Today I bade farewell to the Richard Russo world of Thomaston, NY, and moved onto a new audiobook – The Brief History of the Dead“, by Kevin Brockmeier.

I almost gave up early on, because the main character is a woman who is left alone in Antarctica after she and her two male colleagues lose communications, and the two men set out for another research base in search of rescue, but fail to return. Today was a gloomy, stormy day at sea and I needed cheering up, NOT to hear about a solitary woman marooned in her own company. It was just a bit too close to home.

But then it got better. In this story, there is a plague on the Earth, and our heroine may well turn out to be the only survivor. Meanwhile, we find out about the existence of an interim afterlife, a staging post on the way to the great hereafter. In a huge city (which bears a strong resemblance to Earth, in fact, to America) souls go in their human form until the last person to remember them also dies. Once they have disappeared from living memory, they then progress to the permanent afterlife.

I’d been thinking quite a bit recently about life after death, and whether it exists. My thoughts had been prompted by Timothy Ray, and also the death a few days ago of a dear friend of my mother’s, a gentleman who passed away suddenly at the age of 89, just as he was about to leave his home to meet my mother for lunch.

The thought had already occurred to me that someone can be said to live on, for as long as there are people to cherish the memory of them. They live on in our hearts and minds, whether or not that individual unit of consciousness that used to be “Tim” or “Peter” continues to exist.

As to that, whether we continue to exist in any kind of self-aware form, who knows?

Although I have read the accounts of people who have come back after near-death experiences, the evidence does not seem conclusive. Maybe they were were experiencing the dying process, and were pulled back before entering a true afterlife. Maybe we continue to exist, maybe there is nothing, maybe we get (re)absorbed into a collective “soul soup”, maybe we get reincarnated, or maybe we get whatever we believe we are going to get. There is no way of knowing.

And ultimately, what difference does it make? Shouldn’t we live good and decent and useful lives, regardless of what waits for us on the other side? So I’m not too concerned about not knowing. But I do like the sound of this fictional temporary afterlife as portrayed in “The Brief History of Death”. It has coffee shops.

Other Stuff:

Today was grey, rainy and cold. All day. With waves splashing up at me as well as rain coming down at me, just to make sure I got as wet as possible. Even though I am now (of course) in my cabin, it is a bit like camping in the rain. Everything gets damp, no matter how careful you are. Bedding and clothing feel clammy from condensation, and my waterlogged feet are taking a long time to warm up.

If I am to even think about doing the North Atlantic next year, I need to give serious thought to clothing, or I will end up with extremities dropping off. I am particularly concerned about my feet. Neoprene booties don’t seem to be helping all that much, and also make my feet slide out of my rowing shoes. Any ideas?

Anna F – I like your nana’s definition of death, as a chance to savour your memories of life. In a coffee shop, preferably…

Hi to Barbara in Prague, a city I have never been to, but would love to visit one day. I’m imagining dark and gothic…. but maybe that is the Faustus rather than the reality.

Jim Bell – I’m a Terry Pratchett fan too. And Douglas Adams. I wonder what kind of heavens they have ended up in….

Quote for today: “The meaning of life is that it stops.” (Kafka)

Photo: can anybody tell me what this little creature is? It is photographed in my all-purpose bucket, which has made its legs look red, although in fact they are black. It jumps around like a crazy thing.
There were several of them on board my boat today. They must be water creatures of some sort, as I’m sure they haven’t been here all along.

Sponsored Miles: Deed Knerr, M C Edwards, Mary Lu Kelley, Celia Savage, Suwin Chan – thank you!


  • Roz, I share your questions of an “After-Life”… BUT, BUT, I work with a guy who died three times two years ago – was actually “Pronounced Dead” the 3rd time. He has quoted everyone around him, verbatim, at the time. And that is understandable – to a point, as some people seem to remember near-death events in some detail… BUT, BUT, he “Visited” with two people, Both he only met recently, one who preceded him in death, on his third visit there, and he has shared things with the one who is still with us, and the family of the one who preceded him in death, that there was no way that he could have had any knowledge of without this visit after death – having taken place in one case 30+ years before they met… Spooky? Yes! Interesting? Absolutely! “Life After death”? Still not sure, But this surely suggests SOMETHING is going on there.

    • P.S. ” as a chance to savour your memories of life. In a coffee shop, preferably…” His after-death meeting with the person who preceded him in death was IN a coffee shop.”

