I never believed in life after death. When you're dead, you're dead. No thoughts, no consciousness. No staying around to look after your loved ones. No haunting the people who have hurt you in life. There is just a big, black nothingness. Death, to me, had always simply meant death.
I had gone through life believing this, and it had never bothered me much. For more than forty years I had listened to people talking about heaven and hell, about feeling the presence of their loved ones, about seeing ghosts. I had listened to them, and I had smiled, thinking to myself that it was all just one big fairytale. But if thinking that they were one day going to go to a better place, or that their loved ones were still with them was making them feel better, then good for them. I never once told anyone that they were wrong. I simply smiled.
It wasn't until my father got ill, that I started thinking about it again. As a child I had wondered if maybe my parents had been wrong. Maybe there was a heaven and a hell, because most kids in school believed in it, and they couldn't have all been wrong, could they? My parents had quickly explained to me and my sister that they had in fact all been wrong, so that was that. But now that my father was dying, I started thinking about that place again. Heaven. Not a place up in the clouds where it was all sunshine and rainbows. But perhaps, some sort of place where your soul, your consciousness would go to after death. Because my father deserved that. He did not deserve to die, and simply be gone. He did not deserve to go to a big, black nothingness. I wanted there to be a better place for him.
I met Celeste two months after my father's death. I was still grieving, but I was trying to get on with life, so when she asked me out for a coffee, I said yes. I didn't think it would lead anywhere, but within weeks after going out for a coffee, we were together. For the first time in months, I was laughing again.
As much as I loved Celeste, I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps we were simply too different to make it work in the long run. Like I have said, I was very sure about life and death. I did not believe in fairytales, and as much as I would have loved for my father to now be in a better place, I highly doubted it. He was in a grave, his body slowly decaying. His brain had stopped working, and he was gone. It was as simple as that. But Celeste, she did not believe any of this. Yes, the body was rotting away. It was gone. But the mind, it does not die. She believed in a world between worlds, where all souls, all consciousness goes to after the body dies. And on multiple occasions, she would tell me that my father was still with me. I couldn't stand it. It hurt too much. So I pushed her away
I didn't see Celeste for months after that. Until the worst thing possible happened. My five-year old niece was murdered. Me and my sister were still grieving for our father, but when we lost that little girl… It felt as thought the world was closing in on me, I felt trapped, I felt wrong. The world that I had lived in for such a long time, it just felt wrong. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. How can you live life, and move on after something like that?
Then one day, Celeste showed up at my house. She had read about the death of my niece, so even if we were just friends, she wanted to be there for me. I was too tired, too broken to keep pushing her away. So I let her in, and I let her take care of me. I needed her.
When I came home from work one day, I overheard Celeste telling my sister that her little girl was still with her. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Sure, she could tell me that my father was still around, that he was looking out for me. It hurt, and it messed with my mind, but it was my father she was talking about. But to lie to my sister, and talk about her daughter… I saw red with rage, and I shouted at her to get lost and to never come back. I could not believe that she was playing with my sister's mind like that, after what she had been through. But my sister stopped her from leaving. She believed her. She believed her little girl was still with her. She even made Celeste ask her if she was okay. If she was happy. According to Celeste, my niece said she was. I could see some sort of relieve in my sister's eyes. But I didn't buy it. I still believed Celeste was simply using my sister's pain to try and gain something. I wasn't sure what she was trying to gain yet. But I knew I would find out eventually.
Celeste and I argued about it for hours after my sister left. I kept asking her what she was getting out of this. Some sick enjoyment? Pleasure out of messing with people's minds? Was she going to ask money for talking to my niece eventually? Was that how she worked? Was she using people's pain for money? But she denied everything. She said she simply wanted to help people. That's all. But I could not believe her. Life after death? There is no such thing. It's all a fairytale, a lie. She was making it all up. That's when Celeste told me she would show me. I still didn't believe her, but she told me to not turn my back on things I simply didn't understand. So I decided to give it a chance. What did I have to lose?
For months on end she kept on trying to show me, or so she said. We would sit on the floor, with our eyes closed. She would tell me to find a peaceful place within myself, and I felt like she was trying to hypnotise me. The way she said her words, it felt like she was trying to put me to sleep. She was mesmerising me. But I never saw a thing. I never left that living room floor.
Then one day, she kept talking about my niece, about my father, about my mother, who had died many years before. I felt myself getting lost in her voice, as though I was leaving this world entirely. But when she told me to open my eyes, as she had always done after a while, I was still in my living room. But this time, it was different. There was more colour somehow. It felt brighter, lighter. The air, it smelled and tasted different. It felt different on my skin. I looked at Celeste, and when I saw the smile on her face, I knew it had finally worked. I was now seeing what she had been seeing all along.
As we left the house, I couldn't help but smile. The world was still as I had always known it to be, but it still felt different. It felt more peaceful, somehow. I saw my neighbour, the lonely old woman, whose husband had died many years before. But this time she wasn't alone, there was a handsome young man walking next to her. The way he looked at her… I recognised that look. I had seen it every time I had watched the woman and her husband go out for a walk, back when he had still been alive.
I was seeing a world between worlds. Not heaven, not hell. Simply a place where our souls end up after our bodies die, to stay with us, to look after us. Celeste hadn't been lying. She had been seeing this all along. But I wasn't strong enough, and I couldn't hang onto it. Within minutes, the world had gone back to its normal colour. People I had been seeing only seconds before, had disappeared. So had Celeste.
It's been years since that day, and I have tried time and time again to get back to that place within myself, to get my vision back. I want to see the world between worlds. All my life, I had believed in a big, black nothingness. Death had simply meant death to me. There was no such thing as life after death. But I know that I was wrong. Sometimes I can manage to get there, for just a few seconds. The world changes colour, and I see the people I love. My father, my mother, my niece… They are still out there, looking after us.