in is a vengeful God. That was also made up by Man to control others. Just as I don't know where the Universe ends, I don't know what happens to our spirit when we die.

  5. anne marie in philly6:46 PM

    I'm not scared of dying,
    And I don't really care.
    If it's peace you find in dying,
    Well then let the time be near.
    If it's peace you find in dying,
    And if dying time is near,
    Just bundle up my coffin
    'Cause it's cold way down there.
    I hear that its cold way down there.
    Yeah, crazy cold way down there.

    - Blood Sweat and Tears, "And When I Die"

    1. Anne Marie,

      Ah yes, Blood, Sweat and Tears. I know you're not afraid of dying. To me dying (not that I'm ready to go just yet) is peace.


  6. Anonymous9:26 PM

    Hi Ron, You know I'm a believer in God. Because of events that have happend in my life, I have complete and total faith that God exists and that Jesus died for my sins. But, I can understand how this just sounds too simplistic to someone who does not have my faith. When other people have asked me how I know God exists, I tell them to read Mathew 7:7, which I will paraphrase to you as "knock and God will answer". I can tell you have been thinking lately about death, and all I can tell you is just to challenge God to show you he is real in a way that is personal to you and that only you will understand, and it will happen.
    The way I stumbled upon your blog was by googling the Neva's potatoes recipe for Big Fish Grille in Rehoboth Beach. Why I ended up at your blog I am not sure. But, I could immediately tell that you were a very good writer, and I really enjoy your beach pictures. Obviously after reading a few of your posts I knew you were gay, and it is interesting to see the world through your eyes. It is touching to see a couple like you and Bill who have been devoted to each other for such a long time.
    But, back to faith. Do you know how a dog can smell things we can't smell, like search and rescue dogs who can smell the scent of a missing person and find them? How there is a dimension of scent that is there but we people just can't pick it up? To me faith is something like that. I think that after we die a gauzy veil over our eyes will drop and we will see things that should have been obvious to us but that weren't. Like for example I think it will be clear as to why God has chosen for some people to be born gay and others straight. I don't know God's purpose in this, but I think it will become obvious to me after death.
    And most importantly, I was shocked at your comment that it is condescending when people say they wlll pray for you. I don't know who these people are or in what context this was said, but wow I am sorry you took offense to that. When someone says they will pray for you, it should be interpreted as a very caring, loving gesture, and not one of judgment or criticism.
    So, Ron, I will be praying for you. Lynne

    1. Lynne,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I know that you are a believer in God as many of my friends are also, including my loved brother John who is a Baptist pastor. I understand and respect your beliefs. However, mine are different. Perhaps they will change one day. By the way, I still consider the "I will pray for you" very condescending to the person it is directed to. I mean no disrespect to you when I say that, this is just the way I take it. Maybe it is the context and maybe it is my feeling that the person saying it to me naturally assumes they are "right" and I am "wrong." None of us knows that until we die and and I said in my post, I think when we die there is nothing. I would like it to be otherwise but I doubt it. As for why God made so many gay people, I really think that (if there is a God) is part of the Plan. You know, to keep the population down while we gay people still pay the same taxes to keep the schools running and supporting the community. We can't everybody popping out kids now can we? As I said in previous blog postings, I've know I was "different" since I was four years old and I have never felt I was "damaged goods." I never felt like a mistake. To me my sexual orientation is a natural as a heterosexual feels about their sexual orientation. In fact if I had a choice to be born gay or straight, I would choose gay. Why? I don't know but it just seems right to me.

      Thanks again for your comments Lynne. Knowing you read my blog (along with "Fran", my other "Anonymous" commenter), keeps me from being too snarky in my postings. I have to keep my postings on the straight and narrow because I really don't want to offend sincere, thoughtful folks who read my blog.


  7. Ron,

    Very interesting!

    About a month ago I was trying to explain to my sister my beliefs on life and death, and it was almost similar (if not exactly that same) as your explanation.

    I believe that our "essence" is energy which disperses into the "universe" when we die.

    That's it really.

    1. Thank you Hank. That's the way I see it. Our "essence" (energy) dispersing in the universe when we die is the only thing that makes sense to me. I just don't believe there is a Supreme Being guiding us that requires a lot of worship. That to me smacks of feudal Europe and the Lords and a way to control the serfs by promising them a better life after they die much like the extreme Muslims promise suicide bombers 144 virgins when they get to Heaven after blowing themselves up. Just doesn't make sense to me.

  8. Anonymous9:38 PM

    One more thing....I will be trying your recipe for carrot cake. it looks really good. Lynne

    1. Lynne,

      The Cracker Barrel recipe for carrot cake is the best. Just make sure you don't bake it too long or else it tends to dry out. Better to take it out too soon and have a wet center and the rest of the cake moist than a dry cake around the edges. The flavor is unbeatable. The only problem is you want to have another slice, and another. :)

  9. You should rent "Defending your life" (with Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks). It is a very funny movie about death.
    Different cultures and religions = different beliefs in what happens to our "soul" (the electricity that keeps us alive). Fear is what
    make people believe in religious propaganda (plus it is big business too). Nobody knows what happens when we die. I will see how it is when the time comes. In the mid time, every day is a lesson and I am trying to learn the lessons offered the best I can with the ethics and morals
    I was taught. Good post today Ron. I love the comments too.

    1. Thanks Nadege! I will rent "Defending Your Life." I like that kind of movie about the afterlife. Have you seen "What Dreams May Come?" with Robin Williams? That's another good one about what happens when we die. Most of it made a lot of sense to me.

      I agree with you about living life. Every day IS a lesson and I do try to learn the lessons and offer the best I can with the ethics and morals that I know are right.

      Thanks again for your generous comments Nadege. Always appreciated.


  10. Holly7:07 PM

    Hehe. I just found your blog trying to find out about the cropduster I see each spring in Kent Cty. So I bounced forward to more recent posts and am enjoying reading them! My beliefs have gone an interesting sea change over the past 15 years or so. I can't say "I don't know what I believe anymore" because most of the time I do. It just doesn't seem to fit with any organized religion anymore. I ended up leaving my lifelong church when it seemed like all the minister did was preach about the sin of homosexuality. I couldn't agree and I couldn't, in good faith, keep taking my sons to a church that I couldn't agree with.

    My opinion is, it's your blog, you don't have to apologize or worry about offending anyone. People who are offended don't have to read. I'll more than likely be back :)


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