  • “Neoprene booties don’t seem to be helping all that much, and also make my feet slide out of my rowing shoes. Any ideas?” Roz, There are wet-suit and “Dry-Suit” material boots made for scuba divers – both smooth surfaced and textured – of different thicknesses – for different temperature waters… These will keep your feet warm in any rowing situation. We had to/were required to wear entire wetsuits – including these boots – when racing small sailboats in races that are referred to as “The Mid-Winters”… They work great… Coat their inside layer with Talc, Corn Starch, Baby Powder to make them easier to get on and off – and to help absorb moisture!

  • Hello Roz.

    As usual, a bit out of context with above message; but it does link in.

    You are in an ideal location for Full Lunar (Red Moon) eclipse early morning Wed. 15 June.  Center spot of eclipse just east of Madagascar, early morning in WSW direction.   Mid eclipse at 2013 GMT for approx 100 minutes of eclipse.

    If you, or your mom could contact with Tariq Malik – – perhaps you could collect some fantastic photos or video of same…. weather permitting.   That is, of course, unless if you have made other arrangements with NASA? 
    Balm for your purple blues?   🙂


    • Ron, 2013 GMT would be 0413 WST, right? The full moon would be spectacular for pulling an all-nighter.

      Wouldn’t it be directly above her at that time of the night? Directly opposite the sun, the moon would rise as the sun sets, and it would set as the sun rises.  Wow, Roz!  Take a nap on the 15th and row from sundown to sunrise on the 16th. 

      Wishing I were there. Wishing all Rozlings were there!

  • I’d been thinking, over the past few days, about your feet, Roz, and was going to ask how you keep them dry in your rowing shoes. Well you’ve answered my question! Obviously this is a problem. I wish I could help!
    As to the after life – yes, I believe there is & I’m looking forward to it, but not for a good many years yet please!  

    • @9ded466cb37f14648c547bf3da0e14bf:disqus You just reminded me of a very old joke on the subject… A gentleman goes to his local wise-man and asks, “Please Sir, I must know, Am I going to Heaven?” The wise-man tells him to come back the next day for the answer… When he returns the wise-man says, “I’ve got good news and bad!” The gentleman says, “What’s the good news?” The wise-man says, “You ARE going to Heaven!” The gentleman asks, “And the bad news?” The wise-man answers, “And you are leaving TOMORROW!”

  • My asthmatic Father died and was revived three times at the age of 54, in hospital. When asked what it was like to die, he thought about it for a bit then answered “Dying was quiet and peaceful. Being woken by the crash team was very loud.” He was 98 the fourth time.

    So sorry, Rita, that must have been quite a shock for you. But then to go suddenly at a ripe age is probably preferable to most alternatives.

  • “Maybe we continue to exist, maybe there is nothing, maybe we get (re)absorbed into a collective “soul soup”, maybe we get reincarnated, or maybe we get whatever we believe we are going to get.”
    I see this issue as in the same category as people are better/above/superior to nature, here to be benevolent stewards of the land or supreme conquerors (pick your propaganda). Both views are genetically identical. Both arise from the human ego. Hubris, plain and simple. We are part of a physical process that has created all Earth’s biodiversity. The “spark” of life is befuddling and amazing, but everything alive has it, including ourselves. We are not special in this way. We should enjoy our wonderfully complex brains and our temporary situation on Earth and do the best we can both as individuals, communities and societies. I don’t fret  about “the other side” because it’s been there for 3.8 billion years (that’s when life first arose) and critters alive now, in the past and in the future all run through the exact same process. This process has been around a long time and it “knows” what it’s doing. I trust it intrinsically and know that it is benign.  All living creatures share a common connection to each other and a common destiny. It’s beautiful and profound. 

  • Rita . . . so sorry for your loss!

    Roz . . . our existence is dependent on so many other things, including other’s awareness of us both in life and after (memory).  Without that do we really exist?  What I am saying is that of course we exist and continue to . . . it is just that the solid, corporeal, form we think of as us is actually only a very tiny portion of what we truly are.  From the atoms and molecules that make up our cells to the perceptions by others of us.

    There is so much more than we are often willing to consider.

  • It’s appointed for all to die once. After which you take on a new heavenly body, one that don’t get sick or dying, aging. Whatever your life on earth was, your true character will live on. Do you believe in Enoch in the Bible, he didn’t even die, God so enjoyed his company decided to snatch him from earth without dying.

