What Happens When We Die?
What happens when we die? This question, when asked, might reveal something about the one who asks it. First, the question seems to suppose that the same thing happens to everyone who dies, as if everyone will have the same experience. What happens when we die? The “we” suggests that the questioner doesn’t not want to be alone when he dies. Why not ask, “What will happen when I die?” The “I” limits this question to one individual. Maybe it is better to use “we” if there are really no isolated individuals in the universe. We are all connected, but we do have different experiences.
The second thing that the question “What happens when we die?” reveals is that the one asking the question expects to die. Is there something that makes people take death for granted? Does a newborn baby think about death and anticipate it? At what point does a person come to think about his own death, and is there a point at which a person can fully accept his own death?
Death is a door that conceals many mysteries. We can read about what other people have experienced during near-death experiences, but there is no guarantee that we will have the same experience as others. Life itself is full of unexpected twists and turns. Would we want it any other way? Would we want a life that is completely planned from beginning to end with no chance for the unexpected? Wouldn’t we be bored? The unknown, in life and death, is something that can bring either fear or hope. We can fear that things will get worse, or we can hope that they will get better.
If we have not dealt with the uncertainty that death confronts us with, or if we have put all of our hope in the present life, then death becomes an enemy. However, if we believe in the benevolence of the universe, and let this benevolence express itself in our lives, then death becomes another adventure, and not something to be feared.