“The brain itself does not produce consciousness. That it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter, shifting the larger, nonphysical consciousness that we possess in the non physical worlds down into a more limited capacity for the duration of our mortal lives.” Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife
In the immediate aftermath of Ben’s death, I felt an urgent need to know that there was something more than our earthly lives, some version of a Heaven or spiritual life that continued. The reason I yearned for this understanding is because my heart was not ready to let go of Ben, almost as if my heart needed to know one day it would be complete again. So, I spoke with our pastor, read Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife and Anita Moorjani’s Dying to Be Me - two eerily similar accounts of near death experiences and what God, spirituality and Heaven may really be. I also spoke to friends with different views on the afterlife and spirituality. Being a lifelong Christian (raised Southern Baptist), some of their thoughts didn’t make sense to me at first, but the more I explored over the next few weeks, the more I felt like my heart was able to feel Ben again.
During those first few days, one friend who had previously lost her young daughter told me that the grief was a marathon that I would need to finish in order to get back to Ben, and she made a comment that caused my heart to pause: “It is a time to be close to Ben. He is all around you, wanting to help you. Nothing can break your bond. Talk to him! He hears your voice.” My brain, restricted by consciousness and thinking in "human mind" terms, didn’t understand her words at that time. Others talked of the fact that the energy of our souls remains all around after our physical bodies fell away. They told me to be open to the energy and signs as Ben tried to show me he was happy and okay. My mind couldn't comprehend those notions, I was utterly lost.
But, over the next two weeks, as I read and pondered, I started comparing their thoughts and experiences to some inexplicable feelings I was experiencing. To boil down (and attempt to paraphrase) Alexander and Moorjani’s experiences – as humans, we are limited by our physical bodies and minds, as we attempt to conceptualize the metaphysical and spiritual truths that cannot be understood or verbalized in human terms or words -- it is just too Great. That our spirit, soul or “energy” is simply bottled in human form for a short time (though time really has no meaning in the spiritual world – it is non-linear), until it is released into its fullest form. This form of true spiritual existence or metaphysical world is around us all the time, not just after death, there are no demarcations between the two. In that form, souls are encompassed by unconditional love, “God’s love” (as humans put it), and that comfort and form of existence is beyond human imagination.
Alexander writes, “Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows—the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children…. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or that ever will exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions.”
The more I read and talked to others, the more I began to understand more of my own truth. As friends spoke of taking spiritual journeys into nature to “find” their loved ones that had passed…I began to put some pieces of the puzzle together, though it is still an on-going process. The closer I am to places that are unencumbered by “human” complexities – the closer I am to nature, spirituality, beauty – the more I can experience pure love, of my family, friends, and yes, Ben – and honestly feel his spirit. I realized this week, though, that as I get closer to that purist of places and feel his love surrounding me, the more my human mind and heart misses his human form, in the quiet at the end of the day. Because, even as I revel in the beauty of his spirit, I grieve my inability to feel his human form, see his beautiful smile. The deep, soul-piercing love of a mother.
My comfort yesterday was my 5 year old, once again. How can a young, innocent child so comfort an adult’s pain? I am beginning to wonder if it is because, like nature, children are closer to the purity of God’s unconditional love. They are not as limited by the human mind as we are as adults. Watching the sun set, the tears came for the first time that day. Moments later, my 5 year old touched my leg and asked if she could hug me. I kneeled down and hugged her, crying, and said “I just miss Ben so much sometimes.” She said, “Me too mommy.” I asked how do I get through? Her response, as she placed her forehead against mine and grabbed the sides of my head: “Just stay calm. And, stay with me, let me love you. Because I am your sidekick.” And, that night, as I cried myself to sleep in her arms and she rubbed my face with her tiny hand, saying "Its okay mommy...accident's happen" – I found unconditional love and took a step closer to finding Ben.