A BRIEF HISTORY OF WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE
Your mom’s brother, your Uncle Corky, dies. Your mom seems upset and you’re confused. You’ve never met him before.
“He sends you the M&M candy cane every year for Christmas,” your mother says.
Oh. Now you’re sad.
It’s Christmas morning and there’s an M&M candy cane under the tree for you.
This is neither the first nor the last time you will confuse Santa with Jesus.
Your brother dies in a car crash. Your mom starts taking you to random churches, sometimes taking you out of school to do so. You don’t really pay attention to the sermons. Instead, you’re thinking about that frog you were forced to dissect a couple months ago.
Someone— not the priest, maybe it was your mom or her friend who kept looking at you and crying— they said to remember, Lizzie, remember your brother is always with you, watching you.
That night, in the bathroom, with your pants and underoos around your ankles, you feel incredibly uncomfortable. You clear your throat.
“Could you… would you mind… not?” you say into the ether. “I’m having trouble peeing.”
“Did you say something?” Your mother calls.
“NO MOM I’M FINE”
You find a copy of the Bhagavad Gita in your middle school library and start thinking seriously about reincarnation.
It’s not suicide you’re thinking about, not really. It’s just pushing the RESET button on the Sega Genesis and starting over with no saved data. Only life.
You get baptized as a member of your mother’s church. Your father is convinced that the two of you go to church every sunday to prove how much better you are than him, so he starts coming to spite you both.
You join the church choir and sing songs about all of the riches laid up for you in Glory, the streets of Heaven paved in gold.
Your parents listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio when they drive you to school on Monday morning, and you wonder why they don’t seem concerned that everyone becomes a socialist when they die.
You’ve been ministering to your church for five years, and tonight your pastor has asked you to preach at the Watchnight service on New Year’s Eve.
You preach about all of the ways the church is failing the world and each other, about AIDS in Africa and visitors who leave without a single hello. You say Jesus lived and was tortured and died so that he could be a gracious host to his home in Heaven, and don’t we at least owe it to Him to be hospitable here?
It’s the last sermon you ever preach.
Your parents get divorced. Your dad always got your mom a box of cordial cherries for Christmas, because your grandmother used to get them for your mom for Christmas, and then she died.
You make sure the box of cordial cherries is sitting under the tree on Christmas morning.
There’s still an M&M candy cane hanging from your stocking.
You move in with a cute boy. His mother is unhappy that her son is living in sin with a white girl. Trying to get her to like you is hard, so you slip away and join his father in the den. It’s a relief to talk about business books and starting your own company.
“Have you ever read the Bhagavad Gita?” he asks abruptly.
You studied for this test in 8th grade and didn’t even know it.
You’re awake in bed again, envisioning the screen with your saved data. You wonder what percentage complete your game is.
You think a lot about pushing the reset button.
You hear your daughter at the Hindu altar in your living room. “Does Ganesh want some nachos?”
“GWEN WE ONLY GIVE GANESH NON-PERISHABLE OFFERINGS,” you yell.
You read this article about how we’ve seen further into deep space than we’d ever been able to before. There’s this configuration of celestial bodies whose gravitational fields act as kind of a zoom lens, see, so the universe has created its own telescope.
Because of the speed of light and thanks to this gravitational telescope, the light from the very beginning of the universe is just now starting to reach us.
Something that started buzzing inside of you at the age of 5 goes still.