The Sorrow of an Atheist

A tranquil and moderately warm spring day greeted the city of Bakersfield.
Any person who wandered through the streets would be provided with a warm
back, the incessant but pleasant chirping of various birds in the profusion
of trees, and a vibrantly colored clear blue sky lingering far above. Defeating
both the frigidness of a winter day and the unrelenting heat of a summer
day, this spring day was most attractive to the local population.
Such a serene and beautiful day, however, was quite deceiving to a few
particular individuals. The pleasant and bright day served only to overshadow
an unfavorable and gloomy event in the lives of the aforementioned people.
The most beautiful weather will still fail to alleviate the sorrow of those
people who are suppressed by sad times.
In the heart of the city of Bakersfield, there resided a five-story
hospital. Included in this hospital was a faculty of doctors, nurses, and
the many patients in need of care. Unfortunately, and sadly, there was
one patient in particular whom no doctor could have helped that day.
In one room, there laid a fifty-three year old male an a hospital bed
whose name was Norman. It was he who was in the most despair among those
present in the room. He had been in the hospital a few days, but this day
was doomed to be his final one?not only in the hospital, but also in life.
Recently, Norman had been diagnosed with prostrate cancer, and this unforgiving
disease consumed his health with staggering rapidness. With time, the belligerent
cancer succeeded in corroding Norman’s health, and this resulted in the
fallen state of himself, after which his loved ones gathered around him
in his final moments. The end came ever so closer.
Norman’s loved ones, fully aware that this would be the final time of
being with him, accompanied his side and comforted him in the closing moments.
A Few somber words were shared:
“You have been a great father, and I will miss you dearly,” spoke the
son, Jerry.
“Thank you, Norman, for being the best husband and sharing with me several
years of joy,” noted the wife, Laura.
“I love you so much, and to see you like this is the sincerest form
of pain,” cried the brother, Shawn.
Norman, so deeply touched by the kind words of his kin, responded accordingly.
The words he expressed with his family incorporated both sadness and happiness,
as he celebrated his life with his family while he additionally lamented
over his untimely fate. His melancholy closing words were these:
“No assemblage of words, however eloquent or beautiful, could do full
justice to what I feel about my family. As I have been lying in this bed,
I have reminisced about my life with you all. Laura, the day of our marriage
has always pleasantly been in my mind. Shawn, you have always been a sweet,
kind brother to me. And Jerry, both your mother and I have always regarded
your birth as the happiest day of our lives. I wish nothing more than to
spend more time with you all. At least another day?I am sorry that it had
to end with such short notice, in such short time. I love each one of you,
and I hope that you continue on in life, successfully, happily, and rationally.”
A solemn mood was depicted on every countenance. Laura stood at the
window, Shawn sat in the chair, and Jerry knelled beside the bed of his
father’s right side, grasping his hand contently. Soon after Norman’s final
words, Jerry suddenly became more emotional. His father’s grasp suddenly
turned weak, loosening the pressure on Jerry’s hand. Norman relaxed his
head, and it sank deeper into the pillow’s fabric. Following this, an uninterrupted
monotone sound emitted from a machine about the bed.
“He’s dead!”
* * *
Later that week, Norman’s funeral took place. The location of the funeral
was at the cemetery, with the coffin placed above the excavation that had
been prepared for it. Once the proceedings would finish, the coffin would
be lowered into the soil tomb to accompany the deceased population already
residing in the acres of the eerily quiet graveyard.
A large white canopy sheltered the many rows of chairs. The turnout
of people was of considerable size. Among those present were family members,
colleagues, and other friends of the late Norman. The weather of the day
was nice, as it had been earlier that week, but the mood of the funeral
was of different nature.
A lengthy eulogy was presented in the appropriate fashion. It was recited
by Shawn, the brother, and in the eulogy was an appraisal of Norman’s life,
his achievements and his qualities.
Most striking of the funeral was that it proceeded secularly. No mentioning
of gods occurred, not to be offensive to those theists present, but because
the family was nonreligious, and Norman liked the idea of demonstrating
that a secular funeral would run well.  After this speech by Shawn,
and a few other minor observations of Norman’s life, the funeral came to
a close. The coffin was lowered several feet into the pit, and people began
leaving the cemetery.
As the funeral approached an end, Jerry sat next to his uncle, Shawn.
Jerry spoke with lament.
“I have to reiterate a cliché said by people at funerals, but
I just can’t believe it’s over, simply like that. It seems not long ago,
when we learned of his illness. He was early in his fifties. It should
have occurred much later. Now he’s gone. He has been consumed by the never-ending
nonexistence of death. I know that there’s probably not an afterlife, and
the thought that I will never enjoy to converse with him – ever again –
hurts me so.”
“I know how you feel,” Shawn started, softly. “It is an uncomforting
reality – that death is the absolute end. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, I like
the idea that I will survive beyond physical death, but there just isn?t
any evidence to indicate the contrary. However, I don’t think death is
completely bad. An eternal life sounds good initially, but if you ponder
the idea deeper, there appears to be some unfavorable characteristics.
If a person did live for an eternity, then eventually boredom would develop.
I could probably entertain myself for a hundred years, possibly even a
few hundred, but eventually the routine would be repetitive. Also, what
kind of afterlife would there be? A heavenly one? I certainly do not wish
to spend an eternity worshiping a god. Reincarnation? Perhaps it seems
interesting to be able to experience being an animal, but there are so
many species that the idea seems daunting. Most of all, I wouldn?t enjoy
the possibility of arriving in an afterlife world such as Hell. In any
case, it is all mythology. In addition, there is no pain, of course – no
pain or pleasure simultaneously, simply nonexistence. Just think of death
as being the same state as you were in before birth. You are not aware
that you’re dead, so it works out.”
“That is true,” Jerry responded. “I simply wish our life span was better.
Less than a century of lifetime is inadequate. My fear of death wouldn’t
be so strong if perhaps I knew that I could live a long time, more than
the average human. Unfortunately, it is a false hope.”
“Well, try not to allow it to ensnare your mind. Maybe your view will
be different when you are elderly, after you’ve lived several decades,”
concluded Jerry.
Shawn arose from his seat and told Jerry that he would see him in a
while. Shawn was intent on speaking with some friends of his at the funeral
before they departed.
Jerry, who had long been sitting in his seat, arose on his feet and
proceeded to the coffin, which had been lowered into the excavation. Minutes
later, a few men would be shoveling the dirt back into the hole.
Jerry looked somberly onto the coffin several feet below him. He could
only think about his life with his father. He could only think about the
good memories he had made with his father. He heard his uncle call for
him from behind, and therefore he bid a last farewell to his father.
“Goodbye.”