What happens after life?

Posted by on Jan 4, 2013 in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

January 7, 2013

Welcome back to the “A Year to Live” experiment, living this year as if it were my last.   Today we ask the question…

What comes after life?


“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,

And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

―Walt Whitman

In this, my fourth month of living as if it were my last year, I am asked to think about the end of life and what comes next?

Steven Levine, the author of A Year to Live shares these stories from people who’ve been resurrected from clinical death:

“They have interviewed hundreds of people who spoke of floating free of their bodies, hearing themselves pronounced dead, and headed across some barrier or though some tunnel, past long-departed loved ones, drawn magnetically towards a brilliant light that emanated an all-consuming peace and an all-embracing love.  Most personified the great light as Jesus or Buddha, or God herself.  Some children have spoken of meeting Santa Clause.  A few teenagers describe meeting an admired cartoon Superhero.  And for the astonished atheist, who mistakenly believed that the existence of an afterlife was dependent on the existence of a God, when in truth is depends only on existence itself, perhaps a smiling gray-haired Einstein waiting with a cup of tea to sit and talk it all out.  Most who returned from such an experience came back with three very precious insights:an increased appreciation of life, a diminished fear of death, and a new sense of purpose.” 

When you read this did you imagine what the ultimate of source of everything might appear to you as?  Barbra Streisand?  Hugh Jackman?  A huge chocolate cake with real star sprinkles?  Judy Garland in her ruby slippers and a cosmic little dog made of angels wings?  Or speaking of wings, a steaming order of 12 extra hot wings sharing with you the mysteries of ever-lasting life? 

In my research on this topic I found this Documentary called:  The Afterlife Investigations.  It’s fascinating…

Around the 50 minute mark they talk about something called, electronic voice phenomenon.  This is when spirits speak through radios or are recorded on audiotapes and videos. No, really!  There seems to be some evidence that voices or images show up on tapes which were not heard at the time of recording and only seen or heard during playback.  Hmmm…

I suddenly remember six months ago I was sitting I this very room being interviewed by my friend and media personality, Irma Gagnon, for her blog.  She asks questions about my latest solo show, and about my father and his death.  I share memories of our father/daughter trips, where we partied together, how he used to take me to old car shows and how near the end of his life I tried desperately to get him some help for what I saw as depression and sense of hopelessness.

Irma has come to my home with her audio guy, Jeff, to help her capture our conversation on his electronic recorder.  We speak for about forty minutes, then we wrap up our conversation and I start talking with Jeff.  He tells me that for a long time he has been able to see spirits…of like, dead people.  He says he particularly sees them at intersections, where they have died in accidents.  He has to be careful not to make eye contact with them because then they’ll know he can see them and will want something from him.

He says, ‘your dad is here.  And don’t be surprised if during your show you look up and he’s in the audience.’  Holy macaroni.  Well, that freaks me out.  I’ve just got my lines memorized and now I gotta worry about seeing my dead Papa in the audience?  That’ll throw ya off.  But, the interview was pleasant and I am happy with how it went.

The next day I get a call from Irma.  She’s upset, extremely upset,  “Tracey, Jeff was playing back our interview and…none of it got recorded.  I’m so sorry.  This never happens. I’m gonna fire him. I’m so sorry.”

There’s more… She says there is something captured on the tape.  A mans voice and repeats the same thing over and over, it says, “This is your father.  I want you to know I am fine and always with you.”

Oh. My… How could this be?   After watching the doc, I put together that this may be an example of electronic voice phenomenon.  Irama tells me that she had goose bumps when she heard it.  But that Jeff said it was the guy from Vistek doing a sound check on the equipment. Seriously?  Who chooses those words, over and over again, for a sound check!?  

I am left not knowing what to believe.  

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

~William Shakespeare, Hamlet

There are so many theories about what happens after life.  For millenniums there have been stories of heaven and hell, blissful paradise and torturous eternities. 

And then there is what science believes, as Professor Chris French, also the editor of Skeptic Magazine, says, “According to science when you physically die and when your brain stops functioning, that is it, that is the end.”



Another fascinating look at the topic can be found in the NBC special that asks – “Is There Life After Death?” It’s narrated by Morgan Freeman, so you know there’s gotta some truth in there, the guy is Hollywood’s version of God after all.  Definitely worth watching.

And finally, all of the beliefs in a life after death have one thing in common, the body is just a vessel for the soul and the soul is eternal.

But is there a way to prove or disprove it scientifically?

Is the soul a myth or one of the fundamental fabrics of the universe?

Then of course, as mentioned by Professor French above, the Materialists and  Atheists believe this is all there is, kid.   When the fat lady sings, the curtain comes down and blackout.  Eternal blackout.

