Almost every atheist (and Christian, and Muslim, and Jew etc) ponders the question at least once in their life. What will happen to me after I die? Will I continue to live? Will I go to Heaven? Is there such a thing as reincarnation? What is Nirvana, and will I reach it? An atheist usually comes to the conclusion, that this life is it. We are born, we live our lives to the best of our knowledge, and then we die. End of story. We make peace with the fact, that we will cease to exist, and most of us will take this as a reason to live life to the fullest, to make the best of our limited existence on planet Earth. And some of us (the agnostics) will have at least a little bit of hope, that when we draw our final breath in this level of being, there is something else awaiting us... somewhere out there.
I must admit that the thought of my spirit or soul as an undying entity is quite comforting, and I'd like to think that I will somehow live on past my earthly life. For many years I have struggled with this question, have read books on death and dying, about the afterlife. I felt, that somehow I deserved to know (more than others) what, if anything, expects me after I die. After all, I cried myself to sleep every night for months on end, as the thought of infinity overwhelmed me, and I was certain I couldn't handle even one more day without knowledge. Didn't that mean, that I deserved to know the truth? Well, think again, sister. Today I know as much as I did then. But today, I am (mostly) at peace with my insignificance in the bigger picture.
What happened? I met a man at a book store. He caught a glimpse of my book, commented on it, and we started talking. He told me about his journey, and that he, too, thought at some point, that he deserved the truth more than the others. The answer came to him in the shower, when it suddenly occurred to him that he didn't “f***ing need to know”. How trivial, isn't it? And yet, I drove home that day, overjoyed, yelling at the top of my lungs, “I don't f***ing need to know!”
The fact is, for millions of years my non-existence didn't bother me. Chances are, I won't be bothered by it, after I die. This answer, this beautiful truth, as simple as it may seem, was quite difficult to arrive at. I guess I can consider myself lucky to have found it so easily in the end. Many others will not find their answer, their truth for as long as they live.
As for myself, I now find it pleasantly easy to expect nothing. Imagine all the questions I don't need to answer. And imagine, furthermore, what a lovely surprise it will be, if I do, in fact, return to planet Earth in some other shape or form.