  • Bruce, your thoughts on this matter were beautifully stated, and profound.  I lost my husband four years ago, and so have pondered this topic until I got tired of thinking about it.   Of course I hope he (and other loved ones I have lost) continue “out there”in same way.   But isn’t that really just wishful thinking on my part and designed to make me “feel better”?    If he (my late husband) is out there in the “soul soup”, I’m sure he’s got much more interesting things to be doing then worrying about what is going on back here on the temporal plane.   I’m okay with not knowing, someday I will, and if there is nothing then it won’t really matter very much will it!?

  • Hi Roz,

    So sorry for your mother’s and your loss. I have just come across your
    book and website in the last few days and am now a big fan. Your
    courage and adventurous spirit is truly inspiring. I have thought many
    times how to change the direction of my life and your story is very
    encouraging. It’s hard to imagine being alone in the middle of the
    ocean on a rowboat. Stay strong on this gloomy day. I think I also like the idea of coffee shops in the afterlife. I’m going with that one. Thank you for sharing this adventure and your thoughts in a daily blog and allowing someone like me to experience it vicariously through you, at least until I find my own adventure. I think you are way cool.


    • @facebook-1446414939:disqus As I understand my friend’s afterlife visit with his friend at the coffee shop, It was great… And I agree, That, A coffee shop – visiting with those we love over something yummy, is sort of a nice way of thinking about what is in-store for us!

  • Hi Roz – don’t know whether in a post or on podcast but would love to hear your thoughts about…

    As you know I am an avid reader as well – sometimes I wonder whether reading makes me think too deeply and complicate life or helps me distil life and make it simpler….when you are sea you obviously have a huge amount of time to think, to listen to books etc…do you think that makes you make life more complicated or simpler when you are back on terra ferma?

    Bet you wish I was still revising…:)

  • I am curious why so many ancient cultures believe in the afterlife.

    Personally, I think that prior to the incandescent light and indoor plumbing, that we were forced to observe nature and our connection to her much like Roz does when out at sea. This gave us many hours in contemplation of many things, constellations, spirituality, existence and connection being only a few.

    Fascinating how modern day social media can bring back some lost oral tradition.

    Life to me is a story. The “aging” part of the story is only the first chapter.
    With the vast majority of the story written posthumously by future generations. One need not be famous. And it will probably never get written down on paper. Rather it is like the “Butterly Effect” that spans lifetimes. What one says or does, or for that matter, what one does not say or does not do, all count.

    Did you know that monarch butterflies take up to six generations to complete one migration flight of thousands of miles? Yet a majority of them will nest in the same tree as their ancestors many generations before? I lose my keys nightly.

    My condolences to you Rita. No doubt he missed a fabulous lunch, was probably worried what you would think in his absence, and I am sure asking St Peter about the existence of “Rain checks”.

    Row Roz Row

    • If the “Coffee-Shop” vision my friend had was accurate Rita, You friend did have lunch with you – and never felt happier, more at peace, or more loved.

    • Outside Jay, an interesting comment as always.
      I like my inside plumbing, it’s a good place to meditate! 

  • Roz, I believe “E. All of the above” because for the person who dies, it just does not matter in this plane any more … and for us who live on and regret what we neglected to say or do or care … it’s too late to make amends in this plane.  From our perspective, it’s the end. And to make the most of this plane all we can do is not procrastinate making a heaven on earth, however we want our earthly nirvana to be. Some like coffee, some like tea, some like caffeine and some like decaf.

    I like what you wrote:

    “Maybe we continue to exist, maybe there is nothing, maybe we get (re)absorbed into a collective “soul soup”, maybe we get reincarnated, or maybe we get whatever we believe we are going to get. There is no way of knowing. And ultimately, what difference does it make? Shouldn’t we live good and decent and useful lives, regardless of what waits for us on the other side? So I’m not too concerned about not knowing. But I do like the sound of this fictional temporary afterlife as portrayed in “The Brief History of Death”. It has coffee shops.

    May we all meet our barista in the coffee shop of our choice 🙂

    Don’t row decaffeinated, row with a buzz, Roz

  • This won’t help with wet sleeping bags and dampness, but you might be able to improve circulation and have warmer feet by lying on your back and pretending to cycle, doing Pilates type motions. If there’s not enough room to do that you can flex your feet and then rotate ankles both clockwise and anticlockwise before you go to sleep.  You can play games like seeing how far you can spread your toes apart and how many wrinkles you can get out of your sleeping bag with your feet.

  • Roz and Rozlings, I have been trying to think of a way of putting Roz’ 2.2 Million Google “Results” into perspective… Maybe this will do it? One major English firm, Bonham’s, the third largest auction house in the world, that has been around since 1790’s – so a bit longer than Roz has been around, and rowing, with thousands of customers around the world, a staff of 700 full time employees, that is generating hundreds of millions of GBP/Euros/Dollars a year, has 500 THOUSAND “Results” on Google, again Roz has 2.2 MILLION “Results” on Google… Folks, This is HUGE!

