I enjoyed the comments, but it closed while I was typing up my reply in response to what people were posting.
I’m a big believer in perception is reality, and as long as it seems like something happened, it has the same effect on the person as if it really did happen. I also know that culture shapes everything; even mental illness is culturally defined and is experienced in different ways depending on your culture. It’s all a very complicated stew trying to uncover deeply personal experiences grounded in fears of death, loss etc.
As a Mormon I believed that many of the stories that were related would have been “real” as they went along with the creation myth and what comes next in Mormonism, even though they never happened to me. Once I decided that the myth wasn’t real, then I stopped believing the interpretations and meanings I had given to others experiences with death. Though as some have pointed out, they could have remained bifurcated, not paired.
I dream extremely vividly, and always have. I still remember a dream from when I was ten. In the dream, sister who died before I was born came to get me and escort me to heaven. I was somewhat surprised, but peaceful about having to leave, and wanted to tell my dad goodbye. I went with my sister to tell my dad bye, and he was painting on a ladder while listening to the radio. I interrupted him and told him I was leaving with my sister (who was dead), and I could tell that I was just a spirit at that point. Dad paused and said goodbye, then my sister and I left. It was a very vivid dream, and when I told an adult sister about it, she was sure that I had died in the night. I didn’t think so, I thought I had a pretty intense dream.
When my own child died unexpectedly, I rushed to the hospital hoping to see him before he died; if he died (at that point I only knew that he was taken to the hospital not breathing). When I got there, he was dead. I went to a room where his body was on a table with my wife and cried over his body for a long time. At the time I felt like he was still there in some manner, even though his body was blue and cold. It felt like there was more than just the dead body that I had seen at viewings etc. At the time I interpreted it to his spirit still being in the room. In the days after he died, my now ex-wife claimed to have seen him a few times, but with no communication. I wanted so badly to see him, but didn’t. True to Mormon form, I interpreted that to not happening because I wasn’t “worthy” enough.
At this point I wouldn’t interpret my experience at the hospital as a spirit in the room. I would just think it to be a father’s grief at what was just lost, and wanting what had just been that very morning to continue. Though it was somewhat peaceful, it also left me feeling stuck. A Medical Examiner would be coming for the body, and I didn’t want “him” left alone in the room abandoned, but I wanted to leave. I solved it by asking my parents to wait with him till the Examiner came. Now I suppose that I’d think it was fine to leave, and that I wouldn’t be leaving anything in the room alone.
As for myself now, I doubt that there is anything after we die, and I think my son is just gone. But I’ll be open to the possibility that I’m wrong, and there is something. But I’ll be very surprised if there is. I also know that what I believed at the time colored greatly what I thought and felt at the time. And what I believe now would make the exact same experience feel different now. Who knows what the objective reality is, if there even is one. I think my shock when I read the thread was that I was expecting that everyone would have also experience it one way while Mormon, and then reinterpreted it different after leaving.
I suppose I tend to think that everyone who leaves Mormonism has a similar experience, and I don’t leave enough room for the wide range of what Mormonism gets replaced with.
Speculating about what follows death is difficult because we have only a shaky understanding of what it means to be conscious. We have only a very narrow perception of a couple of dimensions. If the universe is, as some scientists suspect, mostly composed of dark matter and energy, we are not even seeing the biggest slice of reality.
Maybe some people in some way survive as distinct personalities after death. Maybe some don't. Maybe even those who persist are transformed again. Maybe some are reincarnated. Maybe we have choices, maybe not. Maybe we don't automatically have a soul, but it is something we have to grow. Maybe we don't wear enough hats.
Monty Python's "Meaning of Life"
Exec #1: Item six on the agenda: "The Meaning of Life" Now uh, Harry, you've had some thoughts on this.
Exec #2: Yeah, I've had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we've come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One: People aren't wearing enough hats. Two: Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person's soul. However, this "soul" does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.
Exec #3: What was that about hats again?
Exec #2: Oh, Uh... people aren't wearing enough.
Exec #1: Is this true?
Exec #4: Certainly. Hat sales have increased but not pari passu, as our research...
Exec #3: [Interrupting] "Not wearing enough"? enough for what purpose?
Exec #5: Can I just ask, with reference to your second point, when you say souls don't develop because people become distracted... [looking out window]
I told the story about seeing and communicating with my father two days or so after he died, but before his funeral.
Just for the record, we were not a religious family. I had never heard of spiritualism or anything like that. We did not discuss things like "life after death."
For "mothermayeye," yes, I've heard of "lucid dreams" - and I've had them. But they have never lasted for more than a few seconds after I'm awake. The encounter with my father lasted for much longer than that.
