Today’s sermon was entitled The Possibility of Life After Death. In it, Rev. David shared his personal spiritual journey towards a belief in life after death. This is not a subject often broached in Unitarian Universalism. It’s one of those subjects, like God, that is danced around but rarely directly spoken of, in anything near certain terms, by name.
This is one of the reasons I like Rev. David so much. He broaches these subjects, offers his own beliefs and explanations thereof, and invites the congregation to ponder. The sermon explains his research into this branch of his spiritual path, and I’d like to share my own path.
I was a happy agnostic until the age of 25. By “happy agnostic,” I mean that I didn’t know what the truth about life and death and spirituality was, and I was content in that unknowing. I had a strong feeling that my own personal truth would develop as it should, and one day I might know. Then again, I might never “know,” and that, too, was just fine.
I had a lot of ideas, though. Things I thought just might probably be true. I was one-hundred percent sure in the nonexistence of Hell, although I was unsure what I thought about Heaven. I was about 95% sure in the existence of ghosts, and consequently, an afterlife. I didn’t have many concrete reasons, but for my own experiences with what were probably supernatural beings and my trust in my own intuition.
Two pivotal events cemented this afterlife knowledge when I was 18. On my eighteenth birthday, I was on a school trip to France (one of the perks of living in England as a teenager), and that day was the trip to the WWI cemetery at Verdun. Upon entering the building on the grounds, I was overcome by physical pressure on every inch of my body. It was as if hundreds of hands were pressing on my skin, and the overwhelming feeling was of extreme despair. The experience was terrifying, and I wasn’t able to articulate it well for some time. I’m sure my classmates were confused as I sobbed uncontrollably on the bus that afternoon. Thank goodness for my sister’s presence and calm hand-holding. It kept me grounded when I might have spiraled.
The second event of my eighteenth year was the discovery that my grandmother, an unreligious woman, had had a Near-Death Experience (NDE) at some point. What this particular discovery verified in my mind is that salvation is not for the chosen few who commit themselves to a particular religion…that a peaceful afterlife awaits each and every one of us.
When Nicky was born, I was twenty-five. For a brief time, I joined a local play group. I never felt completely at home in the group. Due mainly to Nicky’s severe developmental delays, and the comparatively rapid developmental progression of the other children in the group, I didn’t feel like he and I had much in common with the other families. There was one woman who made an indelible impression, however. In the online forum where we met, Belinda shared that she was a reincarnationist. When I expressed interest in hearing her views, she loaned me a book, Journey of Souls, by Michael Newton, Ph.D.
I tore through the book (figuratively) in one night, and my life was changed in a few short hours. Here, someone had published conclusions that matched all of my “this might be’s” and “I have a feeling that’s” in one place. Every single thing about the source of life, our purpose on earth, and the afterlife that I had ever thought “just might” be true was in the book. In retrospect, I have come to understand that Belinda and I were meant to cross paths for the sole purpose of this exchange of knowledge.
And just like that, I abandoned the label of agnostic and began sporting the new, but comfortable, label of reincarnationist. By religion, I am a Unitarian Universalist; by belief, I am a reincarnationist. It’s my truth, and as Rev. David said after sharing his journey today, I don’t expect that knowledge of how I arrived at my beliefs in the afterlife will convince anyone that it should be their truth as well. I do, however, expect that it will help my friends and loved ones understand me better.
From here, I suppose I could type for hours on my ideas regarding the life force (aka God), the afterlife (aka between lives), etc., but I won’t bore you with that now. Maybe later.