Lighten the Load

There is a type of gallows humor that sometimes accompanies the possibility and unavoidable certainty of death. Sometimes you just need to lighten the load with levity in order to make it through another day. I started to do that after my first heart attack – it was easier to make jokes; easier than admitting it was my own fault or that I was scared. I still joke about having died on the table, and it seems to occasionally annoy people – it’s just not a funny subject to everyone.

Many people don’t even like to discuss old age or death. My 94 year-old mother and I frequently laugh about all of it, but along with this gallows humor come moments of hard reality. Almost no one really wants to die, and when someone does, there is very little levity to be found. For every heart attack joke, there are many more moments of somber reflection. For my mother, death is an unwanted inevitability and it scares her greatly. She’s ready to go, but she’s not eager. She doesn’t know what awaits her – maybe punishment, she thinks – possibly there’s nothing. Either way, she vows to go gracefully, frightened or not. 

She tells me that with each additional day she is granted, she grows more assured that death means everything will just end. There won’t be any bright lights, no happy relations there to greet her – there might just not be a God, for that matter. That might be something we fool ourselves into believing, and when she closes her eyes for that final moment, everything may possibly stop. The more I think about that, the more terrifying I find it to be. The idea of living without the hope of a hereafter is horrific. That such an intense life force could just end is out of the question.

The afterlife is a bedrock component of my belief system. I record EVP, and hear voices from that place with enough regularity to both comfort and stabilize my faith. And my mother, at who’s home I have recorded well over a thousand voices – voices she has heard herself, does not believe they are real. Instead of accepting that which her own senses can attest to, she rejects. She sees the voices as something I am not smart enough to understand, and she doesn’t believe I should have written about such nonsense.

Perhaps EVP are not the proof of a better place I perceive them to be. Maybe for someone so close to the end as my mother, EVP are no comfort; do not bespeak the promise of transcendent life; do not guarantee triumph over the uncertainty of death. For her, EVP offer no solace; no soothing ministration for the centuries of grim acceptance that one day, we will quit this life, and our fate will only be harsh and final.

What a shame. For me, EVP offer a peek at the immortality of the human spirit, the smallest certainty of hope amid a world of doubt. The voices speak of victory to me. Not with specificity or through revelation, but simply by being there. For me, life is truly short, and when “the eternal” speak, we should listen. Besides, sometimes they lighten the load.


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