A few days ago I met one on one with a friend I hadn't seen for about four months. I've known this man for almost 10 years. As we always do, my friend and I touched on many subjects. At least once each time we meet one of us brings up the subject of how much we both miss a dearly loved mutual friend who died four years ago.
On this evening my friend said he could hardly wait until he "saw" our friend again, indicating that yes, he felt he would see this friend in her physical body! It may not be simple hyperbole: I think my jaw did drop as I realized just how profoundly he has moved to someone who professes a belief in a god figure and in an anthropomorphic afterlife. For him, "afterlife" means when he dies he will see, in human form, his departed friends and family.
I certainly do not have any interest in attempting to disabuse him of this fervent belief. It gives him solace, and his connections via this new path have become the foundation for the promotion of his burgeoning counseling business
As I drove away from our meeting, I recalled part of a quote by Barbara Holleroth, a UU Pastoral Counselor: "... the leaf does not fall out of the world when it leaves the tree. It has a different way and place to be within it."
When I returned home, I found the entire quote:
It is sometimes said that we are born as strangers into the world and that we leave it when we die. But in all probability we do not come into the world at all. Rather, we come out of it, in the same way that a leaf comes out of the tree or a baby from its mother's body. We emerge from deep within its range of possibilities, and when we die we do not so much stop living as take on a different form. So the leaf does not fall out of the world when it leaves the tree. It has a different way and place to be within it.
Holleroth's statement is erudite and perceptive. In no way does she negate the feelings of "believers" (although it seems to me she does dispel the notion that the human form stays intact after death), and she certainly does not invalidate the more scientific-minded. In other words, life's energy is ever present, never ending, never dying but simply changing form.
You'll drift apart, it's true, but you'll be
out in the open, part of everything alive again.
~Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass