One thing that I have told myself I need to do this year is read more. So far, so good; one week into February and I am already on book # 7.
Last night I started reading The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. I had read the opening chapter of the book in my first graduate fiction workshop three semesters ago and have been meaning to read the whole thing since.
One of the settings in the book (and I am not giving anything away plot-wise by revealing this) is an unnamed city where people go when they die. The dead remain in this city and exist in a sense that resembles their human life (they eat, have jobs, etc.) until the last living person on Earth who has a memory of them dies. When that happens, they disappear immediately from the city. No one knows to where.
I've been thinking about this concept of a living city of the dead all day today. Ironically, I began reading the book on February 7th, my father's 73rd birthday, and the fifth birthday since his death in 2002.
This is not a missive about living without my father. I have addressed that subject before several times since his death. I had a sort of epiphany last year on this day when I realized that if he had survived the day that he died, I had a feeling he might have died by his 72nd birthday anyway.
I've accepted his death. I did so a long time ago, and I am proud, in a way, of my ability to have moved on. Everyone in my family seems to have done this. I see now that you almost have no choice. You either die or go insane if you don't.
What if there is a city of the dead? I think about Dad being there, with his brothers, his in-laws, his friends-all people I have memories of and therefore would be in the city with him-and others who I have no memory of, like his mother (long dead) and his father (who died nine months after my birth), but still have people alive who remember them.
He'd be there a long time too, as there are plenty of young people on this planet who remember my father.
As I said, I've been thinking about the idea of a city of the dead a lot today, about him being there, and most importantly, the fact that he would most likely still be there when it became my time to be an inhabitant of this place.
It's pure fiction, I realize, but most of us spend our lives holding on to a belief that Heaven exists and if we are fortunate enough to get there, we will be reunited with our departed loved ones. A sort of city of the dead, except there would be no disappearing from it.
I'm certainly no fan of death. I find the concept of a world without me impossible to understand. I know that civilization had thousands of years here before I came along and will most likely have thousands more after, but the world exists entirely in my head, in my mind, and when I die, when it dies, all that goes away. It's enough to obsess about, and there are times in my life were I have obsessed about it, and I'm sure I will do so again.
It's like dreading a perpetual root canal appointment.
But what if Heaven exists? What if my father is there, will always be there, and I will see him and spend eternity with him someday? Why be so resistant to that idea? The realist in me does not accept the concept of blind faith. I just can't believe in something because I am told that it is so. I need proof. I wish it were different, but it isn't. That doesn't mean that I don't believe in Heaven. I look for proof every day of my life and at times I think I find it, but I am always unsure.
Someone once told me that the idea of Heaven is incomprehensible, and always will be. It's just something that we as humans lack the capacity to understand it. This person also told me that once they accepted that they would never be able to grasp what Heaven was, they were able to believe that it existed, and they looked forward to seeing it someday.
That person is dead now. They have their answer.