From chapter "Wonder"
My mother is getting old. Someday she will die. I don’t know how I will survive that. I don’t know how any of us survive the death of a beloved parent. And many of us—human and nonhuman—do. The death of a parent, and ultimately the death of this parent’s child, too—that is, all of us—is one of the costs of entry to this wonderful thing called life through sexual reproduction.
And the knowledge that we all die is one of the primary causes of all monotheistic religions,with their gates of various heavens standing open and waiting for their respective adherents to shuffle off this mortal coil, after which, if these adherents followed the rules of that particular religion while they were on earth, they will receive the blessing of immortality normally reserved for planarians, lobsters, bacteria, and others of the evidently spiritually pure.A fear of death and a yearning for immortality is also a primary motivator of much human supremacist science, not only in its desire to assume the omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality of the Abrahmic God, but more prosaically, in its attempts to mine all of the immortal nonhumans I just mentioned to see how we can steal their immortality for our own. Rare indeed is the article about any immortal or even long-lived nonhuman that does not conclude with descriptions of scientific attempts to create human immortality.
When my mother’s grandmother was dying, my mother, fairly young at the time, comforted her by saying, “You’ll just go to sleep, and when you wake up Grandpa will be there with you.”
I do not know if when the time comes I can comfort my mother in this same way, telling her that she will sleep, then wake to find herself with her parents and others whom she loved and loves dearly. I do not know that I have that faith. I do not know what happens when we die. The lights may simply go out, and we sleep dreamlessly forever. Or we may dream, and as our bodies decompose our dreams may more and more resemble the dreams of the land, until ours and theirs are all the same. Or for all I know, human supremacists come back as their victims, and spend their short miserable lives unsuccessfully trying to communicate to their boneheaded former-comrades-in-superiority that mice or lizards or pigs or soy beans really do have subjective existence, before they are tortured to death. I don’t know.
What I do know is that when my animal friends have died, they have always come to me in dreams three nights later, happy and playing. Perhaps this is what I will tell my mother, that she will close her eyes, and three nights later I will see her, and she will no longer be in pain, no longer be functionally blind, no longer have a broken neck and shattered forearm, and she will be with those, like her parents, whom she loved and loves.