My own attitude to death altered radically when I had my first out-of-body experience. My physical body was sitting on the edge of a bed while my consciousness inhabited another, non-physical body that was standing on the other side of the room. Thinking about this afterwards, it seemed logical to assume that if my consciousness could exist outside of my body while I was alive, there was no reason why it shouldn’t continue to exist after my physical body died. Subsequent encounters with dead people have convinced me I was right. When my wife was dying, I journeyed across the borders of the Otherworld to see if there was anything I could do to help her. In doing so, I caught a glimpse of what awaited her. Through a leafy archway, I saw a sunlit garden with tables laid for a feast, attended by, among others, her mother and father.
As with much else in my philosophy, my view of death and what lies beyond it has been built on such personal encounters more than on anything I’ve read or heard. I still miss Ellie and am sad that she passed as she did, but the certainty that death is not an end but a transition and that she did, indeed, go to a better place, has provided much comfort.
That said, my certainty is based on my own experience. I wouldn’t necessarily expect anyone who hadn’t had similar experiences to reach similar conclusions. Death has many faces. I think our cultural mistake is to see all those faces as entirely negative. In Ellie’s case, her physical body had completely failed her, her vital organs shutting down one by one after a long, slow decline. With death, her spirit was released, free to fly, which it literally did. I was privileged to be with her at the moment of her death. As she took her final breath, motes of golden light gathered above her chest where they formed themselves into a golden butterfly that carried her departing spirit out through the closed window, fading into the air outside. It was beautiful, peaceful, serene. Death as blessed release, freedom and joy.