I tried very hard to imagine a different Heaven for every person I’ve ever loved who died. I wanted there to be gunfire, schoolyard games, perfumes and Parisian men, Jewish choirs singing faultlessly in unison and vast forests with plenty of mushrooms to pick. A myriad of silly goodbye scenes for a bunch of loveable people who went away. I’d read somewhere once, or perhaps heard it in a lecture – that in the moment of death there is a big surge of neurons and brain activity which could ultimately produce either what some call near death experiences (tunnels, lights, etc), or bring forth very vivid memories.
I, being a non-spiritual, non-religious person – subscribed to the latter and created a sort of sci-fi fantasy – that the brain could be as omnipotent as to read your silent wish and take you back to your happiest time and place in the last second. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t want my people to leave the world in ambulances, stuffy, humid rooms or ICU’s. Above all else, this is what I yearned – for them to exit gracefully and beautifully, not bloody from car crashes or bald from chemo, not old, fragile and diminished lying in hospital beds with the sound of machines buzzing around them. I wanted them to go as they’d been: the adventurer, the warrior, the starry-eyed boy, the temptress.
My reasons were not wholly unselfish. I’d have liked to believe, that when my time came, someone would do this for me. Envision a dream in which I am perhaps strutting through the cobbled-stone street of an old European city – the way I am now – young, and careless, puffing the smoke from my cigarette into the chilly air and admiring the architecture.
It didn’t take long for me to learn, though, that Memory is fickle, and that I don’t have enough space between my synapses for the luxury of holding a world’s fill of Heavens in it. I myself barely survive within it day-to-day, dead people be damned. So I put my people in pictures, wrote about them in stories and sometimes, if I was feeling very sentimental, poured a glass of wine for us to drink to the lives I know they’ve lived (and well), not the deaths about which, ultimately, there is not much to be said at all.