Archive for January 11th, 2010

Is this existence the only life we have?  no after life… no heaven… no hell?  is there karma? is there reincarnation? is there soul? Is there anything other than the 80 or so years most of us will “live”? What are the implications?

Russell’s (Son) position:

This is it.  My 28,105 days are all that I have.  People might remember some version of the things I said or did, others might have photos and videos of some slice of my life and some might carry my genes but I, capital I, will cease to exist when I die.

Based on that, best to live life to the fullest.  That doesn’t mean become adrenaline junkie or find Buddha.  To me it means just do and stop to smell the roses.   Work hard, play hard… be at peace as much as is reasonable. Experience as much as possible.

I like what my grandfather said, “All you leave behind is how people remember you.”  [In the response below, Mom corrects this… perhaps I remembered the quote the way I wanted to… hmmmm]

Donna’s (Mother) response:

So glad to see my father’s words recalled here. I remember them a bit differently, “When it’s all said and done, it’s only the people who will matter.” But that’s really an aside to the question here for me, since I think he was trying to tell me to live for the people and not the stuff after he had spent so many years working so hard to provide me with a good and comfortable life. He wasn’t commenting on his belief in God (which was also one of his deep values) but rather trying to guide me.

Is this life all we have? Is this it? I do not believe this physical life is it.

In fact, the last time I heard anyone say that “this is it” was when my brother and I stood at direct odds over the impending death of our dad — the man quoted by both mother and son herein.

My father was languishing on life support systems having had a very bad outcome from his surgery for pancreatic cancer. He lapsed into a coma shortly after the surgery and showed few — if any — signs that he could or would come out of the coma.

As the hours and days wore on, my brother was determined. If there was one sliver of a chance that our dad would come out of his coma, my brother wanted the life support to continue. I argued that my dad never wanted to be kept alive on life support systems when his quality of life was not likely to be outcome. I wanted his wishes honored. I wanted the machines turned off.

My brother was livid and terrified. He said things like, “Don’t get the flu around Donna, she’ll blow your brains out,” and, “I don’t know about you, but I believe this life is all we get so we have to keep him alive if there is any chance at all for life.”

I was angry, hurt but determined. I answered him, “No, I do not believe this is it. But it really doesn’t matter what you or I believe, what matters is what he (our dad) believes, and he believed in something more. He did not fear death but living a life that was without meaning.”

A day or two later when my brother could be sufficiently convinced that there was no hope for life for my dad and after my dad had then suffered mini-strokes and lots of end-of-life traumas, we finally turned off the machines.

We stood at his beside. A shell of a body that had not shown any tangible signs of life for eight days — my dad was finally to die. In the midst of those sad moments, he turned his head, opened his eyes and fixed them on mine. I reassured him that everything would be all right, just as he had reassured me so many times when I was a little girl. I told him I loved him (as we all did). And he died. The sun was visable for a few moments before the cloud covered filled in the gray skies, and it was over.

My dad was my main teacher in areas of the greater themes of my life, my value system and my overall beliefs, but he was by no means my only teacher.

It is my experience is that the deeper threads of life hold more than I can comprehend or explain without my faith. The wind, a crashing wave on the Pacific shore, a grandchild’s voice, a phrase well-written… or a the love of my father who gave up so much of what he desired to share the fruits of his work with me and to better my life.

I have so much faith in something outside of self.

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