There’s a lot out there about what we feel or see at and after death. Some say there’s heaven or hell. Others say we come back to this earth in another body. Still others say there’s nothing. We’ve heard that our whole life flashes before our eyes, or that a deep, calm sense of oneness with the universe flows over us. One sweet, sorrowful version I heard said, “Heaven is where all the dogs you ever loved come to greet you.”
I bet, though, there are some post mortem possibilities we haven’t considered before.
All the ironies you missed along the way in life you suddenly see in stark light.
You’re watching the film of your life and you’ve made it to the outtakes. While the credits roll, you witness a march of moments that, if you’d been aware, you’d have said to yourself, “I’m such an idiot.” There you sit, forced to live all the squirmy disbelief that comes with the revelations of all the shit you didn’t realize. You wince at someone’s wry comment that went over your head. You flush at the way you reacted to something that drove you crazy. Your chest constricts at a judgment you passed on another. And your jaw clenches at an opportunity you missed.
Like, remember that time when you silently felt smug about being the smartest person in the room, but didn’t notice the others exchanging glances about what a fool you were? Or how about when you yelled at the kids to keep their voices down? Remember when you resented your spouse for unjustly resenting you, and spent a few days being angry about it? Or how about that hot guy or girl who said something suggestive, opening a door to connect, and you somehow closed that door with an awkward response?
All the food you ate lies in piles with its containers beside them.
You wander through a dusky, flat field aghast at a jiggling heap of mayonnaise the size of a Clydesdale. Dozens of empty plastic squeeze bottles slide off each other, the corners retaining small bits of the crusty dried condiment. It makes you wonder if Miracle Whip was a direct rebuttal of Hellmann’s. Further on, you circumvent a wheel of Brie cheese as big as a large SUV, its funky aroma enveloping you while the plastic and paper wrappers lie crumpled in little white balls like newspaper from an Amazon delivery. Then, you crane your neck and squint to see the top of a stack of Pringles swaying precariously and disappearing into the clouds like the Seattle Space Needle, their red cans stacked end to end reaching just a little higher.
You wander through the field, disgusted with your consumption and waste. If you’re one of the few with mountains of chickpeas, quinoa, and a few reusable bags, you rest easy.
You end up in the cliques you chose.
The subgroups of people you spent your life with are those you hang with when your eyes close forever. Were they scuba divers? Social media influencers?Anti-abortion activists? Wine experts? Film producers? Yoga practitioners?
You finally get to meet some of the icons that came before your time. Would you relish a chinwag about fish with Jacques Cousteau? Here, grab a glass (by the stem, please) and taste wine with Émile Peynaud. Or do you look at other groups wishing you could join them or wonder at relationships you could have nurtured?
Which is all to say, none of this is about then. It’s about now.