Date: February 17, 2012 06:51PM
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.