What Comes Next?

By Kim Moeller  •  May 16, 2024

I must admit, I have always been impatient for what comes next. What’s the next chapter? What’s the next new new thing? And more to the topic, what happens next to our souls after our bodies finally break down and cease to go any further?

I have questions! As I think about my mortality, I don’t really feel afraid or anxious. What I do feel is curious. And I do have questions.

I have suggested to the Almighty that she might want to make a lot of time available in her calendar for the day I come moseying through the pearly gates. My questions range from the simple…what did happen to Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan when their plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean in 1937…to the more complex, Who was I created to be and did I get anywhere close?

I am especially curious about what “heaven” is. Will I recognize family and friends who have passed on before me? Will I see God or just feel God’s presence? Will pets be there? Will there be food and how will it taste?

A Picture of Heaven

I once saw a movie with a scene that made me think…This is what I hope heaven is going to feel like.

The movie is Antwone Fisher starring Denzel Washington as a Navy psychiatrist who treats Fisher, a young sailor with anger management issues. Fisher’s father was murdered two months before he was born and his mother was in prison at the time of his birth. She later abandoned him to be raised in a cruel foster home. Fisher is encouraged to deal with his past and to track down his birth mother. When he does, she hardly says a word to him as he spills out his heart to her. He does learn the identities of his birth father’s siblings and he goes to meet them following his dreadful visit with his mother. This is the scene of what happens next.

As he is greeted by a mass of previously unknown relatives, the doors are then opened to the dining room with a table smothered in food. His girlfriend, and the family elders ae present. A wizened elderly women knocks on the table with gnarly hands to get his attention. As he sits down next to her, her hands reach out for his and then takes his face gently in her hands and with tears and love in her eyes, says, “Welcome.”

For me, that elderly woman embodies the face of God. I believe Heaven is a place where my spirit will be surrounded in love by family and friends. Maybe even my birth family whom I have never met. There will be so much love and welcome, it will be beyond human understanding.

In our society today, we don’t like to think about or talk about death. Instead of seeing it as just another component of life like birthdays and aging, too often we treat death as some sort of failure. The search for the mythical Fountain of Youth, said to restore the youth of anyone who drinks from it or bathes in it, has been around for thousands of years. How might we transform our ideas of the death experience as well as our life experiences if we began to see death has normal and not something to be avoided.

Can Thinking About Death Can Make Life Better?

In a 2015 article in Scientific American entitled “Thinking about Death Can Make Life Better”, Michael W. Wiederman writes “People who pursue intrinsic goals (such as cultivating close relationships, doing creative work and developing as a person) have more success in heading off anxiety associated with death than those who chase material things.”

He goes on to write, “In 2009 Alain Van Hiel and Maarten Vansteenkiste of Ghent University in Belgium published their survey of older adults (with an average age of 75). The elders who reported having fulfilled more of their intrinsic goals were the least anxious about death and most satisfied with their life. In contrast, respondents who reported the greatest attainment of extrinsic goals indicated the most despair and the least acceptance of death.”

Managing Fears of Death

Wiederman offers a suggestion for managing our fear of mortality. “…repeated contemplation of our eventual death could both lessen the anxiety about it and help keep us focused on the aspects of life that matter most.” He concludes, “We cannot escape awareness of our mortality, and that awareness has the power to elicit fear or appreciation. Fortunately, the choice is ours.”

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami said, "Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it". So let us move forward, choosing the values and goals that matter most to our society as a whole, knowing that death is in our future but choosing not to be afraid. Let us believe that there will be a spirit to welcome us with love as we move into that next chapter of our lives.

For Reflection (either individually or with a group)

Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Invite the Divine to open your heart to allow the light of new understanding to pierce the shadows of embedded assumptions, stereotypes, and ways of thinking so that you may live more abundantly. Then spend some time with the following questions together with anything or anyone who helps you reflect more deeply.

  • Do you have any vision of what comes after death might look like? Do you have any metaphor for heaven?
  • Do your life’s values and goals help you to be more appreciative of the days of your life or fearful about death?
  • How often do you think about death? Do you believe contemplating death can make life better?

Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.

About the Author

Kim Moeller

Kim Moeller is the Abundant Aging Education & Program Specialist at the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging. She has an MDiv with honors from Wesley Theological Seminary. In Silicon Valley, she served as Executive Director of the Churchill Club, Director of International Programs for SRI International and as Director of Small Groups for Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. She has also worked for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and Wesley Housing. She is a movie fanatic and reads anything from mysteries/suspense to religion to business to nonfiction.

View all articles by Kim Moeller