What Happens When We Die

Death, it is all around us. Death, it is complicated. It could happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere, just waiting for us around any corner. What is going to happen to us when we die? We, humans, tend to try not to think about it too much, but it is something inevitable, something we will all eventually come to. I believe that everyone fears it in one way or another, that this fear arises from the fear of the unknown, the unexplainable. Throughout history, we’ve often questioned if there is a life after death. Along the way, our religions and various philosophers offered beliefs and opinions to answer this commonly asked question. However, many of the answers contradict each other making it hard to figure out. Nothing offers more courage than the confidence that there is a better life for those who use the present to prepare for eternity. Although many can argue there is more afterlife, death isn’t mysterious at all. I believe that in death you become what you were before you were born; nothing. “The Moths,’ by Helena Maria Viramontes is common with death, imagery, magical realism, and symbolism.

The story, instead of focusing on the creatures in the title, is a coming of age story about a young girl who is rebellious against her family and seeks comfort with her grandmother. She is faced with the deterioration and death of her grandmother. We don’t encounter the moths until the end of this short story. In death, you become reborn or rather reincarnated. Rebirth is of a spiritual nature and is started when the moths carry her soul.Then the moths came. Small, gray ones that came from her soul and out through her mouth fluttering to light, circling the single dull light bulb of the bathroom. Dying is lonely and I wanted to go where the moths were, stay with her and plant chayote’s whose vines would crawl up her fingers and into the clouds; I wanted to rest my head on her chest with her stroking my hair, telling me about the moths that lay within the soul and slowly eat the spirit up. (Viramontes 560-561)Like the flow of the story “The Flowers,” by Alice Walker, life has such a beautiful beginning, a middle, and then leads into a dark ending, conveying that throughout life there is always going to be death. In this story, Myop realizes that she is not only looking at death but the cruel racial violence of a lynching. This is how this man met his end, with nothing and alone. The man in this story who clearly was in pain and suffering is no longer, he is nothing, he is no longer suffering.

After reading poems like ‘The man he killed’, by Thomas Hardy and seeing how little life matters in the time of war, how can you possibly think that there is anything after death? I know people want to believe there is something after life but if our body dies and our soul continues, do we just continue to suffer for what we have done or how we felt when we were still alive? This poem makes me feel a sense of sadness and empathy because this man, most likely a deeply affected soldier home from the war, kills someone that he doesn’t even know and finds that he doesn’t have a good reason for doing so other than that it is war and that is what you do in time of war. We see this in the third stanza. “I shot him dead because Because he was my foe, Just so: my foe of course he was; That’s clear enough; although (Hardy 814)Another great piece of literature that I had the pleasure of reading, that also made me think how we could possibly live on after death was “This Property is Condemned,” by Tennessee Williams. Ultimately, it’s a morality tale. It depicts the survival of the fittest, though it was never a fair fight. The characters of this story are the condemned property, compromised by life and circumstance.  The conversation the two kids are having seems natural, but the context of the conversation is unnerving. Death really couldn’t be worse than what this young girl’s life has been and what it will ultimately become.

Often a ghost is considered the soul or spirit of a dead person that can appear to the living and heaven is our afterlife, yet another theory of where we go or what we become when we pass. In ‘As the Crow Flies,’ by David Henry Hwang, a play that uses humor throughout, is in short, a play about a woman who needs to fight off ghosts and then, in the end, accepts death and is lead home, what I believe is what she is referring to as home.In “Death Knocks,” by Woody Allen, another humorous play, death represents many realities of death: there is no perfect time to die, death itself is never what we expect or what we picture it to be (which is why most of us are so afraid of death), and death is perceived differently by everyone. Really, how could we say what happens after death, if we can’t experience it ourselves and tell someone what we have encountered? What I will say is that we do have a life force. When our life force diminishes our body dies, but what is left after the body dies? I cannot say that we go to some other world, like an afterlife or heaven. Or that our spirit becomes something else and leaves us. Once our life force leaves, we don’t have control over what happens next. Is there any consciousness after death? I am going to have to say no. Our brains get separated from our thoughts, our life force, and then we become nothing.

Works Cited

  1. Hardy, Thomas. ‘The Man He Killed .’ Ridl, Schakel and. Approaching Literature 3rd edition. 1902. 814-815.
  2. Hwang, David Henry. ‘As the Crow Flies .’
  3. Ridl, Schakel and. Approaching Literature 3rd Edition. 1986. 1073-1082.Lee, Li-Young. ‘Visions and Interceptions.’
  4. Ridl, Schakel and. Approaching Literature 3rd Edition. 1986. 832-833.
  5. Ridl, Peter Schakel and Jack. ‘Approaching Literature: Reading + Thinking + Writing. 3rd Edition.’
  6. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s , 2012.
  7. Viramontes, Helena Maria. ‘The Moths .’
  8. Ridl, Schakel and. Approaching Literature 3rd Edition. 1985. 557-561.
  9. Walker, Alice. ‘The Flowers .’ Ridl, Schakel and. Approaching Literature 3rd Edition. 1973. 20-21.
  10. Williams, Tennessee. ‘This Property is Condemned .’ Ridl, Schakel and. Approaching Literature 3rd edition. 1946. 1083-1090.

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