It was an honor to be among the twenty-four speakers chosen to present at TEDx Charlottesville Open Mic Night on October 13, 2014. With four minutes to share, here's what I said:
"Death. It's inevitable. There's not a single person in this theater or on this planet who isn't going to die. We all assume this to be true. But, what if it's not?
My exploration of death officially began in October 2006 when a friend called to tell me about a woman with an amazing gift. 'Jana,' she said, 'can communicate with people who've passed on, and she wants to make this her life's work. Would you be willing to do a session with her?'
I hesitated. I had a lot on my plate and, even if she did have this amazing gift, there wasn’t anyone I felt compelled to speak with. Still, I was curious, and thinking I was doing my friend a favor, I scheduled a session.
I didn't really expect anything to happen. So, when my mom—who'd passed three years earlier—came through in a way that was unmistakable and irrefutable, my jaw dropped. As if that weren't enough, I connected with three more loved ones that day. Jana had knocked it out of the park.
It was compelling, and I wanted to explore further. Imagine asking questions of loved ones who'd died . . . and having them answer back!
Jana and I agreed to meet one hour a day, five days a week, and we did this for two years. We spoke at length with seven of my friends and family members on the other side. They were diverse: my friend Jerry, for example, was an ordained Buddhist priest; my friend Bill committed suicide. Each of the conversations began with the same question: 'What did you experience when you released your last breath on earth?'
We struck gold while digging for answers about life. My fear of dying vanished, I saw Life with new eyes, and the conversations evolved into a book that's earned seven national awards and is touching thousands of lives, transforming the way we think about dying . . . and living.
Prior to this experience, I was 95% sure we go on. Afterwards, I was 100% certain. The difference: monumental.
The way I define myself shifted: I am no longer a human being with a soul; I am a divine and eternal soul using a body to have a temporary human experience. That's no small shift.
We've all heard the words 'life' and 'death' paired so often, we assume they're opposites. But, the opposite of death isn't life; the opposite of death is birth. And life? Life has no opposite. It's the context in which birth and death occur.
The conversations contain hundreds of gold nuggets of insight and wisdom. I'd like to share two with you.
All of my loved ones speak of a life review that takes place in a space of unconditional love. My friend Jerry, describes it like this, and, I quote:
'It's nothing like you could ever imagine from the perspective of an individuated being. As I reviewed every moment of my physical life, I experienced how I felt and how I affected everyone and everything around me, from their perspective. I experienced myself through them. I shared their thoughts and felt their feelings: people, animals, plants, and all sentient life. And, how do you put that into words?' End quote.
Knowing this, I am inspired to live my most loving life . . . now, conscious of what I'm contributing with every thought, feeling, word and deed.
A second gold nugget comes from my friend Jared, who was thirty when he transitioned. I ask him if there's anything he misses. He says, and, I quote:
'I don't miss anything. I would like my friends and family on the physical plane to acknowledge my presence, although not because I miss it. I'd like it more for them than for me. I know I'm very much alive, but they don't. Because they can't experience me with their five senses, they think I don't exist anymore, and assume there's no place to put their love for me. Loneliness is people falsely believing that no one is there to receive their love. It's our natural instinct to express love and, when we can't, it creates sadness.' End quote.
My purpose in sharing these conversations isn't to convince anyone to believe in an afterlife. I am inspired to help us all overcome our fear of death by clarifying the underlying misconceptions we have about who we are. Our fear of death is fueled by a case of mistaken identity. We think we are these bodies. We are not. We are energy. We are the energy that animates these bodies. We are Divine, Loving, Eternal Energy that was never born . . . and can never die.
On Screen: 'Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.'-Albert Einstein
Irene Kendig is a speaker, soul-centered life coach, and the international award-winning author of Conversations with Jerry and Other People I Thought Were Dead: Seven compelling dialogues that will transform the way you think about dying . . . and living.