Last week, while chasing waves with my 10-year old granddaughter in the Atlantic Ocean in Martha's Vineyard, we got caught in a riptide. We tried to remain calm and swim alongside the shore, but we became separated and waves pulled us down.
The great value of coming close to death, by accident or illness, is the gift of perspective. The gestalt of our daily existence becomes distinct, and what is trivial drops away to make room for the essential.
In my mind, the solemnity of major surgery reminds us that our mortal self is not all there is. Once we recognize this -- truly cashing in the meaning, not unlike those near-death experiences -- our lives change.
If the hereafter is anything like its filmic namesake, then it will turn out to be glacially slow, eternally boring, and pointless, with seemingly random plot lines aimlessly wandering about the ethereal landscape.
The 'Who am I' feeling is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn't go away at death. One of the axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can't be created or destroyed.
That we'll be "greeted by loved ones" at death has become conventional wisdom, so for those who define family as people we wouldn't choose to hang with, heaven will require a significant attitude adjustment.