It always strikes me as a bit of a letdown — a cheat, even — when movie characters touch the chest of a bereaved and grieving child and say, "Your [mother, father, friend] will keep on living right here."
I want a better heaven for my loved ones than my own withered raisin of a heart, and I get depressed when I consider the possibility that the materialists are right, and that we simply cease to be once our synapses stop firing.
I want us to keep on living somewhere else — like Jesus promised — some place where we can meet again at some alter date, embrace, high-five or slap each other 'til we're red, white and blue in the face.
And yet, I don't want entirely to dismiss the weak-tea consolation offered by cinema, because I do have a handful of people in my heart — those who are otherwise separated by time, space and/or death, who yet feel very real to me when I ponder their absence.
Which leads me to wonder whether those movies might be on to something.
As a fiction writer, I tend to think of God as a novelist writing this epic story wherein every bureaucrat, cicada, and horsehead nebula could accurately be described as the main character. As a novelist, it's God's job to bring all things together toward a happy (or at least satisfying) end, but that doesn't mean that we the characters are mere puppets.
Novelists who write about their craft often speak of characters taking on "a life of their own" and thereby taking the novel to different places than the author intended to visit.
So this "soul" that we speak of — this part of our selves that isn't grounded in physical being but is spiritual (whatever that means) that we expect or hope will live on after our mortal coils shuffle off — what if it's simply God's memory of us? What if the afterlife takes place in God's heart?
If God's memory were like human memory, that too would feel like a cheat, but I suspect that God's memories are not dissimilar to God's prose. In other words, as real as spiders. As real as continents.
God's memory of me *contains* me — my own memories, desires and ideals, my love for friends, for family and for others whom I would have loved had we ever met. I believe I will meet them in God's memory, and that we will all of us live together happily ever after, and that nothing of consequence will be lost.
God will remember only the best of us, our sorrows and sufferings and loves. Our joys and failures and songs. We will be as God has always seen us, and we will be content, satiated, and poignantly aware of how our hurts have been redeemed.
And, perhaps, God will write new stories about us: new adventures, new comedies, new romances. And we in turn will never stop singing God's praise.
Mark Eddy Smith is an internationally known writer of books about books. He lives in New Hampshire with two parents, a family of bats, a whole mess of spiders, and at least one mouse. He also is the fiction editor for WordFarm, a small, independent literary press based in Seattle, not to mention the Marketing Coordinator for the Remick Country Doctor Museum & Farm. Read more from Mark at LovesAnarchy.com.
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