What Is The Ultimate Unknowing?

Over the last year, I have been asking  questions monthly about the mysteries of what is unknown to me. Some answers to my questions have revealed themselves slowly and some quickly. Some questions remain unanswered. I found some answers by writing out my inner thoughts and some from people with whom I spoke or who posted responses to my questions. Sometimes, in the faith of the unknown, there was strength and awareness. In a year’s worth of questions about things I didn’t know, things I was haunted by not knowing, I was encouraged to embrace the not knowing. Are we on our way to extinction as human beings? What are art, home, body, the purpose of travel, music, recovery? What is my legacy, love, aging, and now, what is death? It has to come to this last one after so many. The ultimate unknown?  Death.  What happens when we die? What do we as humans do when other human beings die?

Half corner in flowers

Corner Grave in Field of Flowers Suzanne Lorenz © 2016

What happens after you die? I was taught very specifically about this. My parents dutifully and lovingly sponsored me and my siblings through the sacraments of their beliefs as Missouri Synod Lutherans. I was baptized, confirmed and assured that if I believed in a certain “way, truth and light” there was no death but only a “life everlasting” in heaven. I was saved from eternal damnation, from death. 
This was always a comforting thought, although an exclusionary one since even as a young child I wondered… what about….X, Y and Z persons who were not Lutheran?

As an imaginative child, I spent many hours trying to picture what heaven was like; pearly gates, streets lined with gold, being reunited with loved ones that had already “passed through” this life. I never could quite get the picture. I never experienced anyone dying until I was in early adolescent and a boy, a first crush, died in an accidental drowning. I was sad, shocked, and I remember, puzzled.

Here’s another perspective that a friend posted (thanks Nancy) of poet Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate reading his poem “The Dead”. (Animation by Juan Delcan of Spontaneous.)

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iuTNdHadwbk

Needless to say, if you’re a human being you have probably had, at one time or another, some perspective, thought or feeling on the seemingly very real fact that our human bodies are vulnerable and finite.  Like all the other plants, animals and species on this fragile, fascinating earth, they disappear or change forms at some point in time. And our consciousness? Our soul? That’s the other mystery isn’t it? My parents believed that, given the right steps in life, your soul was secured in heaven, peaceful, serene and everlasting. Here’s a common prayer I was taught to say at bedtime every night:
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee Lord my Soul to take.”
At the time, that prayer held a combination of fear and comfort. Today, I see they were trying to teach me to surrender the part of myself I couldn’t control (sleep, death) to a power outside of myself who would take care of that for me.

99Moon Set

Moon Set Suzanne Lorenz© 2007

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep and we shall all be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51 (Handel’s Messiah: The Trumpet Shall Sound.)
The search for where our consciousness goes before and after death is a broad and vast one that I have continued to explore most of my adult life. It’s as close to a search for God energy that I can get. As I get older and closer to the certainty of my biological change from a life formed human to an unknown entity, it seems more interesting and yet illusive and still no more clear than when I was a child saying the above prayer.

Another key to the mystery of the unknown of death might lie in our memorials. A Wikipedia definition of memorials is; “an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person [who has died) or an event.” So, what do we do when someone’s body dies? It just happens that yesterday, a well known musician and icon, Prince, died and the media is filled with acknowledgements of his life and work. We honor them, we collectively remember them.

Sam and I just came back from a month long trip back east that unexpectedly became a journey on a long memorial road. We started with visiting my Aunt Irma in Perryville, Missouri who will be 102 next week, living on her own in a town she grew up in. We went from there to visiting the birthplaces of the two founders of Alcoholic Anonymous, Bob Smith and Bill Wilson. We visited Ground Zero in New York, the Washington DC war Memorials and Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial, Gettysburg, Elvis’s Graceland, Martin Luther King Jr’s Lorraine Motel Memorial and countless, countless, countless cemeteries along the way.

brooklyn cememtery

Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY ©Suzanne Lorenz © 2016

Whew, who knew? It turned out that seeing the sights for me included seeing a lot of tributes to dead people. So are our memories another way to continue the consciousness of those who have passed through this life? We create an object, city, place to remember them. We honor their lives and accomplishments. This now lives past their physical bodies.

Life is but a dream homeLife is But a Dream, Ellensburg, Washington Suzanne Lorenz ©2015

Children are another way we continue after our bodies have disappeared. They not only can be the living biological memory of our lives, often even when the parent is not biological, the memory or a skill lives on in the child raised by them. My youngest son is biologically predestined to express music.  Sam, his step dad, helped actualize that by playing his own music and mentoring him with lessons and encouragement.

So, what do I believe? I honestly don’t know. As in all of my questions, I find myself in faith with the mystery. Here, again, from Iris Dement, one of my favorite singer/songwriters who I was recently privileged to see in person in New York. Here is her view on it in words and music and it’s good enough for me, “I think I’ll just let the mystery be.”
Iris Dement “Let the Mystery Be

Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where they they all came from
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain
And so it’s all the same to me
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Some say once you’re gone you’re gone forever
And some say you’re gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour
If in sinful ways you lack

Some say that they’re comin’ back in a garden
Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where they they all came from
Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain
And so it’s all the same to me
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

Some say they’re goin’ to a place called Glory
And I ain’t saying it ain’t a fact
But I’ve heard that I’m on the road to purgatory
And I don’t like the sound of that
I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be

Everybody is wondering what and where they they all came from
Everybody is worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go
When the whole thing’s done
But no one knows for certain
And so it’s all the same to me

I think I’ll just let the mystery be
I think I’ll just let the mystery be

 

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