By Mandana Dehghanian, IFC Board Member

“I don’t know” was my response to my son, when he asked, “What happens when someone dies?” What happens after death? Where do we go? Are we just worm meal?”

I don’t know. No one knows for sure. And that’s ok.

I was born and raised as a Zoroastrian. Zoroastrianism is an ancient, monotheistic religion which originated in Persia, now known as Iran. When Persia was invaded thousands of years ago, many Zoroastrians were killed or forced to convert, and much of the holy scriptures passed down by our prophet, Zoroaster, were destroyed.

Our survival today is owed to those avid Zoroastrians, who kept our religion underground, secretly preserved traditions, and documented Zoroaster’s words. What my family ended up with today is the following beliefs and guidance:

There is only one Supreme Being.

The three tenets of Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.

The teaching of Zoroaster, which states, “There is only one path in the world, and that’s the path of truth”.

These are the guidelines I grew up with, with a focus on being truthful and following our three tenets.

Recently, I have been going through a self-improvement journey. I have learned about meditation, intuition, positive expectations, and most importantly, mind over matter and the importance of our thoughts in shaping our actions.

Everyone knows we use a very small percentage of our powerful brains. Basically our brains allow us first to think it, then say it, and then finally to do it. Ha! Where have I heard this before? Brilliant!

If a Good Thought is the beginning of all good that is bound to happen in our life, then is someone who gets dementia and loses the ability to think clearly able to act for good? I ask this, because my father has dementia. When I sit with him and talk to him, the few times he answers, the conversation goes like this:

“Baba, what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking I want to die.”
“Because I am old.”
“So what? What’s on the other side of death?”
“My parents, my relatives.”
“What about us (my mom and siblings)? What about us who are on this side of death?”
“May you stay healthy and live long.”

Yup, those are the answers I get. He wants to go; he wants us, his loved ones, to be healthy and live long; and he is ready to go, to be with those who have gone before him.

Is he thinking clearly? Are those good thoughts? Again, I don’t know. It makes me sad, but I’m ok with not knowing.

Similarly, when human life is developing in the womb for 9 months and that life is being nourished through its mother, what is the capacity of the fetus for Good Thoughts? The developing human can hear and experience the loving presence of its mother, without seeing her. Does the mother “exist”? The fetus doesn’t really know that the “beginning of life”, as we understand it, is after its birth, and that life is OUT there!

And for my father, I wonder will there be more life “out there” for him? What if we are simply in THIS womb for 80+ years before living in another realm?

No amount of good thinking will ever answer these questions, but we can still use our minds to lead us to good words and good deeds in this life. I’m grateful to Zoroaster for his guidance.