There was a time when the concept of death terrified me, but that was 40 years ago. My grandfather died when I was in grade two an it was kind of shocking to hear that a family member, that I just saw a week ago, all of a sudden died. I had faced this idea of death three years earlier when I was only four and a half and my only brother died. I looked at my brother lying motionless and I could not understand why so many people were sitting around watching him as he slept. I remember my mom crying and crying, and one lady that I did not know, told me to go give my mom a hug and tell her that Andi was gone but she should not cry because she still had me. And I did it, I said those cruel, cruel words to my mom, because I always did what others told me to do. I always obeyed, until slowly, slowly I started questioning everything. My mom made sure to remind me years and years later, in case I had forgotten, of what I told her that day. I am pretty sure she said it in a good way, with good intentions, as she told others how smart I was and how my words brought her back to reality, and reminded her that she had to take care of me as I was still a four year old child in need of my parents’ love and attention. However, I did not feel the same way as my mom. Instead, I started hating myself and to protect myself from hurt I started making up stories in my mind that my brother was not dead. He had been rescued and one day I will find him. And probably my parents weren’t even my parents. That’s the only way I knew to not deal with that guilt anymore.
Concept of death became my obsession when my grandfather died and I asked my mom what happens when someone dies, how the person feels when he is dead. I do not remember the exact words that she used but she definitely did not sugarcoat it for me. I remember crying and begging her to tell me that that was not true that we cease to exist. But she continued saying, “Yes, it is true, you die and you no longer exist.” I could not comprehend the idea of non-existence at the age of seven so I asked her a different question each time, around the same topic, hoping that she would give me a better explanation of what death was. I always hoped she did not understand my first question. I went on and on and asked her, “So when I will die, will I ever say I am?” I used these words ‘I am’ because this was the only way my seven year old brain knew how to comprehend existence, my own existence. But my mother did not think too deep as why I used such words. So she laughed at my face saying, “If you do not exist, then how would you speak? No dear, you will not say ‘ I am’.” And she coldly continued to take care of other chores not worried a bit that I was only seven and left on the mercy of my little brain and that little understanding I had about life to comprehend what it feels like when you no longer exist. I asked her again and again each day for a week, “Will I say I am? Will I see myself? Will I hear my voice? Will I feel myself? Touch myself?” She always gave me the same answer, and as she got annoyed by my questions her answers got shorter and shorter. “No, no one speaks when they are dead.” “No, no one ever thinks when they are dead.” “And no, you will not see yourself, or touch your hands and feet, or hear your voice when you are dead.” “No, no, no, no.” I gave up in the end, and I cried a bit, but I just could not deal well with such fatalism. The only way my mom knew to console me was to tell me that I should not worry though because people lived up to 70 or 80 years old, and I was only seven. But, that did not satisfy me because my brother was only one year old when he died, so how could I be sure that I would grow up, to live to the 70 or 80 years old? Even if that was true, it sounded like an awfully low number to me. So, after trying to console myself the best way that I could with the mind of a seven year old child, I promised myself that I would not die until I become 150 years old. I somehow magically would become strong to live that old. I told this to my mom and my mom laughed at me again saying, “What would you do when all your family members will die before you? Will you be happy to be left alone living up to 150 years old?” I shrugged my shoulders, I was only seven. I could not possibly have known whether I would be happy living alone or not. What does it mean happy? Was I ever happy?