I have never had a near death experience but…a few months ago I am in Sante Fe, as the flight home takes off and I watch the airport and buildings get smaller and smaller, as we get higher the whole state becomes like a set I’m looking at from a distance and disappearing as we head into the clouds.  I am leaving Sante Fe, I feel my experiences becoming memories and I am being taken up and away from them.  I think, maybe this is what death is like? Maybe we get to the end of life and, as our awareness begins to exit our body and return to wherever it came from, we look back on our life and we wonder; was it all a dream?  As our awareness rises higher and higher, above our home, the hospital or sporting event where we happen to pass away, we feel the life we’ve lived get smaller and smaller as we are taken to the next place.  Wherever that may be.

One idea that feels right to me is that we live on in the art we create.  The more we put our complete selves into that art, the more likely who ever reads it, sees it, hears it or touches it, is to feel us in it.  To feel who we were when we were alive, expressing not only what it meant to be human but what it meant to be this human, this one unique person that we are.   It’s a form of life after death.  Our soul lives on in our art.   

And of course, in the love we gave.  A piece of our soul survives in everyone we have ever encountered.  That soul fragment is the strongest and most recognizable in the ones who loved us.  This is one idea of life after death we can all relate to no matter what our religious beliefs are. 

But how much time do we want to devote to this mystery?  How much do we let it take us away from our life, here and now.  This one happening right now.  

I’ll end with one of my favourite scenes.

A seeker follows a long and winding path to reach a powerful shaman she has heard great things about.  After staring in silence for many moments at the powerful shaman, the seeker finally asks:

Seeker:  What happens after death, Shaman Woman?

Shaman:  Why ask me?

Seeker:  Because you are a shaman.

Shaman:  Yes, that is so.  But I am not a dead shaman.


As I continue on this journey of delving into life and death, today I am off to take my seven year old nephew on another adventure.  I have given him instructions to dress as a super hero and that I will be there at noon.  For the moment, I’m quite happy to live the miracle here, right now and let later take care of itself.

To infinity and beyond!  









A partial guide to the after-life . . .

From my research, ideas of what happens to us after death can be sorted into four categories:

Heaven & Hell – In Abrahamic religions, the view is generally held that one goes to hell or heaven depending on one’s deeds and/or faith while on Earth.  Heaven is a place of everlasting reward for the righteous to go after they die. Hell in comparison is a place of eternal torment for the wicked.

Limbo – Limbo is a theory that unbaptized but innocent souls, such as those of infants, virtuous individuals who lived before Jesus Christ was born on earth, or those that die before baptism must wait before going to heaven.

Purgatory – In the Catholic Church, all those who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven

Nothing – In metaphysical naturalism this is the belief that the physical world is all that exists, therefore after death comes nothingness.

What some of the world’s religions believe…

Universalists:  Some sects, such as the Universalists, believe in universalism that all souls will ultimately be saved and that there are no torments of hell

Wicca:  The Wiccan afterlife is most commonly described as The Summerland. Many Wiccans see The Summerland as a place to reflect on their life actions. It is not a place of reward, but rather the end of a life journey at an end point of incarnations.

Buddhism:  Buddhists maintain that rebirth takes place without an unchanging self or soul passing from one form to another. The type of rebirth will be conditioned by the moral tone of the person’s actions (kamma or karma).

Bahá’í Faith:  The teachings of the Bahá’í Faith state that the nature of the afterlife is beyond the nature of those living, just as an unborn fetus cannot understand the nature of the world outside of the womb.

Mormonism:  Joseph F. Smith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presents an elaborate vision of the Afterlife. It is revealed as the scene of an extensive missionary effort by righteous spirits to redeem those still in darkness — a spirit prison or “hell” where the spirits of the dead remain until judgment. It is divided into two parts: Spirit Prison and Paradise.

Ancient Greek and Roman:  The Greek god Hades is known in Greek mythology as the king of the underworld, a place where souls live after death. The Greek god Hermes, the messenger of the gods, would take the dead soul of a person to the underworld (sometimes called Hades or the House of Hades). Hermes would leave the soul on the banks of the River Styx, the river between life and death.

Judaism:  After death, the soul is brought for judgment. Those who have led pristine lives enter immediately into the Olam Haba or World to Come. Most do not enter the World to Come immediately, but now experience a period of review of their earthly actions and they are made aware of what they have done wrong. Some view this period as being a “re-schooling”, with the soul gaining wisdom as one’s errors are reviewed. Others view this period to include spiritual discomfort for past wrongs. At the end of this period, not longer than one year, the soul then takes its place in the World to Come.

What do you believe?  I’d love to hear from you.  Leave a comment below!

~Tracey Erin Smith


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