  • Roz,

    Take the spare hot water from the thermos and place in metal water bottle. Put the warm waterbottle in fleece or socks and place in bottom of sleeping bag. There are dangers to mitigate; some obvious and some solo rower based.

    Hydration, stretching and excercises (such as long walks) are also good for warming feet. And not sure if or how to share this one, but spicey peppers rubbed on feet prior to inserting in booties will promote circulation. Make sure to wash off prior to sleeping bag or going to rest room… 🙂

    Anything with hot peppers can add color to an otherwise grey day, just make sure that your sense of humor is not wilted.

    Row Roz Row!

  • Last winter, I remember the day my grandmother passed away. I decided to see her one more time to say “good bye”. As soon as I came into her room where she laid in bed, already “gone”, there was this deep conviction that it’s not grandma lying there. The more I watched her the more I realized that there was just a “shell”, her mortal remains. Life itself was gone. But at the same moment there was a certainty that it’s not about the “life-is-hard-and-in-the-end-you-die-thing”…

    Even it’s unknown, this afterlife issue is rather something you need to trust in, not only “believe” in life after death. Faith can be anything, but trust is one step further. You not only ‘believe’ to accomplish your row, you have the confidence to do so. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be that crazy woman doing such crazy things!

    Keep it up!

  • Death! First of all and most important of all is the ONLY thing that counts for each and every one of us specs of earthly stuff! Our thought process! Our thoughts are our life and yet it is invisible to every one inc our selves. So without a thought there is no life as we see it in the human form. So when a person ‘dies’ dose that invisible thought process die as well? Or dose it still linger in another form? I do not believe in religions because they are nothing but trouble and the cause of countless stupid, nonsence wars! God, gods, it, them, he, she to me is just something that just kicked this whole infinity, space, life thing off. Me thinks it’s NOT a guy with a big long beard with little fat kids playing anoying harps in his ear!
    “For MY sake STOP that racket!!!!” Good ME! What ever next? Oh! I know ‘coz I know EVERYTHING!!!! Geeessss! How boring!!!!!! Oh! I know! I’ll make another planet; but I already knew I would!!!!!
    So that’s heaven! We would ALL know the next move for EVER!!!!!!!
    What the HELL! I must get on and do some living where I know nowt about the morrow!!!!!!!!
    Roz ….as for those little creatures …. Just make sure that they do NOT kick the bucket!

  • ps Another way of warming yor feet is to “put your foot in your mouth”!
     Aparently I do it all the time and my feet are toasty!

  •  I was surprised at Roz’s mention of Terry Pratchett in the past tense, as his face was on the cover of the Radio Times (the UK listings of TV programs) for this week, with the words: “5 minutes of TV that will change our lives . . . .”  It is due to be shown on BBC this evening, Monday.

    • I interesting that Pratchett’s name should appear in a blog about the afterlife, though. Have you seen the subject of tonight’s program? For those unable to see it, Pratchett is an enthusiastic campaigner for euthanasia. The Telegraph has accused the BBC of glorifying suicide. His Richard Dimbleby lecture earlier this year made an impassioned plea for Pratchett, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, to be able seek assistance to end his own life when he chooses but I remain unconvinced that abuses will not occur.

    • Are two links re: Mr Pratchett. More can be googled about his famous penmanship and recent medical history. 

      Any loss of dear friends, or even friends of friends is heart-altering.  Although some cultures celebrate death as a life fulfilling entrance into unknown spiritual territory(as I would have my death remembered), I believe, in this instance, I should offer my condolence and sorrow to you, Rita in these hallowed times. After being present at many deaths I can only offer this one thing to us, the ones left behind: One should never be remembered for the last few moments of one’s life.