I accepted my version of happiness. Existence made me happy, and I was going to exist for at least 143 more years. The problem at this point was that I started to understand a little by little what may have happened to my brother Andi, and so now I had to deal with another shock in my life, which my parents did not even bother checking with me whether I was OK or not. They were too busy feeling sorry for themselves. My mom was busy feeling sorry that she lost her son, and without a son my dad would cheat on her. Believe it or not such concept was present in the 70’s in Albania, or maybe it was just my mom thinking that, I am not so sure anymore, but she sure made me hate my father for a while that he preferred a son over me. My father on the other hand was too busy feeling sorry for himself that his wife was always feeling sorry for herself. Therefore, his coping strategies were to look for pleasure and other types of entertainments outside his own house. When people often asked me if I had any siblings, I started giving them strange answers, which again my parents took it as a sign of silliness on my side, not as a sign of grieving or as a sign of trouble dealing with the concept of death. My answer to the question whether I had siblings was strange indeed because I never answered straight forward, “No, I don’t have siblings. Or, no, I am the only child.” Instead, I always said, “ I had a brother, Andi, but he…he…” and after much hesitation I used a word that I still feel ashamed of myself, even today, for saying it. But, at that time it felt like the best option, to avoid using that other horrible word “he died” which would confirm for sure that my brother no longer existed. So, I used a special word that only exists in Albanian and is used when animals die, not when humans die. I don’t think English uses specific words to distinguish between human’s death and animal’s death , but in Albanian we do. We use the word “vdiq” for humans, and “ngordhi” for animals. So I kept saying that my brother Andi “ngordhi,” because I could not summon up my courage to open my mouth and say that “my brother died (vdiq).” People laughed at me, and corrected me, as if I did not know. I just chose not to use the word “vdiq.” But again, my parents thought I was too funny. I always was too funny, too smart, too nice, but they never checked to see whether I was too depressed or too lonely. Years passed and life was not always easy to live. Sometimes you wonder, would it be better to start all over again, or would it be better to keep going and hoping that things will turn for the best and you will accomplish something in life. Many times I wished me and Andi would have switched places. Andi became my reference point, like an invisible friend, always imagining if he would be alive, I would have told him this or that, and we would have done this or that together, and we would not have needed our parents to raise us. We would raise ourselves and protect one another. The mind of a child works miracles to heal a soul that hurts so much. I felt better after each of the stories I made up in my mind.
Forty years later, my son seems to be having a hard time accepting the idea of dying. The word death terrifies him too. When he was five or six, I used to tell him that he will not die, because I knew it, because I had a special gift of knowing things. And he liked it; he liked to be assured that nothing wrong was going to happen to him. I used the word destiny and instilled in him as in myself that for as long as we have a destiny to fulfill we will be protected. He was happy, I was happy. And I thought I would not have to deal with this matter again. However, recently the topic of death became the center of our conversation again. Now he is 12 years old and I can no longer lie to him saying that I feel it in my heart that he is not going to die but will live forever. Even though, I can see that he waits for the same reassurance from me as before, I decided that it was time now to explain to him more realistically what death may be, so he would be prepared for any future event, in deaths of the family members. I was faced with his resistance. Just like I did when I was little, my son too could not accept the idea of dying. His question was, “Why can’t we live forever? Why can’t we be immortal?” I found myself frustrated and bothered by his constant demand of becoming immortal, why not? He cried saying what’s the purpose of being born then? For a while I sounded like my mother cold and harsh that reality is reality and one must accept it. I had forgotten all about my struggle of accepting death. But I wanted my son to be happy and not to worry about death. I want him to enjoy every minute of life instead of worrying about the future and death, yet I keep talking about the future and how he can indeed become the scientist he wishes to be if he studies more of this and more of that and does a bit more of this and a bit more of that.
It is very contradicting, to tell the truth, to plan for the future, but on to worry about the future. I tried to find ways to make him accept death as part of life, so I told him that maybe dying is better than living forever because when you die you have the opportunity to start all over again in a new body, instead of living in an old body and feeling tired all the time. After so many years of non-stop working, that old body, immortal or not, might wear out. But this reason did not convince my son at all. Then I said, but maybe it’s better to die because you will forget about sad things that happen in this life, of how people may have hurt you or you have lost them, or separated from them. Again, my answer did not satisfy him. I gave up; at some point I became emotional and I raised my voice. I told him that I did not know why we can’t be immortal. I told him not to ask me again about immortality because I did not care and maybe I did not want to become immortal after all. I just wanted to live my life and enjoy every minute of it for as long as it lasts. I use this often as the only motto that makes me overcome heartbreaks. This shocked my son, he cried and I cried too. I cried because I felt sorry for him, as for me? I really don’t care if I would die tomorrow.
