Updated: May 20
Our bodies become the atoms around us. What else?
When talking to mourning families, the question often arises about what happens to us after death. It’s a subject most people don’t talk about unless they are religious and adhere to the doctrine of one of the major religions. As a funeral celebrant, while I don’t have specific religious beliefs, I do have a belief in the importance of our higher consciousness - the power of the imagination to bring us a sense of peace. In my view there are no gods or higher beings, simply the human ability to think and imagine. And in my view they in no way counter the importance of rationalism and science. We live and we die.
But we create stories around how that happens. It's the oldest one in the world. And one of the ways I like to tell stories is this...
When our bodies die, the pure energy, the beating heart which has given us life has to go somewhere. Those particles of life don’t disappear and in purely material or scientific terms, they will reintegrate with the earth like everything else that has ever existed. Just as physicists tell us that there are atoms around us that were created at the Big Bang. So whatever you believe, your life force has to continue to exist in some form, albeit redistributed into other matter.
While I am a rationalist and believe in the evidence science shows us. For me, it goes a little further. I believe that life is always much more than we can see with our eyes. For me I think there is a sense of wholeness, a thread of life that unites us with the energy that forms us and all aspects of the Universe.
As humans we have only been around for a fraction of the Earth’s existence, the universe gets more vast the further we seek into it and yet in purely human terms it's hard to find a purpose beyond Earth's realm. I like to think of those limitless billions of stars out there in the eternity of space beyond our human consciousness as shining lights of life, each one part of our greater being. Perhaps that myriad sky is just reflecting a spectacular carnival of every life gone before. It’s not easy to express but I love this quotation from the 20th Century American poet Muriel Rukeyser: “the universe is made of stories, not atoms.”
When I run a funeral ceremony, I do not impose my values on the families I represent. Funerals are for the living and there are many ways of finding peace with the death of a loved one. You deeply feel the loss but a meaningful funeral should help you move on. The funeral should be your way of both saying goodbye and also the moment you are able to hold that person in your heart and imagination as they pass into memory.