Somebody else asked (jokingly, I'm sure) "Did he want to shake hands with you?" Well, I was a grief-stricken teen-age kid and my father appeared so real that I moved to throw my arms around him - but he held his hands up in a "no, don't do that" gesture, and at the same time, I got the same message in a telepathic sort of way, as we exchanged no words. Later, I wondered why I wasn't supposed to hug him, but it was clear that he didn't want me to do that.
Many decades later, my TBM husband would show me a passage in one of the Mormon scriptures that stated that a "righteous spirit" would always discourage physical contact with a mortal. That kind of gave me the creeps - still does - because who normally thinks about touching ghosts or spirits? But at the time, I had never even heard of Mormons, let alone any of their teachings.
I didn't even think of the person I saw as a ghost. It was just Dad, the way he was supposed to be - dressed in comfortable, weekend-type clothes, not in pajamas or hospital gowns like he had been in the weeks before his death. He looked NORMAL. And that was his message: he wasn't sick any more, he was fine.
I've often wondered why he chose to appear to me rather than to his wife or his mother. After all, they were grieving too. Who knows?
I've never had a similar experience since then. I can't begin to explain HOW or WHY it happened. But I can't doubt for a second that it DID happen.
It's easy for me to be a skeptic, when it's never happened to me. I wish it would happen to me, and they I could really try to make sense of it.
If it does happen, and is "real" I wonder what the controlling factor is on why it happens sometimes, and not other times. Houdini was super curious about it and had a plan to make contact after he died in a semi verifiable way. It never happened.
I used to have a great interest in this subject. My great Aunt passed 12 years ago. I was close to her and hoped to make a connection to the other world, since she often talked of such things as well as her love of chocolate.
For three months after she passed, I slept each night with a piece of chocolate between my toes, thinking if she returned at night, I would feel her pulling the chocolate and wake quickly, at least in time to see her disappear into the night.
"a ghost, were it proven to be genuine, would be a monumental scientific discovery. It would answer one of humanity's fundamental questions: Is there life after death? And it would raise a host of new questions about the nature of physics, the spirit, and why one of the favorite activities of the disembodied seems to be amateur interior decorating."
Not long after my father died my mother was gravely ill with cancer. Dad probably from the stress of worrying about her and his last words to me were to take care of her.
I was in a room where my father used to stay and had the weirdest feeling he was there, with me. I didn't see anything, just felt the presence. I also felt he was worried and mom and me. So I spoke aloud and told him that we'd be okay and I'd take care of her. I never felt whatever it was again. I suspect the incident occurred because I was in a place closely associated with Dad.
As a teen I had an experience not so easy to dismiss. While doing evening chores one Thursday night I suddenly felt I'd been, metaphorically speaking, hit by a train. I clung to the kitchen cabinet thinking "What was that?" For some reason I looked at the clock: it was 7:25. I felt drained and exhausted. Nothing else happened, I went to bed and to school the next day and it was like whatever-it-was never happened. The next weekend I learned that a girl I liked very much and hoped to date sometime had died of pneumonia Thursday night at 7:25. I'm not a ghost hunter type, but I'm convinced I somehow sensed her passing.
Strange things happen to all of us, things we can't explain. I filed my 7:25 incident away under the category of "I haven't the faintest idea what happened". Maybe someday science will figure it out. But I can't completely dismiss these experiences because I had one, and I feel sure other people have, too.
My mom literally died in my arms at home and I was the last person she saw as she expired. I was in shock and numb after that; which was great because it helped me get through the hours and days that followed which were a series of phone calls, emails, documents, signing, visits to the morgue and funeral home, receiving local and international visitors, etc. I was exhausted.
I booked a hotel room next door to the funeral home which I shared with family flying in from abroad; walked in late one evening still fuming from a very disappointing Mormon necro service (Mormons won't even call it a night of honor for the dead). Everyone was already asleep, jet lagged I suppose, and as I lay in my bed ready to call it a night, I distinctly "felt" a presence near me to my left. It was pitch dark and the presence so "strong" that I sat up. I felt "kindness" from this "presence". "It" didn't tell me anything telepathically or otherwise. I felt no fear just the emanating kindness and perhaps "fondness" or "love". I don't know why but I interpreted this to be my mother. And then the presence "faded" away although I couldn't see anything.
Could it be? But there is zero evidence. But less than a 100 years ago we didn't know that time factored in relativity theory or that it's commonly considered the 4th dimension. Less than 100 years ago we've never heard of quantum states or parallel / multiverse. Shall we be able to discover and quantify "thought" or at least a person's "essence"? If energy is neither created nor destroyed, where does the energy we create while we're alive go? Of course it transfers but into what?
If there ever is proof of an afterlife, it's only a good thing if the person in question were at least nice while living. I could think of some family members and relatives from whom any life after death would be burdensome for me! I'm being careful for what I wish.