How do I know I am more than my body? How do I know I am energy in physical form? I sensed these truths since I was a young girl. And then one day, I knew them in every fiber of my being. Literally.
I recently reread an essay I wrote a number of years ago, published as “A Girl Who Believed” in the book Held in Love: Life Stories to Inspire Us Through Times of Change, (2009, Molly Brown and Carolyn Treadway). I want to share it with you because it is the physical foundation for how I see death. And it is the spiritual foundation for how I see life.
Mystical experiences – both our own and that of others – can play a significant role in how we navigate death and dying. They allow us to take a quantum leap toward the spirit of who we really are. Though I had adventures with the non-physical world when I was much younger, this specific one was the most transformative because I experienced myself as pure energy for the first time.
My step-father kept his mother’s ashes in the brown mailer box they came in for almost a decade. His mother Margaret expressed wanting her ashes taken to Hawaii, and instead the box lived behind his button-down shirts, in the back of the closet. My mom didn’t want that to be her.
Photo credit: Jennifer Mathews, 2007
Before her surgery, when we didn’t have a clue she had pancreatic cancer, my mom said she wanted to tell me her wishes in case she died. She hadn’t expressed this to anyone else. I asked if she could wait and tell me in 25 years? She gave me a long hug.
She said she’d like to be cremated and for her remains to be “scattered with the birds in Vermont.”
My mom loved birds. She watched them every day in her backyard and took photographs of them often. And although she lived in Western New York, Vermont had been my home at the time, the place I lived and loved for fifteen years. I was her only child. So her request made sense to me.
But I immediately knew what she meant on a deeper level. She was asking for her ashes to be set free among the trees and sky. Don’t leave me in a box. Promise me my body will fly free.
Translation: Promise me my spirit will fly free.
She died 16 weeks later.
I admit, I’m biased. I already believe there’s life after death. Several first-hand experiences have opened my eyes to the existence of an unseen world. But even more than that, I believe in an afterlife because of a deep inner knowing I can barely explain in words. The question for me becomes “Is that enough?”
I ask this because I am a seeker. I love research and stories and learning. I love asking questions even more than finding answers. I am an enthusiastic Student Of Life. Which makes me equally a Student Of Death.
This interconnectedness brings me to share Death Makes Life Possible, a new film produced by Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D. and Deepak Chopra, M.D. (with the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Deepak Chopra Foundation) that explores whether consciousness survives physical death. This documentary overlaps with much of what I’ve been thinking and writing about since 2012.
It felt only natural to support this project, and so I’ve been helping create the film’s discussion guides and educational materials since last winter. I’ve been thrilled to be involved!