There is a subject that I don’t really think about and don’t really want to – dying. But I recently turned 60 years old and know that, not being 18 years old, dying is sooner for me than for someone that age. So I spent some time struggling with the issue.
Part of the reason I have not focused much on the subject of death is because of my religion. Sure I have had my losses -- grandparents, mother, father, brother and friends -- and as a Jew we honor our deceased loved ones with a prayer near the end of every religious service – The Kaddish. But I am thinking more about what happens to me. After all, I only know being alive in this world. Even though I am quite happy with my life and all the joys I have had, my question became: “Is this all there is?”
I spoke to a favorite Rabbi about the subject. He educated me as to why we as Jews don’t focus on an afterlife. He said many people believe that Judaism does not believe in the afterlife, but he stated they were not accurate. He said while some might believe otherwise, Judaism doesbelieve in the afterlife though the religion focuses on life on earth and what you do while you are here. That is where the emphasis has been placed.But the Talmud speaks of “The world to come.” In essence there is a hereafter and your soul returns to God.
But that is a belief and the problem is what do we really know? I first spoke to Betty Ferrell, the author of ten books, who has been doing palliative care (in short, taking care of very sick people) for 30 years. She stated she has spent time with about 1,000 different people at or near death. Ms. Ferrell spoke of how often those people were communicating with someone from the past who had died. She had witnessed hundreds of apparent communications with people in the afterlife.
Yet that has its limited value to skeptics and gave me only marginal comfort. There are countless books about near-death experiences and people coming back from beyond describing their personal connection with the hereafter, but one has grabbed people more than anyone else – written by Dr. Eben Alexander.
Dr. Alexander has been a noted neurosurgeon for over 25 years. He was truly a man of science and not much of a religiously observant person until he had his own near-death experience which he details in his book, Proof of Heaven.