We are sitting at the dining room table overlooking the patio. The trees in front of us have the beautiful shades of autumn. We are eating two types of chowder and shrimp cocktail. This is the best meal, my father says. He is eating heartily. I’m glad. Trying to fatten you up, I tease. When we are finished we retire to the “living room” a few feet away. He looks around the room and says he is pleased and comfortable with the new apartment. We brought most of the furnishing minus a few geisha dolls and an array of angels and madonnas. The apartment has a more masculine feel. It feels uncluttered and relaxing. He looks more rested these days. I notice a quiet air about him. He is in deep thought. I still miss her a lot he says. He shakes his head. This time he is not laughing or smiling. He is no longer in the denial stage of the grief process. He has accepted that my mother, his wife is no longer living as we are. But where did she go?
Where does any living thing go after what we call life? Temple Grandin asked this same question. I recently viewed the HBO film about the well known woman with autism who went on to become a PhD graduate in science and animal rights advocate. I also went to hear her lecture on autism and was inspired enough to read her book on the subject. People “on the spectrum” are characteristically socially awkward. They have a neurological wiring that is different than the general population yet two scenes in the film touched on a universal theme. The first scene she witnessed a cherished horse’s death. But where did he go? The young Temple asks. In the second scene she is at a funeral for a beloved teacher and mentor. She is leaving the funeral and her mother tries to teach her the socially correct behavior. Temple says He’s not there. Where did he go?
I have asked my self this same question so many times. My Catholic upbringing told me that people go to heaven after life on earth. But where is that? What is that? Science tells me that matter cannot be created nor destroyed. So where does the spirit go? I sit with my father and talk about my mother. Her urn is bright and colorful so representative of her personality. The urn is set on the Asian themed curio in a prominent area of my father’s apartment. It holds the last physical matter of what we knew as my mother. The room is permeated by her spirit. In order to answer the question where do we go we must ask ourselves where are we now and what is our purpose? What is life? What is life after life. For now I just respond to my father, I miss her,too. Stay healthy,Dad. I need you around for awhile longer.