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Taking Questions

Is there life after death?

What is it like to be dead? Is it peaceful? Or is it terrifying? What happens after you die? Do you lie in the ground and rot? Do you live again?

Up to this point, this book has been about things that we are sure about-our feelings, experiences, and attitudes about death and dying. This section is about something that we are not at all sure about-whether there is life after death. No one knows the answer to this question, but everyone has an opinion or belief about it. Some people think that ideas such as reincarnation or ghosts are silly, childish fantasies, but it is important to discuss these beliefs, because they are shared by so many of us.

People have many different ideas about what happens to us after we die. Some people believe that life moves along a simple line. You are born, you go through life, and you die. Then it's all over. Other people believe that life runs in a circular pattern. You are born, you go through life, you die, and then you are born again. They believe that this can happen over and over again. The process of dying and then being born again is called reincarnation.

Another belief is that after death we go to heaven or hell, depending on whether we have been good or bad. Still others believe that they will become a ghost or spirit that wanders the earth. There is really no way to be sure what does happen after death.

There have been some rare cases in which a person who came close to dying believed that he or she got a glimpse of what death was like. We read a book called Life After Life that describes this kind of experience: "A lady who was resuscitated after a heart attack remarked: 'I began to experience the most wonderful feelings. I couldn't feel a thing in the world except peace, comfort, ease-just quietness. I felt that all my troubles were gone, and I thought to myself, well, how quiet and peaceful, and I don't hurt at all.'" Stories like this one make death sound appealing, but they have to be taken with a grain of salt, because the people reporting them didn't actually die. In the absence of any real information, we can only wonder about different possibilities.

Question and answer taken from The Kids' Book about Death and Dying by and for kids, by Eric E. Rofes and the Unit at Fayerweather Street School, Little Brown and Company, 1985.

Suggested questions for future editions can be sent to (please put "Taking Questions" in the subject line).

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