What happens when we die?

I thought that being here in this transition with my grandmother in her final stages of life would prompt contemplations about quintessential human questions.

I thought I would be in deep reflection about life and death, hypothesize about theories I’ve read, DMT experiences that I’ve had, and my own near death experience. In actuality, I haven’t thought so much about these questions.

I don’t know what happens when we die.
I don’t know why we are here.
I don’t know what happens when the body stops breathing.
I don’t know if there is a place our souls go.
I don’t know, and strangely, doesn’t feel relevant right now.

What I do know…
I know how the wrinkles of my grandmother’s skin feels.
I know the squeeze of her hand when she holds mine.
I know the contours of her pelvic bones as I’ve watched her weight drop in the last weeks.
I know the glint in her eye when you say the word ice cream.
I know the angle her eye brows lift when I don’t use the right word in Cantonese and I’ve said something amusing.
I know the way that her breath deepens as she starts to fall asleep.
I know from the inflection in the way she says my name whether dinner is ready, or she needs my help.
I know the rhythm of the way she pats my back when I feel troubled and how it soothes my heart.
I know that our nervous systems co-regulate when we cuddle up next to each other.
I know her smell, the familiar sweet scent of my grandmother that brings me back to memories of being a babe.
I know the feel of the her wiping my tears off my face with tissue when I cry.
I know the way my heart expands when I am around her.

This is what this process is teaching me, to receive life, breathe life, in every moment as if it was the only one. Cause it is. And no moment will ever be the same as this.

Thank you to my beloved and grandmama paparazzi Amir Suissa for your stealthy heart captures


Alice Hong

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