I don’t know where he is

I don’t know where he is.

All religions have their explicit, concise answers for where the spirit goes after leaving the body. Heaven, limbo, another realm.

But no one really knows.

Those who write those “life after death” stories, describe the light, walking down a path, a glorious, peaceful feeling. They see long-dead relatives, they are filled with grief when forced to come back to life and earth.

Scientists debunk this ideal vision by saying it’s some chemical thing, some giant burst of endorphins that flood the body as a coping mechanism at death.

So who really knows?

I choose to believe that Rick is sitting on the beach, right at the water’s edge. He’s in his favorite folding chair (the one with the fold down side table). He has a bottle of wine and he’s waiting for the sunset. The actual photos and videos I have of him waving to me are on Lake Huron, so that helps me envision him at that location, but our many glorious photos and videos from our last trip when he was healthy and happy last year were recorded on the gulf in Florida.

No matter the location, there’s sand and sun. There’s peace and happiness and hope and love. And he’s feeling no pain. There’s no cancer. He feels only contentment as he sits across from an empty chair and waits, waits for me to join him.

In the video that gave me this wonderfully hopeful vision, I’m walking toward him, recording, and he looks up at me and waves. He’s looking forward to me sitting across from him, anticipating us toasting the day and spending the next hours talking over events and plans and hopes and dreams.

He’s waiting for me to join him. And, God, I want to. I can’t wait to be with him on that beach for eternity. I’ll tell him how much I missed him, how difficult it was to go on without him. I’ll describe all the good things he missed, things he would have enjoyed so much – I’ll describe them in detail so he can relive them vicariously through me.

Of course, that’s if he’s not here watching me now.

If he is here, if he’s this presence I feel sometimes in the room, and the feeling that he’s always inside my heart, then we’ll rehash all those events and I’ll get to hear his views, from his “heavenly” perspective.

But mostly, I’ll just drink him in, feel the perfect wholeness at being reunited with my soulmate. I’ll be complete once again.

That’s my vision of heaven.

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on Amazon.com.

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at www.TheWritingWidow.com.

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