Our theme for the month of June is “Sex and the Church.”
Spoiler Alert: Deadpool 2
I wonder, sometimes, if I’d choose to marry someone “till death do us part” or “as long as we both shall live.” I suppose they mean the same thing, but the latter seems a bit more optimistic—like there might be Something Else after we’ve shuffled from this mortal coil, and that we will have been essentially preserved enough to recognize and love each other after life.
C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed wrestles with the question of the afterlife in the aftermath of his wife’s death. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to spend an evening in mortal anguish—all the better if you have someone to share that moment with so you can cling to each other and sob for hours. My boyfriend and I made this mistake, and ever since, I’ve occasionally wept at the thought that, even were we to marry, there would have to be a last walk, a last pot of curry chicken, a last kiss goodnight.
While J and I are far from marriage, we’ve both confessed ourselves optimistic for the future of our relationship. Most days, we are too wrapped up in the goodness of daily life to meaningfully reckon with what mortality means for intimate human relationships. This is probably for the best, but when it does come up, the resulting scene is pretty tragic. We promise that, in the event that death is not final, we will find each other. But if we survive after death (as I believe we do), what will we be? I’m not convinced by Biblical accounts of heaven, but I do both fear and trust that we shall all be changed.
Growing up in the church, I always figured that I’d see everyone I loved who died again someday. I conceptualized heaven as a metaphysical place that looked a lot like earth, only better-smelling and with more trees. I pictured myself reuniting with my great-grandparents and family friends gone too soon. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to wonder if the afterlife might be a slightly less guaranteed thing—or at least that it might be something different than I was raised to expect.
Which brings me to Deadpool 2. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Deadpool’s girlfriend, Vanessa, gets shot and dies. She promptly appears in a heart-wrenching series of near-death experiences, the final of which left both my not-a-crier boyfriend and I inconsolably tearful. After a few encounters where they’re unable to touch or communicate, the veil lifts and they’re able to hug, kiss, and talk—as if nothing had changed.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope for an afterlife like that—one where everything is shiny and my partner and I look like we’re thirty for the rest of our lives. But believing and putting faith in the fact that I’ll have more time after I die seems like a cop out: as if I can afford to not spend every second I have on earth doing something of value. As if I can afford to waste a second of love and trust that it’ll come back to me someday, somehow.
I don’t have any easy answers for this, and I don’t think I will until I die and find out for myself. What I do know is that if I spend my life with someone and have the kind of life I want to have with them, the inevitable end will be excruciating for one (or both) of us, heaven or hell or nothing. But I hope for the kind of end where I see my family and my beloved out in some verdant everlasting meadow. It’s a good thought, and my best hope for life everlasting.
Caitlin Gent (’15) graduated with a writing major. She lives in Milwaukee and works in fundraising & development. When she’s not working, Caitlin is usually walking with a friend or singing in the kitchen. She likes to wax poetic about Wisconsin to anyone who will listen.