I wouldn’t mind being dead, for a day, even a week, or two. Three, max. It would be restful, a way to recharge, and when I came out of it, my friends would be more than happy to fill me in on what I’d missed.
As a long-suffering insomniac, I have known the rare joy of blind sleep, when you fall into an abyss of dark nothing and wake into blinking strangeness. I like the dissonant feeling of coming back into the world, the slow re-gathering of self. “Okay, I’m in my own bed. It’s the middle of the afternoon. I thought I’d just lie down for thirty minutes, and—Good, God, it’s four o’clock, and I’m supposed to be at…” The fact that so much time has passed without one’s notice or participation is both surprising and curious. I’ve traveled to foreign countries, and, jetlagged, napped in the full press of day, only to wake up feeling relaxed and decadent, eager to jump back into life, as though into a game of double Dutch.
I imagine that I would feel similarly were I to die for a discrete amount of time. I would arise from my bed, my arms outstretched, and say, “Hello, everybody! Did you miss me?” And, of course, the answer would always be yes.
It’s the commitment that puts me off death. The permanence of the thing.
The not-ever-coming-back part of “eternal rest”. (Because what is rest without the opposition of wakefulness, the balance of quietude with invigorating activity?) Is that really all there is: the prolonging of nothingness, forever and ever? How monotonous. How monstrous. No popping back in to say, “You wouldn’t believe what it’s like! There’s no internet over there! I couldn’t get phone reception!”
I think I could even be okay with the no more living part, the cessation of self. I’ve experienced a lot, traveled, and adventured, met interesting people, had some great times. No, it’s the being forever out of the loop that gets me. No longer getting to hear what my children are up to, whether my daughter has a baby, or if my son gets married. I suppose this is the ultimate form of FOMO. The fear of missing out. Or, the extreme version of getting old, being so far past relevancy that you are no longer part of the vast stream of news—trivial, and profound, personal, and far-reaching.
Lacking any cohesive theology, I am hoping for a version of the afterlife that resembles an old-fashioned parlor with an enormous radio at its center, where we, the deceased, can gather, (preferably with pretzels), and listen in on the cacophony of human carryings-on, following along with the Grand Guignol, albeit from a remove—“She did what, now?” “I told him not to buy that truck.” (Asking for visuals seems overreaching; we want to avoid reality television.) No, it would be enough, I think, to maintain this tenuous connection, eavesdropping on the world we had left behind, until, one day, perhaps—an eternity or two, in that other place—we would be so long gone from life that we would no longer remember the significance of human speech—words would be lost, then whole sentences, and soon, the sentiments behind the words would fall away—love, longing, grief, regret—and we would look at one another with bewildered expressions, though we would no longer recognize the concept of bewilderment. One of us would reach to turn the radio off, and we would all blink into the dark parlor, having forgotten what we had been doing there, and we would no longer miss our humanity, having become something else entirely.