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What happens after we die? I mean, I know what happens to our bodies–I’ve seen enough episodes of Bones to get the gist*–but what about our consciousness, our soul? What makes us, us.

The obvious place to look for answers is religion. There are variations, of course, but most religions include the idea of life after death: Those who have been good go to heaven, while the baddies go to hell. Then there are the common questions about heaven and hell that naturally follow. Is heaven filled with angels lounging around on clouds? Are there Twinkies there? (Maybe that last one is more me.) Is Hitler in hell? How about the guy who wrote the “I Love You” song from Barney?

If you’re not a religious person, however, it gets a little more complicated. You can choose the ashes to ashes philosophy–that we’re basically just worm food, and that’s that–or embrace the idea of some sort of afterlife, even if it doesn’t fit the usual heaven-hell scenario. I fall into the latter category.

I don’t pretend to have any clue what awaits us, but the description of it that has stuck with me is one I heard about a decade ago at a friend’s funeral. The minister said that when my friend had passed, he had started a journey, like someone rowing a boat from one shore to another. On the shore behind him were all of us, tearfully waving farewell. The shore ahead of him, toward which he was headed, was filled with his friends and family who had passed before him. They were also waving, but in joyful welcome.

Isn’t that nice? I found it comforting at the time and still do. Maybe that’s the point–it was just a nice story to ease pain. It was that “opium of the people” that Karl Marx was referring to. He may be right, but I don’t care. I’d rather take another hit at that pipe than consider the alternative any day.

*I recommend that you not watch this show while eating dinner.

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