I guess I accept death now because I believe in reincarnation and this idea keeps me from worrying about my non-existence. I logic that since energy never disappears to nothing, then souls, having been made of this specific type of magnetic field, must continue to exist after death. Believing that our souls recycle from one old body when it dies to a new body to be born again is good enough for me, but it did not seem good enough for my son. He kept asking, “How does it feel to die?” Probably how it feels when we fall asleep, I answered. “Why can’t we remember ourselves from previous lives?” Probably because the tape recorder of the previous events from the previous life, is in the old brain, and the old brain is dead with the old body. All these explanations that make perfect sense to me and help me cope with this idea of death and non-existence could not help my son. I was hoping he would find a coping strategy on his own, with some help from me of course, but, he never accepted any of my explanation as good enough to allow him accepting death as something natural. I tried to answer his challenging questions of what the purpose of being born is, if we are to die one day, by using the analogy of the Pokemon’s life that evolves into three stages. Pokemon is his favorite topic, but even this did not satisfy him. He keeps saying that he wants to live forever, and that one day he will discover something about it, because what’s the purpose of being born then. He kept saying this over and over until I realized that he did have a coping strategy after all. So, I stopped worrying and told him, “You are right my son. If you feel this passionate in your heart then you must definitely follow your passion, because passions lead us to our destinies, but make sure it is not fear that is leading you, but curiosity. If you feel passion about it and curious of how to make things better then keep that fire burning in your heart my son. As for me I am kind of the opposite.” Indeed, I learned to love the idea of dying and starting all over again in a new body as a new baby. Sometimes I worry about the new life circumstances that I may have to experience in the next life. Would they be in my advantage or in disadvantage? However, believing in the 12 laws of antimatter, I also believe that my soul will make the right decisions and that the energy of the universe will put me in the right place at the right time. I have total trust that there is order in the universe. Therefore, to me it seems like fun to be given a new life, new opportunities, new game to play, new challenges to face. But I also realized that just because I like this kind of game, my son does not have to like it too. Maybe it is too early for him to settle into this type of thinking or maybe I just have to give up and accept that everyone is different and therefore our final destinies are also different.
This idea of destiny and overcoming all the challenges in order to become a perfect being at some point and become immortal is not something new. This is in fact the basic philosophy of Eastern Culture. Based on this philosophy our human souls reincarnate life after life until the soul has learned all the lessons and has been purified to be able to reincarnate into its final step into an immortal being. And maybe lots of people like this idea of becoming perfect one day and becoming immortal, but for me this journey of accepting death as natural part of our existence occurred a bit differently. Being left on my own to cope with non-existence idea, I naturally accepted defeat and learned to love every minute of my living, instead of having big expectations for the future. Reincarnation idea came to me naturally, from the laws of physics, not from Eastern culture, or any philosophy, or religion for that matter. Indeed I came in contact with such literature just recently. I really don’t care much now whether one day I will become immortal or non-immortal. I like it either way, and I do not understand people’s obsession with immortality at this point. Instead of worrying about becoming a perfect being and reaching immortality, I think it is more important to learn to live in peace, right now, at this very moment.
I enjoy living instead of worrying about death. I found out that when you feel satisfied with life, when you lived it to the maximum with pure intentions and without the guilt feeling of having hurt someone, or in contrary, when life upsets and hurts you too much, and becomes unbearable, either way, death seems sweet. As I learned to live every moment with joy and not worrying about manipulating others or worrying about seeming perfect, I also learned to despise and even dismiss others’ opinionated and stereotyped judgments about the way I should live my life. I especially disliked the fact that others always decided what was best for me. I wanted to be in charge of my life, because I believe that I know myself better than anyone else does and so I know what is best for me. I think this is what we need to teach our children too. We need to teach them to live in peace with themselves, with who they are and what they aspire for, instead of judging, criticizing and making models to see if they fit perfectly into those models or not. In this life short or not, I learned to enjoy every step of it and I became rebellious. But I also learned that I am never alone in this process called living. A loving energy is always kindling passions and desires in my heart, and these lead me in the right direction in life, a direction that I never regretted. I came to realize and distinguish between my passion leading me in the right direction and my emotions induced and forced by others, by making me believe I am in the wrong path sometimes. Now I know that everything that is forced and is not taking its natural course, it is not my destiny.
