What do we know about death? The dictionary says it is the end of being alive. That’s fairly simple and easy enough to understand, but do we really grasp what that means? And is it accurate? We know what we see – people stop breathing, bodies decay… the person in question “is no more.” They’re over – ended. But are they really? Do we actually know that?

From the very beginning of mankind’s existence there has been talk about some kind of afterlife – people die and they go somewhere else to a different kind of reality. We recognize that the body no longer functions, but there has always been that whole business about what happens to the soul. Christians talk about how the soul is either saved or not saved. In fact, all religions claim something roughly the same though they word it differently. There’s talk of joining one’s ancestors and loved ones, or of going to see Jesus. Even the pure dust-to-dust crowd seems to acknowledge that there is probably more to it than just dust. Only a true atheist believes there is nothing beyond the moment we die.

But religions and philosophies are sparse on the details, aren’t they? And that’s true for all of them. They don’t have very much specific to say – just a lot of generalities and platitudes, and we usually opt not to press them for those details because it makes sense to us that death is naturally a complete unknown. No one that we know of has ever come back from the dead – not really, and near-death experiences are just as they’re labeled – near death, and not accepted as tangible by most people. The one guy we claim to have conquered death, Jesus, went pretty much straight to heaven without filling us in on any of the particulars.

So we accept the widely open-ended concept that when this life is finished, there’s probably something else that we don’t know very much about except that it will be fabulous. Unless, of course, we were really rotten, and then the afterlife will be horrendous beyond our grasp. Even though I am generalizing this entire issue, I’m not far from being right on the money, because all we can actually say with certainty about death is that it happens.

Scientists have discovered there is energy in the human body, and we know that energy doesn’t cease to exist – it changes. That concept might open up a small can of worms for people who really think about it; that this energy could possibly be our soul. But obviously, there’s no proof of that, and if I were somehow able to offer you some; even if I served it up on a silver platter in language anyone could understand, you wouldn’t believe a word of it. Unless, of course, my evidence corresponded with what you’ve already been taught. Then you might… maybe. Death is a very precious thing to humans, and we defend our concept of it almost as fervently as we defend our living.