D is for death and the afterlife.

D Finished


What happens after we pass over to the other side? It is a question that dogs us as soon as we become conscious of what death  is all about.  Of course points of view on this subject are colored  by  the religion that a person follows.   It is a commonly banded about  idea that some Muslims  believe  they are promised 72 virgins,  upon entry to paradise,  particularly those who fight in the way of Allah.

What do Catholics believe? At the moment of death, the soul is separated from the body and no longer sustains order within the natural body; as a result, the body begins to corrupt and left to its own will decompose. The soul, however, is immortal and never ceases to exist, once created. Immediately upon death, the soul of each person is judged by the Lord, either to eternal life or the damnation of hell.

There must be many permutations depending on which religion a person follows. Buddhists give two permutations,  If you still have unresolved kamma (Sanskrit: karma), if the conditions for rebirth are present, “you” are reborn. Alternatively If you have achieved nibbana (Sanskrit: nirvana) during your life, you will have no more kamma, and so the conditions for the creation of the five clinging-aggregates will no longer be present. Consciousness will cease, activity in your brain will cease, and your body will decay. Meaning you will die, and that’s your lot.

The Buddhist  version of life after death,  seems to not only be more appealing than the threat of damnation in Hell  but also seems to  be more logical, as well giving a meaning to life, in that through a life we learn and develop until we reach the point whereby it is unnecessary to learn any more.

From my point of view it is only when we all finally embrace death itself  will this vexing question about what happens after death will finally be answered.  There are those who have recently had their quest  to answer this  question satisfied.  David Bowie is no longer with us, having succumbed to cancer.  He was the type of man a person might imagine could live forever, he was such a part of my life as surely he was for many others.  Is he now in some other dimension  working on celestial music? Has he been interacting with other departed souls,  other geniuses,  departed family  members of the Jones family  (Jones was his real family name).

In my book Flight of Destiny, I present an image of both Heaven and Hell. In my story cast from Hell,  a man is rejected by Hell (for being too good)  and is sent back in the guise of a woman to wreak havoc.  This is his take on Hell.

As you can tell, my expectations of hell were quickly dashed.It was far removed from William Blake’s famed illustrations of Dante’s Inferno, and it didn’t even remotely resemble a Brueghel painting.To my surprise, there was no evidence in Hell of people being  grievously punished. The slothful were not being goaded with burning coals. The gluttons were not being tormented with thirst and hunger.There were no hedonists being bathed in burning pitch and stinking brimstone, or envious individuals howling with grief over that which they could never possess. The proud were not being brought down.The covetous were not being denied. In fact, the damned seemed to be living in a modicum of comfort. I never detected any weeping, wailing or gnashing of teeth. The place, called by some gehenna, the bottomless pit, was admittedly no holiday camp, but things there had grown shoddy and dysfunctional. It would require major rehabilitation to scare even a child. Being lodged with fellow rejects was sobering experience, not unlike being in a holding center for suspected criminals, refugees or illegal immigrants.

This is his take on Heaven.

I took a last look survey of Hell. It looked like a vast airport terminal: vacuous, tedious, and hum-drum. By now I couldn’t wait to leave. By contrast, I have often tried to imagine Heaven. To me it would be one long party in a great vivant night club, not unlike this second life to which I was now looking forward to I closed my inner eye as instructed and waited while Charon transported me to earth’s dimension.

What happens after death, is the ultimate, unanswerable question.

Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.


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Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.
Coco Chanel

Guilt upon the conscience, like rust upon iron, both defiles and consumes it, gnawing and creeping into it, as that does which at last eats out the very heart and substance of the metal.
Robert South

We all suffer from guilt at some point or other…something we should have done, something we shouldn’t have said, a funeral we should have gone to, some shameless behavior, perhaps in our turbulent adolescent years? There is always some residual guilt…Guilt ways us down…it is a cancer of sorts…We can’t turn back the clock, make intricate changes to some of our darkest hours, we are stuck with our guilt. If you happen to be a Catholic, you can at least relinquish some of your guilt by going to confession and seek absolution. Catholicism is a powerful tool to keep people in check, weighed down by guilt.

How else can you quash guilt?

With my story “Branded” a man accidentally knocks over an old women in her nineties, who later dies in hospital. It is a pure accident, and the doctors explain this to the man. However despite everybody trying to console him, his guilt does not abate. He tries different ways of finding some kind redemption…sending money for the bereaved’s charity of choice. There are different things that might help his guilt, for example the old woman’s only next of kin is adopted. Finally he arrives at the next of kin’s doorstep, to meet her face to face; so he can finally attain redemption.

Below is a short exert…from “Branded”. This is a story in which a man has to face up to the guilt of accidentally knocking over an old woman, while rushing to a business meeting.

Branning went home and collapsed into his wife’s arms, weeping
uncontrollably as he told her between sobs of the singular chain of
events that led to the old woman’s death. For her part, his wife had
never seen him in such a state, and tried her best to console him with
any words of comfort she could educe, but whatever she said, it always
returned back to the fact that he’d killed an old woman.
The nagging guilt refused to leave, and no end of his wife’s
solace seemed able to lessen it. Branning kept imagining the old lady’s
family and friends at her funeral, going through the equally great pain
of saying goodbye to a dearly loved one. He wanted to be there, to tell
them how sorry he felt, but his wife and friends counseled otherwise. It
was better, they said, to let the family grieve, and allow things to run
their course. How would the family react to having the man who had
cut short her life at her funeral service?
Time passed and he noted her obituary in the local paper. The
family requested no flowers, suggesting instead a donation to the local
hospital in the deceased’s name. He sent a sizable sum of money, a
form of indirect compensation, and felt better for it.

Unfortunately for Branning, despite all his manifestations of contrition, a terrible fate occurs at the end of the story.

In my story “Gomford” all the men in the village are weighed down by a collective guilt. A beautiful young woman arrives in a remote village on the arm of an ugly businessman who is regularly away in business trips. Consequently the men take advantage of his abscesses and each systematically seduces the young girl. After a short lived vapid sexual experience with the young girl, each man falls into a terrible depression, powered by the guilt they feel after cheating on their wives. This feeling spreads around the village like a virus and the Reverend Salmon takes it on board to try to stop this rampant malaise. When the young girl refuses to let him enter house and spread holy water on her threshold, he feels humbled and thinks up a strong plan to break the young girl’s hold on the village.

Here is a short exert from Gomford.

To his surprise, a small delegation of the villagers, arrived early
the next morning, rousing the hungover Reverend and demanding an
audience. “We’ve a Godless woman, perhaps even a harlot, amongst
us,” Knoll’s wife vehemently pronounced, setting the tone.
“We must act, and act now before things get worse,” added
Cowie, a village Elder, “just as our forefathers would have done.” All
of the delegation vigorously nodded their assent.
The reverend cracked a smile. He wouldn’t need to work them
into a retributive frenzy; the villagers were already primed and eager
for action. With that weight removed from his shoulders, he need only
focus his aching head on what measures would be most appropriate.
Being versed in the annals of church history, he was particularly well
acquainted with the period when it was common for those deemed
guilty of subverting the morals of the community, to be taken to a river
and given a fatal dunking. A confession of witchcraft would justify the
punishment, and, if none were forthcoming it would be a sure sign of
guilt. The practice, of course, was archaic having long since been
abandoned by the church.

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