Death is a common subject for me. I like to think that I embrace life and cherish the life that I have, but the yearning for balance I carry around causes me to focus on death quite a bit.
I don't fear death. I fear that the people I love who have died won't be available to me. I don't know how to classify my thoughts on the afterlife. I was raised Catholic but could never identify with the concepts of 'heaven' and 'hell'. I have been Pagan for roughly the past 15 years; what I practice is closest to Wicca, but even the Wiccan concept of Summerland doesn't resonate with me. When I read about it or discuss it with others I feel like I'm speaking about a place that doesn't exist, a place I can't get to. I may as well be planning a trip to the outer ring of Saturn.
After Colin's suicide I was speaking with a friend about the concept of afterlife. I was confused and tormented. Being Catholic, I learned that those who commit suicide do not experience peace after death, that their souls don't ever rest. I was concerned that Colin would not even experience peace in death, a peace I believe he desperately wanted. I was also confused because I knew that he did not believe in the Christian concept of heaven and hell, and I hoped that meant he wasn't subjected to that harshness.
I was left wondering what happens to the souls of people who have no beliefs about the afterlife. What happens to the souls of those who don't have a 'heaven' or a Summerland? Do people go to 'hell' because they feel they deserve to? What does hell consist of for people who do believe? Is it their worst fears? If I believe not in a horned devil lording over captives with a pitchfork, but an eternity being surrounded by crying babies, and I feel I deserve to go to hell, is this what I'll get? People say "Life is what you make it". Can that be true of heaven and hell, too?
I don't know what Colin really believed, except that he wasn't Christian and he scoffed at the notion of heaven and hell. It seems wrong to me that his soul would be subject to the rules of a religion he didn't believe in.
While talking with Colin's best friend weeks after his death, I was told about an ancient Native American tribe who conceptualized the dead as still among the community, only in an altered form. It's a common concept among many different cultures, and I connected with the idea that Colin's energy is not lost in his death; his influence and his personality and the things the made him uniquely beautiful are still all around me. I carry bits of him around with me and everything I know about life and death today is shaped by his continued presence in my life. I actually do carry bits of him around with me; after he was cremated I was sifting through his ashes, feeling the texture of it, thinking of my conversation about the changed form of a dead person. In doing so I found minerals, or stones ... little bits left over that didn't burn up. I keep them in a locket and carry them with me everywhere.