I had an interesting conversation with one my friends the other day. She was telling me that she knows how she will die. Not when, mind you, but how. One day she will go to bed, fall asleep, and never wake up again. She believes a person can choose one's manner of dying.
I don't know about that. Lately, for some reason, I've come to suspect a heart attack will fell me one day. I remember a very realistic dream I had many years ago, in which I was in my kitchen and suddenly pitched forward onto my face, dying from a heart attack. Most of my dreams fade into memory shortly after I have them, but this one has stayed with me in all its vivid detail. In fact, it was so real that I woke up moaning and it took me a moment to realize I was safe on my couch and not lying, dying on my kitchen floor.
My father died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. His attendants told me that actually he had had a good day before his attack at about 11 p.m. A decade or so later my older brother went to bed and had a massive coronary and died before help could arrive. Mom has had three heart attacks and has had a pace maker for nearly twenty years now. I guess this is something of a family tradition. We'll see if that's what happens to me.
The preacher who married my high school sweetheart and me, our former pastor and a close family friend, became sick several years later and was hospitalized. He told his wife on Wednesday that he was going home on Saturday. His wife told this to my mother and they assumed he was a bit delirious and just eager to get to familiar surroundings. But he did "go home" that Saturday, in the sense he went where ever it is the dead go. Lots of folk might find that strange, but it was par for the course among the people I grew up with.
Mystics believe in the ability to gain knowledge through unconventional means. I come from a family of religious mystics. Mom and Dad had visions and leadings, and saw harbingers and signs of things to come to pass. For example, my mom came home one day and told us she had smelled funeral flowers at work that day. The odor was distinct and she could find no source for it. The next day her supervisor bent down to pick up a piece of trash on the floor and suffered an aortic rupture, dying immediately. I blogged about one of my dad's psychic experiences (my parents would never have used that word) last year. He had a vision while at church of my older brother playing with matches back at the house. My parents left church immediately and went home to find burnt matches that indicated that my brother in fact had been playing with them.
This type of mysticism fascinates me. My parents would have placed all this squarely within their religious tradition. I outgrew the primitive confines of my childhood faith, but never outgrew the sense of wonder that life in the cosmos inspires in me. I think of myself as a religious naturalist, but believe the evidence suggests that the cosmos is alive with deep secrets that even our most advanced sciences have yet to plumb completely.