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Facing the Other Side



Our beliefs about the afterlife shape us here and now. Do you know what you believe?

Megory Anderson has kept vigil with Catholics and Protestants, Buddhists and Muslims, Jews and pagans, Mormons and Hindus, skeptics and angry nonbelievers. When the time comes she sees them experience a clear transition to some other state of being.

This article appeared in our Winter 2003 issue. Jennifer, only eleven years old, was about to die of cancer, and I came to the hospital at her family’s request. There was clearly something she wanted to say and couldn’t. “What’s it going to be like?” she asked me eventually. “Dying?” “No. Heaven.” She paused uncomfortably. “Or the other place.” “Ahhh,” I said. “Jennifer, why don’t you tell me what you think is going to happen. Maybe we can figure this out together.” She jumped right in, clearly wanting to talk. “There are angels waiting for me to die. I saw that on TV.” The angel of death is waiting to take me away. And if I’ve been good, I get to go to heaven, where God is. I guess I’ll be an angel there, too. Maybe they’ll let me see my grandmother and my dog who died last year. I’m not sure. The program didn’t say. But if I’m bad, I’ll go to the other place and it’s pretty awful. There’s a lot of fire there and horrible things happen to you. I think you get burned up over and over again until some ugly creatures come to find you and take your body away.” “Who told y …

Megory Anderson is the author of Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life, ©2001 from Prima Publishing. A former Anglican nun, she has been on staff in numerous churches and teaches religion at the University of California, Berkeley.

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