I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I learned to stand up for myself and take my life under control instead of letting others decide for me. What an immense pleasure that was. My parents were very authoritarian with me even though I was their only child. I had to obey and follow strict rules, and I was always judged or criticized and reminded that a good girl does this or that, and a good girl does not speak like this or that, and a good girl, a smart girl, a nice girl… At some point I rebelled. I was about 17 years old and somehow I developed a slightly higher than normal body temperature, which doctors said it was nothing to worry about. It was just puberty, but my parents decided that I should not stress myself out too much and therefore, I should not study with that much passion for that upcoming science competition among high school students. They set with me on the couch, put me in the middle, and decided to tell me that would be best for me if I would let go and not participate in that competition, because they argued it was too much stress and it might affect my health. I understood their concern for my health and appreciated it, but I also knew and I had become weary of their methods of making me feel guilty. As usually, my mom would express her opinions on every argument related to my life, why this or why that was the best option for me, while my dad set there nodding and saying, “Listen to your mom.” I knew it very well by the age of 17 the way my mom would close all her arguments, “…because you know, we now have only you. We only have one eye now to see the whole world with. So, don’t do this to us. If something would happen to you my heart cannot take it anymore. I will go crazy and people will throw rotten tomatoes at me in the streets. Do you want this for your mommy?” I knew what was coming next because I heard the same song over and over and over from the day my brother died and I said those stupid words that that stupid lady told me to say to my mom. So, I got up and faced both my parents and confronted them for the first time in my life, the first of many to come of those deliberating moments, “I don’t care. I don’t care if I have to die tomorrow. I want to participate in this completion and I know I will win. You cannot stop me. This is my life. I decide whether I work myself to death or not. I decide. This is my life, mine, mine, mine!” And from that day on I enjoyed being free of stigma, and learned not to fall into guilt tripping of my mother or others.
It is funny that I always found something to come back at people to prove my points, and the way these opportunities arrived were natural, were never forced or manipulated. That is why, I believe that if we are left to live our life naturally, in full harmony with nature and the flow of energies, by recognizing and not opposing the 12 laws of antimatter (I explain them here in this blog and in my book) we would indeed have a pleasant life and not worry too much about future or about dying. Everything will feel natural. I remember one of those situations and I still laugh at this. Some people call it karma. I love karma. It works like a clock, and never forgets to come back, so I don’t have to worry. My mom always said to me that I needed to learn to cook because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, which did not make sense to me at all, and to which I answered, “I don’t care. I will marry someone who will cook for me instead.” And I did, not just once but twice. My husband(s) not only cooked for the whole family and me, not only they never demanded any cooking from me, or hated me because I could not cook, but they also prepared my lunches quite often so I would take something to work. But there was no way my mom would believe me about what was going to happen in the future, because I did not believe it either. I said it for fun. But, one day I came home very upset. She asked me what the matter was, and I explained to her that everyone liked my friend so and so, but no one liked me. They liked my friend because her mother was the main chef of one of the biggest restaurant in the town. So I asked my mom “Why can’t you get a promotion or something, and instead of teaching start cooking for that restaurant?” She laughed at my nativity and told everyone about of what I said to her. I don’t think she ever got my point, but to tell the truth I often made up stories for fun, and I don’t know if this one too was one of those situations or did I say it to make my point that I didn’t need to learn cooking to feel worthy. Nevertheless, I think it slowly started to sink in her, that I was one of the kind, when one day in the spur of a moment she said to me, “I curse you that you become a mother of a daughter just like you.” I felt happy and instead of being mad at her I hugged her and told her smiling,”Thank you mom. This is the best blessing ever. I love my daughter to be just like me, because I don’t know what I would do if she turns out like you instead. We’ll be fighting all the time,” and we both laughed at that moment. The secret of living happy and not minding the end is to live a life with pure intentions. This little thing makes everything else simple and easy to deal with, not because one day you will turn immortal, but because it gives you peace of mind and a joyful heart. I may not have been always perfect at expressing my intentions but I learn to improve my communication over the years and always spoke my mind only when the fire burned too much inside me. I never lied or manipulated either, but always used a true story. In this case too, indeed I had a friend that my mom knew, whose mom was the chef of that restaurant. Hence, I came to realize that life is not so hard to leave after-all if you keep an open mind and use the opportunities to guide you, teach you, and enjoy life. You can take control of your life and still follow your destiny, instead of falling into the trap of other people’s standards and judgments of what they think is best for you. When you learn to live life like that death has no power over you. You indeed will look forward to the next challenges in this life or the next. I know I am.