As a doctor, I have seen death , or the end of life as we know it too many times to count. I realise though that it does not really touch you until you lose someone that has been an integral part of your life for as long as you have been alive…for me it was my father, who died 11 years ago. In trying to deal with the loss of his physical presence in my life, and in trying to explain to my kids what I think happens when someone dies, I came up with the water and steam story.
If I fill a pan with water and boil it dry, the water “disappears”, but it is not really gone. It has just changed to steam which we cannot see with our eyes or touch with our hands, yet you can feel the presence of it if you are close enough. The water has undergone a change of state. I think this is what happens when one dies.
People and living things in general are essentially a bundle of energy, which in our world, as we know it, expresses itself as a mass of protoplasm that we recognise as a body. When one dies, the body ceases to be, but the energy that moved that body continues to exist in some other form. Some religions believe it exists as pure light. Maybe the energy returns to become part of the original source of that energy..which people may call heaven/God/god/the sun etc.
So to me therefore life is about energy which gets expressed in different ways. When we do “good” we increase our energy and that feels good, especially if it is done in a way which does not deprive another of their energy. In fact my definition of a good deed would be one that enhances and encourages the flow of energy. By contrast, bad deeds would deplete this energy to unhealthy levels. A sudden drastic decline in energy to below the levels required to power a body would cause death of the body with transference of that energy back to the original source. When people die of healthy old age, so to speak, I think that represents a gradual flowing back of energy to source.
When a person dies, the body, which in life is the wrapping or container for this energy, is no needed, because the energy has taken a form which no longer needs a container..much like the steam produced when water is boiled. So the body is left behind as the energy can no longer be contained with it. The loved ones of the person who died, then dispose of the body with rituals and ceremonies that I think all ultimately show gratitude for the container which held the energy for a time, and recognise that the energy has moved into another realm of existence unbound by containers.
I think all religions acknowledge that there is more than the body to what makes a life. I believe that life force or energy does not cease to exist because someone dies. It only ceases to exist in a form that is easily perceived by those of us still bound to our bodies. Seen in this way, death for me becomes another stage in a journey, one of the endless series of changes the guarantee of which is the one unchanging thing in our world. So instead of fighting it, for me it feels more useful to be present and live in each moment and know that the energy never dies, but only changes from one form to the next.