I once was visiting a man in his early 50s who had terminal cancer. At one point he said, “You know, I feel like I’m sitting on a bench in a train station waiting for the train to come. I don’t when it’s going to come but I know it’s coming soon. When it comes, I’ll get on it and let it take me to the next stop.
Death is not an end, but one phase of our life’s journey, another stop along the train line. We confuse the death of the body to the death of us. Our human physical body is not who we are. It is something that we wear, like a costume. Our true self is a spiritual soul that is eternally young.
When someone we love dies, we naturally feel sad, and we should. We are human beings who love each other. The one whom we love is no longer with us in a way that we can see them smile, hear their joyful voice, hug them, or smell their perfume. So we naturally feel sad, but at the same time, we need to remind ourselves that they are not dead. Their body stopped functioning. They are alive in a way that we cannot understand yet.
We should not make the mistake to think that only what we can perceive with our senses or scientific instruments exists. We can only perceive what is of this universe. Who we truly are, a spiritual soul, is not of this universe and is not composed of physical substance. We are spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body. When the body stops functioning we leave it. That’s the mystery that cannot be proven. But when we focus ourselves inward spiritually, we will know that who we are is an eternal spirit.
People of all religions know this, and spiritual leaders of all religions instruct us to love others, to contemplate our holy scriptures, and pray meditatively so we can commune with our true self and God from whom we sprung. Through these three steps, we cultivate our spiritual self and we know with certainty that life is eternal.
Like another person I visited: she was living in one of those horrible nursing homes that when you open the door, you immediately smell urine. When I went to her room, she told me so tranquilly, “Don’t worry about me, honey. I’m going home. I’m either going to my home on Calumet Street or I’m going home there (and she gazed upward). Either way I’m going home.” During our visit, I asked her how she was so tranquil, and she replied, “I repeat this prayer in my mind throughout the day, ‘I put myself in your hands, dear Lord. I put myself completely in your loving hands.’”
Surrendering ourselves to the Almighty, who goes by many names throughout the world, but is the One, alleviates us of our sorrow and reassures us, when we truly believe in him with all our heart, mind, and soul, that we never die—we live eternally in his loving care.
I visited that holy woman one more time, and she told me, “Sweetie, I’m going to receive my promotion very soon.” The following day she did.
The Gospel according to John
- Chapter 5: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
- Chapter 6: “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
- Chapter 11: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
- Chapter 14: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Book of Wisdom, 3:1-6,9
The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if in the eyes of men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them, and found them worthy of himself.
The importance of the belief in the Afterlife, as well as a glimpse of what awaits one in the grave, on the Day of Judgment, and at the Final End.
Hinduism states that our true self (Atman) is eternal and is identical with the Ultimate Reality. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna, the incarnation of God, states: “Know this Atman, unborn, undying, never ceasing, never beginning, deathless, mirthless, unchanging forever. “
A few lines later he says:
“Worn-out garments are shed by the body; worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller.” He means that our physical body is like a garment that we wear. The physical body is not our true self. It is something our true self wears. The true self, the Atman, never dies. It goes from one body to another until it attains union with the Ultimate Reality, which is its true identify.
“I tend to think of death as being like changing your clothes when they are old and worn out, rather than as some final end. Yet death is unpredictable: We do not know when or how it will take place. So it is only sensible to take certain precautions before it actually happens.”
Author: Daniel Addis
Daniel Addis graduated from the University of Toledo in 1978 with a B.A in Psychology and Philosophy, the University of Houston in 1986 with a M.Ed. in Language Arts, and the University of St. Thomas with an M.A. in Pastoral Studies. He was an English teacher for 30 years, teaching teenagers who were mostly from single parent, low income, and troubled homes. He was ordained a Catholic deacon in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese in 2007 He serves at a Catholic parish. Among his duties are: spiritual director of the Legión de María and Movimiento Familiar and leader of spiritual retreats. He has served as a hospice chaplain since 2011.