I have died several times, over the course of my thirty-five years. The first time, as an infant. I remember after being revived, seeing everything blurrily through the oxygen tent. Another time, as a toddler, I drowned. Another time as a teen, I fell from a second story roof. The list goes on. Death has courted me since birth. Each time, heart had ceased. There was no brain activity. I was physically dead. And guess what? There was nothing. During the time I was dead, I didn’t float out of my body. I didn’t hear people trying to revive me. I didn’t see a light. No dead family members appeared to me. There was no heaven. I received no vision of hell. Not one single time that I died, did I see anything at all. I simply ceased to be. A priest that I consulted at the time, Father Daniel, encouraged me to remain steadfast in the faith. He explained that had I received any visions, or seen the afterlife, in truth, the Divine would have been removing my freedom of choice. Regardless of any justification, the nothingness still terrifies me. Sleeping terrifies me because it reminds me, every time I close my eyes, of the nothingness that awaits. Each time I go to sleep I wonder as the darkness envelopes me and I mentally slip away, will this be the last time? Will I see another sunrise? What about my family?
Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? Truthfully, I don’t know. I like to think that I believe that there is, and I go through the motions… Yes, I am faithful. Following a code of laws that I believe to be Divine. Attending religious services. Praying and confessing my sins, trying to do better, living according to a code that the rest of the world views as silly and antiquated. I am kind to others. I force myself to like everyone by killing that judgmental little voice. I do my best to not get angry. I give my tithes and offerings. I read the Holy Book, the Word of the Divine inscribed by the hand of man, His messengers. Is it really His word? I honestly don’t know. I like to think that I believe, but do I? The fact is, I am filled with doubt. All I know is what I can perceive with my senses, and even my senses betray me.
If the afterlife is real, as I like to think that I believe, what hope do I have? Will the angels at the moment of my final death draw swords and prevent me from uttering my final declaration of faith? Will demons scratch and grasp at me as I attempt to ascend? Will the accuser be able to pile enough in the scales to have me declared a completely wicked person? If I go down to punishment, will there be enough silver remaining once the dross is cleared for me to rise up again? If the afterlife is not real, I leave no legacy. I have done nothing worthy of praise. I have accomplished nothing worthy of memory. I have failed my ancestors and their legacy. I have not sacrificed. I have not gone without. I have been selfish and have only sought after my own comfort. I will go down to nothing, to darkness, I will cease to be, and my brief time upon this planet will have been wasted. A life filled with labour and affliction. Seeking after vanity and comfort. Wandering through life, only to find that my final destination is destruction. Either way, do I have anything to look forward to? On the one hand, a glimmer of hope, the minuscule chance of reward for an unworthy sinner, on the other, the end of it all. What is it about me that any Creator, any Divine, if such truly awaits me, would find worthy of consideration? If I do not sink into darkness, but instead go to judgment, what merit accompanies me in my favour? I am… unworthy.