Most mornings I wake up to the muted sound of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ filtering down from my housemate’s bedroom. It is such an iconic song, especially for my generation. Even after hearing it so frequently, I find myself thinking about the song’s message as I sleepwalk into the kitchen for my first cup of  tea of the day. For some reason, now lost to my faltering memory, I seem to recall taking issue with some of his words when I was younger. I can’t for the life of me recall what my reasoning was. I’ll just chalk it up to youth.

Actually, I think it was the idea of there being no heaven that struck a wrong note for me.

My grandfather died when I was 13. I was there in the hospital when he died and still remember hearing the words, “he’s gone.” In an instant my heart broke into pieces. I felt it. Pain beyond my understanding or experience. I did not think I would survive it. I almost didn’t.

The one faint hope I held onto to get through that horrible time was the idea of life after death — that I would see my grandfather (and others I have lost) once more. That he was truly gone for good was beyond my ability to process.

Is my belief in heaven an emotional crutch of some sort for me? Sure. I have no problem with identifying it as such. If I’m wrong and this is it, well, it’ll be a moot point by then. If I’m right…

I remember when a dog of mine that I loved very much had to be euthanized. She was 17 years old and in bad shape and I had probably delayed a little too long. But the day finally came when it felt like it was time. As I carried her into the vet’s office she turned to me and pressed her face against mine. For a moment we stayed like that, deeply connected. I have always felt that she knew what was happening and in that moment let me know it was okay. I held her as the drugs took effect and then like that her heart just stopped. One second it was beating, the next it was stilled.

It is a difficult concept to grasp that life exists one moment and then blinks out the next. That the sense, the unique quality, of a person or animal is there in all its complexity and then…it’s just gone. Where does it go, that individualized energy? Out into the universe? Transported to an afterlife existence beyond comprehension? The specifics seem to matter less as I grow older.

More and more I try to keep the focus on the moment, to live mindfully, to show up and be present in my own life. Although I was raised Catholic, I have questioned my faith for many years, moving towards a more inclusive, less judgemental mindset. I am intrigued by Buddhism. I don’t know much about its doctrine but I find great comfort in the practice of meditation.

Meanwhile, I continue to search, to question my beliefs, my assumptions, trying to find the answers that work for me.

I still believe in heaven and that my grandfather and my dog are there, sitting together in the sunshine.