My mother said, “Skip visited last night. (Skip died on August 30th last year.) I had gotten into bed and was ready to fall asleep when I felt his familiar tug. I knew it was Skip. I was so happy he visited. Strange though, there was a couple with him. I asked the couple what they were doing with Skip (implying Skip is her pet). They replied, ‘Skip was available. So, we adopted him.'”

My mother’s experience reminded me of a story from The Tales of Tono. It told the story of a man named Fukuji who survived the Sanriku tsunami of 1896 and lived with his two surviving children. On a moonlit summer night, he went for a walk on the beach. As the fog rolled across the beach, he saw a man and a woman approaching. The woman was his wife. The man was another villager who had once been in love with her. Fukuji called to his wife. She turned, smiling, and said, “I am married to this man now.” It was then Fukuji remembered both died in the tsunami.

Although I didn’t admit to my mother, I thought about this question often. Both Fukuji’s and my mother’s project a similar theme. I reminded my mother that when Christ said, “… in my Father’s house are many rooms (mansions),” Christ never clarified what kind of rooms. Are the rooms filled with different worlds or mansions filled with different lifestyles? Does everyone get an estate? Or, if you’ve not been overly kind on earth, do you live in a studio. It’s still heaven, but you work as a street sweeper?   

What exactly the next world offers is unknown. Is heaven a place where we lounge on clouds, strumming harps, and eating grapes? Or, do we work? Jesus hinted that people will work. “My Father is always at his work to this very day.” And in my short visits with Kanako, I gathered she worked. And though she never stated the type of work performed, she showed me a building, next to an ocean or lake. Instinctively, I understood she worked in that building. I felt it was all designed.

Humans were designed to work. And while this work may be fulfilling, invigorating, and provides a sense of purpose, it’s also different life, filled with many possible different relationships. Those relationships involve all sorts of people in the world: great and small, high and low, rich and poor, wise and unwise, bond and free, people of every nation, all conditions and circumstances. Thus, while we can presume that life does not end, maybe a dog that passes away gets adopted by another couple. Perhaps, if two former lovers die, they somehow walk together. 

“Mom. What Skip was likely saying is that he came as a visit to check up on you, to let you know that he’s fine and is living well. Or, maybe Skip is still waiting for you, but he’s working to help this couple in some fashion (a guide, if you will).” The circle of life conveys that death is just a new beginning. The same phenomena probably occurs in animals.

Maybe Skip waits for my mother. However, until it’s time for my mother to join him, Skip might have things to do. Right now, we simply don’t know. But it will be fun to find out.