This week, I want to consider what it means to experience and cultivate a sense of continued connection with people who have died. With this in mind, I invite us into a place of imagination and wondering. How might we ponder our connections with those who have gone before us — those who have loved us into being?
Nine years ago, I had a powerful, imaginative experience after one of my closest loved ones died. We lost him on January 11, 2009. Four months later, in April, I sat in my church office in Austin, Texas and had an energizing, imaginative sense of connection while practicing meditation.
Back in those days, I used to meditate about 45 minutes every day. Perhaps I should get back to this because it did me so much good. A meditation coach taught me how to do it — or rather, various ways to do it — and I made this a part of my daily rhythm.
But on this day in April 2009, I decided to practice meditation a bit differently than I had done before. I decided I was going to have a conversation with David, this beloved one we had lost. Perhaps there were things I might need to say to him. So without planning my words in advance, I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, and entered that time of meditation.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried meditation before, but sometimes, you can get to this very deep place where it feels like you’re dreaming, but you’re fully awake. In fact, you’re especially aware. You’re not hallucinating or anything like that (thank goodness) but allowing your imagination to do whatever it wants to do while you observe and participate. Thoughts, memories, and images often bubble up to the surface.
I entered that kind of depth of meditation, but rather than experiencing a variety of thoughts, memories, and images, I sat there and had a conversation with David in my mind. First, it was remarkable to discover how deeply I had internalized him within myself. It wasn’t as though I would say something, then think, “Hmm. . . what would David say to that?” then tell that thing to myself. No, in this very imaginative moment, I could participate in a give-and-take conversation, like I might, perhaps, if I were dreaming.
Second, I should say this was a “conversation.” I’m not in any way saying that I channeled David in that moment. That being said, of course, I think our connections are very active and alive even after we’ve lost someone, so I’d say the presence of the connection was real, even if I was not channeling him in himself.
All of this, in and of itself, was a profoundly meaningful experience to me. But today, I offer it as prelude to share what David “said” to me in that moment. It turned into this beautiful, imaginative thought that I’ve continued to carry with me when I think about death, and perhaps, what it might be like for us after we experience death.
On that day in April, David said to me:
“When you die, it’s as though every single person who has ever lived becomes the absolute love of your life. All people — each one, every one. Every single person becomes the absolute love of your life.”
When I finished this meditation, I loved this idea. And I thought, what if that’s true? Or something like it? Wouldn’t that be beautiful? To feel connected to everyone so deeply that it’s as if every single person has been and is the absolute love of your life? What would that be like?
I have no idea — obviously — what does or doesn’t happen after death, but I like to ponder this. I hope it’s as good as this.
And to think this way. . . Well, that has implications for how we live now.
Because right after having this experience in meditation, I began to take a walk around the University of Texas campus. I saw a myriad of students. Many of them were in their own world, walking along with earbuds in, listening to music or thinking their own thoughts. And as I passed them, I kept saying in my mind, “Someday, you’ll be the love of my life. . . Someday, you’ll be the love of my life. . . Someday, you’ll be the love of my life.” I never said that aloud because that would be remarkably weird! But I enjoyed thinking it.
I hope something like this is true.
And if it is, how incredibly special is it that some people are the loves of our life right now? It’s like we get a head start.
This post is part of a series this week. Feel free to check out the other pieces too: