I proposed to prove that death is an illusion perpetrated upon the living. Of course professor Strauss said it was an unacceptable topic for an astrophysics thesis. My brief discourse on the ability of small minds to forestall great scientific progress did nothing to further engender her favor. I may have seriously harmed my reputation and hampered the likelihood of my graduating in a timely manner. But where would we be today if Copernicus or Newton or Darwin hadn't ruffled the establishment's feathers?
I suppose I should have explained the theory better, particularly on how it relates to astrophysics. The key to the theory, and life when I think of it, is the peculiar nature of black holes. More specifically, exactly what happens at the "Event Horizon." The Event Horizon is an invisible boundary around a black hole, imagine it as the surface of an invisible ball with the black hole sitting in the center of the ball. As an object approaches the black hole time becomes skewed. The closer the object gets the slower time becomes. At the exact point when time stops is when the object has intersected the Event Horizon. To the outside viewer the object appears to have ceased its descent into the depths of the black hole, but really it's just a trick of the light. The gravitation pull has become so strong at this point that the light reflected by the object is frozen in time and space.
Now for the leap. There are certain forces in the universe; some are weak and some are strong; some, like death, are irresistible. The leap, and not a far one to anyone who has lost a loved one—perhaps a leap on the scale of the Grand Canyon, but how small is that earthly scar when we're dealing with stars and galaxies—is that the power of death is at least as great as the black hole's. (I'm still looking for some one from the Math Department to help me with the calculus required to prove this, but I'm pressing forward knowing in my heart of hearts it is true.)
Now let me explain what must certainly happen as one approaches death. As life draws near that overwhelming and all encompassing point that we call death, time too must slow down. And just as time stops at some point prior to reaching the final dense void that is a black hole, time too must stop at some moment prior to death. Time expands if you will. Each microsecond becomes longer and longer until one of them is infinite, never ending. But even that final infinite microsecond is never reached because every fragment of time before it is stretched to near infinite as well. And thus the man or woman traveling in their flesh-bound vessel of life toward that dark spot in the distance never reaches it. Every half measure closer they draw to it takes longer and longer until they seem to stand still.
From the outside, from the point of view of the living, the traveler has stopped still, has died, moved on from this mortal life. The living do not know that what was a mere second for them—the span of that last heart beat—has been stretched out into the infinite for he whose life is on the greatest of all brinks. We lament the lose but fail to realize that death is just an illusion.
Although I consider this theory with just the details already given a profound leap in the understanding of man, far surpassing any singular discovery made prior, I feel a few more details are easily made plain if we ponder what it means a little further. The big question that I think is reasonably answered using the framework already provided is: what is experienced by the person in these eternities of solitude? To answer this question it is instructive to look back to our example of the black hole.
As an object approaches a black hole not only does time seem to stand still but the object is also stretched thin. A celestial tower approaching the Event Horizon is pulled from one end until it becomes an immeasurably long spaghetti noodle. With this in mind let us think a little upon the man who approaches death. It could be reasonably argued that a man alone is nothing more than a tower of memories. As such, it is safe to suppose that these memories will be stretched infinitely long and thin like the atoms of our imaginary space-tower. Each moment of life remembered becomes a pin-point of brilliant light composed of memory and feeling. Imagine your favorite memory, boil it down to its most raw emotion, multiply that by infinity and you'll start to comprehend what is possible in the slow drifting state toward our ultimate unreachable end. Of course the corollary is true too, pain and sadness are magnified forever as well. We have infinite experiences piled on top of each other. I believe we can organize these memories as we see fit. Think of them as pages in a book; you can dwell on a single page but that doesn't mean the other pages aren't there, real, solid and waiting for you to visit them. Here we create a book more holy and profound than even the Bible.
Two things should be learned from this. One: fill your life with good memories as they shall be your constant companions when all else has abandoned you, likewise, be good to those around you so that they too are blessed by their own happiness. Two: if you've lived a full life, fear not that dark stalker in the night, the hooded life stealer, life's infinite divide, for the scythe of fate will always drop but it will take a million lifetimes to travel that final millimeter between your neck and the ever expanding universe around you.