The week before spring break, I found out that a friend of mine from home overdosed and passed away. He was my age and amazing person, and has been all that’s on my mind since then, so I figured I might as well right about him here. Until this past week, I never realized how religious the mourning process is, regardless of the mourners’ affiliation or lack thereof.
While mourning, I couldn’t help but let my thoughts spiral into all that is unknown about the afterlife. There are so many different explanations for what happens when you die, both religious and nonreligious, yet nobody knows for sure. The most common religious belief about the afterlife in the United States is probably that of some kind of reward or punishment for life, but other religions have very different beliefs. Jews, for example, are famously vague on the matter because it is mentioned so little in the Old Testament. As a Jewish person, this didn’t help me much. However, the Old Testament does mention the immortality of the soul, and this did give me something to grasp to.
My friend’s wake, on the other hand, was completely nonreligious, and all about love and remembrance. The jargon used at the wake and by most of my friends did not reference utopia or damnation or even G-d. They spoke of him “moving on to a better place”, “watching over us”, and how he’d “always be with us”. While these phrases sort of align with religious beliefs, they are certainly more focused around my friend being remembered than of him facing judgement.
I find it interesting that these people in mourning tended to use secular verbiage despite the religious experience they were going through. There was unspoken agreement that remembering the short life of a fine young man was more important than potentially competing religious worldviews.