      It appears that several people mentioned in this forum are deserving to be remembered for their entire life’s work. Salutations to all. Row Roz Row

  • Dear Roz,Heere’a some food for thought on the subject of death from the pen of the deceased spiritual master Adi Da Samraj (quoted from his book, “Easy Death”). PLease let me know if you’d like,
    RoyIt is commonly said that human beings do not know about death, since nobody has come back to tell them about it. Of course, this is false. Many people have apparently died and been revived, and their reports are very revealing.Likewise, many reliable individuals devoted to one or another form of Spiritual practice have enjoyed, and subsequently communicated about, the subtle and (beyond the subtle) the Transcendental aspects of human existence, all of which relate to the process of death and one’s destiny beyond it.What people truly mean when they say they do not know about death is that they do not know exactly what will follow it in their own case. Yet, the generalized presumption of no knowledge about death only provides an emotional excuse for avoiding the inevitable confrontation with the reality of death and the necessity that one study it and prepare for cooperation with its process.The process of death — like all the common events of human experience — is clearly available for you to observe in others and to study, as a common (as well as a personal) psycho physical event.You can and must prepare for that event, even as you normally prepare for other great events — such as childbirth, or an operation, or a test of knowledge and skills relating to a profession.Just so, like every human individual, you have many experiences during your lifetime that clearly duplicate at least some of the psycho physical aspects of the death process. These include the regular act of going to sleep, the experiences endured during periods of illness, and (if you are involved in Spiritual practice) the progressive revelation enjoyed via a lifetime of meditation.Also, many people are given remarkable experiences that reveal and demonstrate to them the actualities of the death process. I Myself have had many such experiences — including complete duplication of the death process.Therefore, you should not presume that you do not and cannot know about the death process. You can and must know about that process, and you must prepare for it through psycho-physical self study.Even if you do not come to know in advance exactly what will follow your own death, you can know about the death process itself, since it involves the familiar processes of your present body mind.Furthermore, you can (while still alive in this world) enter into the profound practice of esoteric Spirituality, by means of which it is possible to Realize the Real Condition of Existence (Which Is your Ultimate Destiny), as well as the actual structures of your experiential existence….Adi Da Samraj from his book Easy Death 

  • I find this discussion of assisted suicide …difficult, BUT not for the reasons that you may be thinking… Doctors have been assisting other doctors with their deaths for many, many years… Doctors have also been helping the terminally ill slip more easily into death for years too… In both cases, quite often by the use of a “Morphine (IV) Drip” or by other means of “putting their patients to sleep” by delivering a lethal dose of Morphine… The patient goes to sleep – and that’s it… Sounds pretty good to me… BUT, this is still done very privately – many people do not know that their doctors will help them with this if this is their decision at the end of their life. And, I do not understand why this option is kept on the QT… It should be a personal/family choice when that time comes, and done with a doctor’s assistance, and Morphine or the like, it is very quick, peaceful, and by all indications painless – much more so than “home-versions” of this option… That is why it bothers me that this is not discussed more openly…

    • Things might be different over there, Richard. However, in this country a doctor can be prosecuted for murder for over-prescribing opiates in that way.

      • @06e610f44ce00db87046087c066e0766:disqus I work with Richard from time to time (I write these from our office when we have a break in the rat race) – and he introduced me to this Blog… In spite of not being sure where you are “Over There” (The U.S. as we are, Or elsewhere) I understand what you are saying… I guess that is why they keep it on the QT… But, I personally have 3 different first-hand experiences with doctors helping doctors and family members of mine, slip painlessly into death at the very end… Everyone – the patient and their family, and the doctors involved – must be in agreement, and they must know, understand and agree that the patient will not be coming back from this last caring treatment, but it is done …frequently in those circumstances, and has been for years, at least “Over Here” in America… (BTW, Not sure why Richard is not participating here anymore? The movie on his life is beginning to roll – no pun intended, He is in the midst of bidding at lots of auctions for his clients, and Our “Bucket List” Non-profit Green/Renewable Energy Environmental Project is moving forward very quickly now… But he loved being here when We had a break in all the rest… Now he just says, “I don’t have time now.” whenever I ask him about it… Oh well, He does have a lot on his plate that he wants to get done.)

  • @Aimee:twitter, here’s a joke for you — if it weren’t so pathetic, it might make you laugh: Can you tell the difference between Some times it isn’t clear whose lips are moving, but when they behave the same and say the same words over and over, they begin to take on one persona … Kukla! … or is it Ollie?

  • Someone recommended a class during my freshman year of college, an experimental class that was sobering if not depressing.  The class concluded that based on everything Man knows, there is probably nothing after life ends.

    Of course there is so much Man doesn’t know; in fact I’d say what man doesn’t know vastly exceeds what Man will ever know, and knowing this we have to reach beyond logic and what we can measure and test.  Hopes and dreams will always be an important part of being human, and the rational and art will wrestle in our minds as long as we are true to ourselves.

    What doesn’t seem to be much in dispute is that the time we each have on this Earth is short and precious and we ought to use it well.  We know this, but mostly fail this as far as I can see, the mirror being such a illuminating pov.Row well!

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