After we take our last at-bats, is that really the end of the game?

A close friend of mine died recently. He had been sick for a while so it did not come as a complete surprise. As we aged, we would often talk of the inevitability of death and the importance of being prepared for it.

We joked we were in life’s on-deck circle, waiting with others to be called to bat. From this at-bat nobody returns. You can only hope your turn in the batter’s box will be delayed.

It is dark. Only the plate is illuminated. He steps into the batter’s box. A few practice swings and he’s ready. From out of the darkness comes the first pitch. He swings and launches the sphere into the night. Dropping the bat, he heads for first base and disappears into the blackness.

We speculated on what, if anything, lay beyond the last out. I argued that the existence of another reality is no more incredible than the one we now occupy. That we exist at all is implausible, so why is it so inconceivable that existence in some other form and in some other place is fantasy?

Is the mystery of life over at death? Is oblivion the only rational expectation? Or does the mystery continue to unfold in another dimension? Those who say that is pure science fiction must confront the phenomenon of earthly existence.

That this is all the result of some uninspired and unintended gigantic cosmic explosion – a cataclysmic accident generating an infinite series of coincidences – is more difficult for me to grasp than the more plausible concept of intelligent design.

If the universe, and our existence in it, is the product of some complex and mysterious plan, the author of that plan may have a second phase. If that is beyond belief, so, too, is this reality – yet we exist.

I am no more able to understand the who, what, and where of God than the more preposterous notion that we are all the product of a cosmic accident. Where did the stuff – matter, energy, physics, and chemistry – that caused the explosion come from? For me, the source is God.

To deny God is a leap into darkness. To believe is a leap toward a light flickering in the distance; dim, unreachable, but there nonetheless. Faith is nothing but the affirmation of hope. It is not a “born again” experience but a continuing struggle to find a reason for our being.

Some say that faith is a denial of reason, a weakness or opiate through which believers try to escape reality. They are partly right; faith and hope are acknowledgments of something self-evident: that we are weak and dependent creatures longing for strength, purpose, and meaning that can only be found in God.

As my friend rounded first in his last at-bat, I hope he saw a light in the outfield toward which he ran. As he got closer, the light enveloped him in a comforting cloud of peace and love. In the distance he could see his parents and friends long since passed.

I hope that he was filled with joy and fulfillment and the last thing he wanted to do was to return to life’s dugout. I hope he is in a better place and that one day we will meet again and share a drink and a laugh in a heavenly tavern somewhere down the road.

If it is weakness to lean on that hope, than weak I am, and glad of it. If I’m right, hallelujah! If I’m wrong, I’ll never know.