Ghost of 'Boy Meets Girl'
Science cannot help us establish what happens when we die. How could it? It measures the physical world and defines its boundaries. But in death we move from the physical realm to the realm of the metaphysical, beyond the reach of the physical sciences. What evidence we have is anecdotal at best, fragments of insight gleaned from personal experience and from the stories of others. They hint, they suggest, but they do not prove.
Jessica Waite lived a normal life within the regular confines of the physical world. She was a "secular materialist" by her own reckoning who, if pressed, reflected the beliefs about death she had inherited through our Western culture, that when we die we go to heaven. Then her husband Sean died suddenly, leaving her and her nine year-old son. In the wake of his death Jessica suffered the trauma of such a heavy and sudden loss, until something else took over. Rage. She began to learn that Sean had led a double life, and that her marriage was not what it seemed. She was devastated.
But then it appeared that Sean was reaching out to her from across the veil. At first this made her angry. She thought that, having failed her in life, he was now haunting her in death. But when she began to yield to the signs he was leaving for her, a new possibility began to emerge. He needed her to work with him to untangle the knots he had left behind, to help them both move through his lies and deceptions to the place where they could love each other again, albeit from a distance, freed now from attachment ... and hurt.
It's an extraordinary story that Jessica tells herself on this week's podcast. She's completing a memoir about it, called "Ghost of Boy Meets Girl," referring to the death of the romantic dream she had lived during their marriage. But can we trust it? Was she blinded by her rage? Was she delusional in her grief? Perhaps. But her story, and countless stories like it, give their own credence to a life beyond this one, and a connection between the living and the dead. We cannot possibly "prove" that such connections exist. But by the clear-headed accounts of trustworthy witnesses, like Jessica, we have to believe that something wondrous and inexplicable happens when we die, even if we will never fully comprehend it in this lifetime.
Those of us who grew up in the church had our thinking done for us. Confess our sins, be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, and inherit the kingdom promised by the Father. We were discouraged from doing any thinking of our own. So, we stayed away from spiritualists and those who had dealings with the dead. We eschewed speculation on how it all unfolds when we die. We did what we were told, which was not to doubt, only believe.
Now though, on the other side of church land, we discover a deeper wisdom that has been with humankind from the very beginning. Death will come to us all, but it won't necessarily conform to our beliefs about it. Those who've gone before may gather to welcome us home; we may encounter celestial guides who light our way; and we may still have our residual "work" to do, left over from our days on the earth. It's wondrous, not frightening. And it suggests a world far more vast and real than anything science could ever prove.
This week, on The Mystic Cave podcast: Ghost of 'Boy Meets Girl': A Conversation with Jessica Waite.