A co-worker entertained some travel writers last night at a local bourbon lounge. Their server, a guy in his forties, greeted them and said he’d return with water for the table. He then walked to the bar and suddenly hit the floor. He was dead. EMS pumped his chest while everyone, my co-worker’s table included, watched as they failed to revive him. I found out that he’d been feeling weak and sickly for several days—shortness of breath, pain in his arm, all the classic heart attack symptoms.
How must my co-worker feel that hers was maybe the last face he saw before dying? Personally I’m stuck on how unremarkable his last words were: “I’ll be right back with your water.”
I can’t help but think about what it might be like to die at work, doing something so totally routine and banal—making copies, sitting through a meeting, waiting for the microwave to heat my food. My mind probably on something not in the moment—my last workout, what I want for dinner, the headlight in my car that’s still busted. And then, boom. Nothing.
Or is it nothing? Obviously I’ve been spiritually riveted by this, and it’s got me thinking about things I don’t usually contemplate, and it’s led me to that classic question: what happens when we die?
It’s a pesky question, something I’ve struggled with since escaping twelve years of Baptist brainwashing—otherwise known as my K-12 education. And the answers they gave me, heaven and hell, were just too simplistic and have never made sense to me, and I think are just manifestations of our own insecurities about death anyway.
The best I can come up with is that maybe we’re not supposed to know.