The End. Or Maybe Not.

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By Art Buchwald
Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Ordinarily, people don't talk about death. Yet it's very much a part of our lives. I'm in a hospice and seem to have a lot of time to talk about it. My friends and I discuss what death is and where we're supposed to go after it happens.

People constantly ask me if there is an afterlife. It's a good chance for me to philosophize. I tell them, "If I knew I would tell you."

This does not mean that everyone knows more than I do on the subject, including priests (Christian and Hindu), rabbis and imams.

I haven't made up my mind which one of these groups has the answer, but the nice thing about a hospice is we can talk about death openly. Most people are afraid that if they even mention it, they will bring bad karma on themselves.

The other day I spoke to someone who questioned the idea that I do not know where I will go after life. This person, who is of religious faith, couldn't believe that I didn't know, and said, "Aren't you going to meet all those people you used to know in the hereafter?"

By the way, people always talk about heaven as the place where we are all going. The problem with thinking about heaven is that you then have to think about hell. The irony of our culture is people are constantly telling other people to go to hell, but no one tells them to go to heaven.

A friend of mine, Larry Gelbart, said he thinks the end will come for most people when all the phone companies merge and there is only one company left. One joker said he thought the only one who knows is Pat Robertson of the "700 Club." When asked how he would know, the answer was, "He's got a large TV audience and he wouldn't be allowed to say it if it wasn't true."

I'm not denying it's possible that there is a heaven. If it makes someone feel happy to believe this, that's wonderful. If it makes them unhappy, I don't want them to fret about it.

Some of my guests maintain they have actually talked to people who have died. I don't doubt them if they say it.

What's beautiful about death is you can say anything you want to, as long as you don't lord it over others that you know something they don't.

The thing that is very important, and why I'm writing this, is that whether they like it or not, everyone is going to go.

The big question we still have to ask is not where we're going, but what were we doing here in the first place?

2006Tribune Media Services


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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