I sat in my therapist’s office several weeks ago talking about how so many parents of deceased children seem so sure that they will be reunited with their child in the afterlife. The belief is so prevalent in these circles (Yes, there are actually “parent’s of deceased children” circles!) that it almost appears as a given.
I complained to my therapist that as much as I want to believe that there is something else after death, I have no proof. “I don’t have the receipts,” I told her. She wrote a title of a book down on a Post-It note and handed it to me.
“Read that. Let me know what you think.” The Post-It note read: Proof of Heaven. “It’s written by a neurologist,” she said.
A neurologist! Now this is something I can read. I imagined reading a book by a neurologist detailing hundreds of experiments where he is able to determine beyond the shadow of a doubt that some level of conscious thought survives and goes somewhere else. Some form of organized energy that goes forth after the physical body stops working. I ordered it right away. This is the thing I needed. The receipts, if you will.
I received the book in the mail and promptly lost it. Had to order to it again. The second time around I managed to crack it open and dove into the prologue. Just a few pages in, any hopes I had for some kind of answer were completely dashed. It sadly appeared that this neurologist was sorely lacking in knowledge about..well, neurology.
I’m no doctor. The things I have learned about medicine come from the tiny bits and pieces I’ve picked up as a conservator and the time I spent with my son in the pediatric ICU. Both of those experiences combined still place me firmly on the moron level of medical knowledge. But there are a couple of things I do know.
The author of the book was terribly ill, almost died and was placed in a chemically induced coma while the medical team attempted to get his bacterial meningitis under control. While he was in the coma, he went to a magical, heavenly place that sure did seem like heaven. The author places all of his evidence, the entire basis of his proof that heaven exists, solely on the fact that his brain had shut down and he had experiences that transcended brain function. In other words, if your brain is broken, experiences you have couldn’t have come from your brain, right?
Well, I can get on board with that. Except for the fact that this man’s brain wasn’t broken. You see, a neurologist should know that a coma is not the same as brain death, and this is where my moron-level medical prowess comes into play. A coma can certainly lead to brain death, but you can also wake up. If you can wake up, that means your brain is still functioning on some level. That specific level depends on how badly your brain is injured, and like I mentioned above, this was a chemically induced coma, one that the medical team put him in and had the power to take him out of. In a coma, one retains reflexes that a brain dead person does not have.
The author continually tries to drive home the fact that his brain was essentially turned off during the entire experience. No, sir, it wasn’t. I know what turned off means. I’ve seen it.
I got about a third of the way into the book and thought, “I just can’t with this guy” and closed the book. Yes, I was disappointed, and surprised that the book had been a bestseller for years; sales that were undoubtedly driven by tons of people just like me, looking for hope.
Recently I was somewhere talking to Jay, doing what I normally do when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t walk yet and doesn’t have a lot of words: narrate. “Look at those! Aren’t those pretty? Oooh, look at that one! Do you think you’d like something like that? I sure would. What do you think of that one?”
If anyone were around, they might think it a bit odd that I’m totally alone and talking out loud to no one. I talk to Jay constantly. Talked to him the whole way into work this morning, out loud. Of course I hope there’s a heaven, or someplace else, anywhere, where I can arrive, see him sitting on the floor, and go scoop him up. I imagine that scenario all the time. Maybe he hears me when I talk to him. Maybe he doesn’t. But I miss him so bad that talking to him let’s me go back to when he was here. It’s too hard to just go forward. One therapist early on told me “You just need to put his clothes in a box and open it up when you’re ready.” I didn’t see that guy again. I can’t imagine not going into his room all the time and touching his clothes, or kissing the changing pad where his head used to go. Is there a heaven? Hope so, but I’m pretty sure I won’t know the answer anytime soon. It doesn’t change how I do things now. Nor will it ever, most likely. I’ll always talk to him, and will always hope with all my might that I will be scooping him up again one day.