The question of the afterlife (life after death) is a topic that has been considered by mankind for thousands, possibly millions of years. What happens to humans after we die? As a child I don’t think I placed a great deal of thought into the topic; most children likely don’t. It wasn't until a high school friend of mine suddenly passed away that I actually began considering the question. Alvin was killed in a car accident one cold winter weekend. He lost control of his car and crossed into oncoming traffic. In a moment he was gone. Just the day before I had been racing the school hallways with him laughing, joking and rough housing. Alvin was a tremendous athlete, he was a a few grades ahead of me in school so normally I would not have been in his circle of friends. I had joined the track team a year prior and had done well. Alvin took notice of me and befriended me. From that point on he was like the big brother to me. We’d joke that he was a brother from another mother; and I looked up to him. I remember coming to school the Monday after Alvin’s accident and slowly walking by his locker – searching through the mass of students in the hallway – hopeful somehow that the information of his death was simply not true and that I’d see his smiling face or feel a sneak attack punch on the back of my shoulder and here him laugh as he whizzed up behind me. But…Alvin wasn't there. He’d never be there again.
It’s a strange thing to get your mind wrapped around as a teenager who hadn’t put a lot of thought into the afterlife. I spent many weeks thinking about Alvin, missing him and questioning how someone could physically be there one day and then be gone forever the next? I’d think about Alvin as I went through my days and my mind would fluctuate between grief and questioning where Alvin had gone. Was he just gone, just buried in the ground or was he somewhere other than earth? I wondered…would I ever see Alvin again? What would that be like? Would he look like Alvin or some ghost-like being? So many questions rolled around in my brain – so few concrete answers to ease my wondering.
As the years have gone on I’ve unfortunately lost several people close to me. A wife, a sister, my parents, several friends...and although I don’t think that you ever get used to losing people to death, nor do I believe it gets any easier, what I have found is that I have gotten used to understanding that people, unfortunately, die. I've also gotten used to questioning myself about the afterlife. In fact, for me, I feel I have settled on a belief in the afterlife with which I am comfortable – and one that gives me hope of seeing my family and friends again in that afterlife.
My belief in the afterlife has come to me for a variety of reasons. I would say that the functioning of the world around me is the biggest reason I have concluded there must be an afterlife. I grew up on a farm with Mom and Dad Watson and through the time I spent with them on that farm I (probably like most farm families do) became very aware of nature – the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind, the rain, growing seasons, animals. Farming is a nature-based business and in living the farm life I became aware and learned about the complexity of the world around me far more so (I believe) than if I had been raised in an urban centre. Watching nature unfold around me every day and realizing how each aspect of nature relies on another aspect to survive and succeed really opened my mind up to the complexities of world, the complexities of living and the complexities of life. When you think about us as humans, inside of each of us is this miraculous combination of organs, bones, muscles, chemicals and water that somehow functions together to allow our bodies to perform (for the most part) the way they were designed to perform. That in itself is a miracle. And then when you consider the world of nature around us which delivers the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath, the warmth we need and so on, life really is amazing, it's miraculous in fact!
My wonderment of nature combined with a farm boy’s understanding of nature’s complexity always leads me to believe that there has to be a greater power at work. A power that I certainly could never fully imagine or understand myself. All I know, all I feel, is that a far greater being than I or anyone else on earth must have been the author of such a complicated and amazingly intertwined creation.
Believing in a higher power some would say is risky and even naïve. For me it’s not really much of a stretch to believe in a God who planned out the nature that I see every day than it is to believe that an explosion or some other set of circumstances produced the nature and the life we live. To believe a higher power must be involved also allows me to believe that this power – this God – must have enough strength, enough foresight, and enough caring for his works of nature to provide an afterlife for us. I won't get into the deeper more philosophical discussions that occur in our world regarding the various religions or trains of thought, other than to say that I do believe that a place (after life on earth is over) has been prepared for us. My mind just can’t believe that a powerful God who built the earth, the sky, the stars and the nature that sustains all of this could not build an afterlife heaven where those who believe and trust in him will gather.
I’ve been challenged over the years by people with differing opinions, which is fine. Everyone has to decide for themselves what they believe and why. One friend asked me during a coffee together “what will happen to you (Tom) if you are wrong in your God Belief and the afterlife? Will you feel silly for having believed?” As I contemplated his question it came to me that I’d rather believe and trust in a God, in an afterlife, in a heaven and find out that it didn’t exist; than to not believe in any of that and find out that it did exist. After all, in believing that God exists, that a heaven (afterlife) does exist I find that I live each day at peace, joyful and able to positively share, inspire and help others around me. My life is a positive adventure rather than a negative journey “who can feel silly living that kind of life?” I asked my friend. After I answered his question, I looked at my friend and I said now let me ask you this “you don’t believe there is a God or a heaven or an afterlife – and what do think will happen to you if you are wrong, will you feel silly if you are?”
Each of us has to determine our own belief in regards to life after death and what is encompassed in all of that. My thoughts may not be your thoughts but they work for me. I’d encourage you to explore your thoughts one way or the other. Strangely enough considering your position on the life after death question quite likely will lead you to examine how you want to live your life moving forward. It’s a question and concept that likely will shape the course of your life and impact you and others around you deeply once you've settled on your own answer.
All the best,