I have a story running around inside my head. It's called "Rosabelle Answer". I can't write it for some reason. It hurts to think about. It's about death and life after. That there may not be any. That it is an essential aspect of the human condition to not know. It is an essential aspect of life that we presume this is it. That there may not be anything else. That everything beyond the little we know falls into the category, "faith".


My father was a religious man and Catholicism was his religion. He used to say to me that faith was what you accepted as truth irrespective of "proof".

He knew I was a science-oriented kid. That I needed to experience things before I accepted them. Everything I heard was fiction until it happened to me. There's a certain danger in not believing. We call disbelief without experience being childish because we all start off that way. We don't believe our parents until we grab the hot plate, or tip over the glassware, or stick our finger into the wall outlet. Surviving our disbelief is called "natural selection" by some.

We have to outgrow our disbelief. We need to simply accept some things as fact without the benefit of experience--that fire is hot irrespective of whether it's inside an oven or a single glowing coal. That stepping into a street without looking can get us killed. That some drugs take away our pain, and those same drugs in larger quantities can as easily take away our lives.

The question remains where to draw the line. Because not everything is clear. Nothing is absolute. David Copperfield doesn't make the plane disintegrate from reality. Some people sell you things that aren't worth what they claim they are. Taking some good advice will get you into trouble, and there's some bad advice will make things better, if only temporarily. You can't always believe your senses. You can't always believe your own mind.

Truth, you learn, is absolute and exists outside somewhere. It can be understood. It can be used as a yardstick.

And then you find out that even truth isn't absolute. Something as fundamental as when something happens can be refuted scientifically no matter what time your clock shows. You have to have faith in it.

Everybody has faith in something. It's survival.

My story is in my mind and it will start like this:


Rosabelle Answer

There has been a girl next door everywhere I've lived. Her name is Diane. When there's nothing to do we walk through the woods, down to the creek, to the soft mud in the shade, to catch sunnies. And sometimes we talk about things nobody cares about. Things everyone knows except us.

Diane says, "Nobody who has ever died has come back."

I say, "What about Jesus?"

She says, "That's religion. It doesn't count. Religion's not about normal people."

"What about Lazarus?"

"Same thing."

"What about zombies?"

"Same. You're stuck."

"What about that yeast that can be frozen for 20,000 years?"

"Suspended animation. Not the same thing as death."

"I bet I could come back."

"I bet you can't."

"How much?"


It hurts me to think about it.

Bess Houdini waited ten years before she blew out the candle. Ten years and she never got the message.

And part of me says, well, maybe there's a rule. And the rule is when you die, you're not allowed to talk to living people. Or maybe it's that you can look at life the way we get TV shows at home, you can see and hear but you can't touch. Or maybe it's like it is when you're dreaming. Most of the time you're dreaming, you don't know it. That becomes your life and it doesn't occur to you there is another life to worry about.

Or maybe there's just nothing.

When I was younger I went through a phase of existentialism. I believed, quite firmly and soundly, that the end of life was exactly the same as it was when you were put to sleep for a surgical procedure. When I had my surgeries, there was absolutely nothing between going to sleep and waking up. And I imagined that if I simply died during the surgery, the coming back wouldn't happen, and so there'd be nothing. Just no me.

That belief led me to the inevitable, absolute opinion that the only thing of value in this world was life and love, and that the protection of both was paramount. My world had no God. All life was accidental. And to a man with no heaven, the only good that can come of life is to love the world and its inhabitants, and to hope to be loved in return.

Later, things happened to me that made me start thinking my approach was narrow. And the existence of life after death seemed probable. Even likely. And then my thoughts changed. My beliefs changed. My faith changed. Now I believe in God. I believe lots of things because I think the time is right and I have grown out of my disbelief.

If the answer to life after death was knowable, there'd be no life. It's essential it cannot be known. It's never going to be known. We're never going to prove we've spoken to our dead relatives. We're never going to prove ghosts. All of that will be forever on the margins of our perception, of our real lives.

And it makes me wish I could have kept my existentialism. It was simpler and happier.

I think that's pretty much the whole story of Diane and her friend.