Okay! Okay! Okay! Christians, just calm down I am not going to be doing the fabled death bed conversion. Patience! All will be explained.
As an atheist I obviously do not believe in a Heavenly or Hellbent afterlife as marketed by the Abrahamic religions. An afterlife is just an opinion and there is no one alive who knows more about what happens after you die than I do. In my opinion, when you die it is, lights out, poof and you've gone. Where do you go? You simply return to the same state of non-existence you were in before you were born. All you leave behind will gradually return to star dust except the genes you passed on through your children. Anyone who claims with certainty to know different is lying.
Actually, I am not being total honest with you about the afterlife. I do actually know a bit more than most because right now I am living out my fourth afterlife. I have become an afterlife expert because I should have made an earlier final exit on at least four occasions which I shall enumerate.
Strike One - Blowing my head off at 14 years.
My grandfather, a much decorated war hero, had a lock-up room behind the garage where he kept all his military stuff. As a good Christian boy of the time, who attended church every Sunday, I had learned how to pick locks. I “borrowed” a number of shotgun shells and rifle bullets and removed the cordite and shot. Next I hammered a metal bolt into the end of a piece of curtain rod, drilled a touch-hole and strapped it to a piece of tomato box wood. I had created my own working muzzle loading gun. I placed some cordite down the barrel followed by the lead shot, took aim at the nearest tree and lit the fuse.
An almighty explosion followed, the curtain rod split down its length and the metal bolt was blown past my aiming eye, cut a neat groove across the side of my head and embedded itself into the plaster of the garage wall. Bleeding profusely from the head wound I ran up to the house where my startled mother was waiting. After lots of Mecurechrome and a dressing, my mother demanded to know what happened. I lied. But that was okay because next Sunday I asked god to forgive me my trespasses and, of course, he did.
Strike Two – Low flying without a crash helmet at 22 years.
Riding a motorbike downhill in the morning rush hour against the traffic with a long line of vehicles crawling up the hill to my right, some guy in a car waiting at a stop street in a side street became impatient. Seeing a gap in the traffic he jumped the gap and suddenly saw me 20 metres away heading straight for him. He froze in the middle of the road. Nothing I could do. I T-boned him. I can still distinctly see the green car far below me as I somersaulted over it and then crashed in a broken heap in the road on the other side. No crash helmets in those days and all I suffered was a smashed knee, a broken thumb, 2 weeks in hospital and a couple of years physiotherapy and inconvenience.
Strike Three – Sandwiched between two trucks and a bakkie at 50 years.
Driving along a single carriageway I see the robot some 100 metres ahead turn red. There is a big quarry lorry crawling along in the emergency lane on my left and a bakkie, full of sand, cement and a wheelbarrow, has stopped at the light and is winking to turn right.
I put my foot on the brake to slow down – nothing happens.
I press harder on the brake – nothing happens.
I press as hard as I can on the brake – nothing happens.
I hear a mad squealing of tires then and enormous BANG as I fly straight into the back of the bakkie. I open my eyes. Its a miracle. I'm alive.
Thank goodness I am alone in the car as the engine is now smouldering on the passenger seat. There is glass and plastic everywhere. I try to open the driver side door but I cannot get out. I try to crawl over onto the back seat but the seat belt restrains me. I managed to loosen it, climb over and open a back door and stagger out. The bakkie is now the other side of the intersection and my car has been crushed like a beer tin front and back. It is later determined that a truck had been tailgating me, failed to slow down as I braked, pushed me 80 metres down the road (the length of my skid marks), crushed me into the bakkie and driven away from the accident. The bakkie occupants were unhurt and all I suffered was a huge seatbelt burn weal across my chest. Now I was not the most diligent wearer of a seat belt (there were no reminder beeps in those days) so I thank Zeus for saving my life and for making me wear my seat belt.
Strike Four - The Big C at 60 years.
I am sitting on a beautiful afternoon on top of the mountains overlooking Hout Bay with a friend admiring one of the most beautiful views in the world. We are talking the usual man crap and being shallowly philosophical. We are both content with our achievements in life and thankful that we both enjoy excellent health. The next day I woke up with a nagging pain in my gut which refused to go away all week. Not being a medical expert, I consulted my GP who immediately sent me off to a specialist. After extensive scans in the doughnut machine and blood tests he identified a tumour and told me to report to the hospital on Monday. Anyone here heard of Clean Prep? If you have not you don't want to. If you do then you know that is the most vile concoction ever invented to blast every last atom of faeces out of your bowels.
I was gutted from breast bone to pelvis, my intestines hauled out (sparkly clean) , examined and a chunk of it removed, plugged back together again and sewn up. The surgeon remarked that it was the biggest tumour he had ever removed and, had I left it any longer, it would have killed me. Six months of chemotherapy and 10 years later I was recently given a complete clean bill of health. The surgeon refers to me as his miracle man.
So there we have it. Four strikes and I am still not out and happily showing the finger to the umpire.
I'm supposed to be old by most standards. Some say that if you reach 70 you can claim to have won. I am 70 this year and am certainly winning. I don't feel that old. I still play and walk the golf course twice a week, walk the dogs 4 km every morning and can fix a dishwasher, iron or leaking roof, build a carport, erect an electric fence, use a lathe, milling machine and welder, and keep the old cars going. I work every day from home, developing and maintaining systems and websites for a major retail chain, and don't yet have to worry about dipping into my pension. I am more then content but admit to a niggling feeling about how much longer I can continue to enjoy my fourth life before lights-out. Bucket list for next year includes a visit Iceland to see the volcanoes and the Atlantic ridge as the tectonic plates inexorably tear the the continents apart.
My grandfather lived to 96 and so did my mother so the genetic hand I was dealt should be all trumps. It is not death that I fear, that is inevitable, it is just the worry about the circumstances of my departure. Heart attack, boom and gone will be great. Lying incapacitated in a nursing home bed writhing in pain and my own excrement terrifies me. I have watched someone go out like that and it is pitiful, embarrassing and demeaning.