An acquaintance of mine recently brought her 12-year old daughter to see me and talk about the passing of the little girl's grandfather. The mother was unsure of what to say about death and the afterlife and wanted me to give her my perspective, which I thought odd due to my atheism. Nevertheless, I told her how I view death and my thoughts on what comes next. Hopefully, it gave her some comfort. Pre-teens are hard to read sometimes and don't always respond to people they don't know well.
This is a paraphrased version of what I told her:
Is there a life after death? In a sense, yes. Your grandfather has passed on a physical legacy, to your mother and to you and your brothers. The color of your eyes, the texture of your hair, how tall you'll be and, quite possibly, how smart you are. You are not even aware of many traits of his that are now yours.
He also lives on in the stories your family will tell of him and the pictures and memories you have. There will be times that a certain sound, song, smell or event will trigger a memory that will bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye, but that is where your grandpa still lives. With you.
You've seen movies or heard stories that talk about the circle of life? We are all a part of that circle. Our bodies return to the earth and support new life and become part of the beauty of our natural world. Trees, flowers, bees, birds, everything. The energy that moved your grandpa's physical being, the stuff that made his body move and his mind work, can never be destroyed. It can only go somewhere else and, I believe, that energy just disperses out into the universe to become part of everything out there. He has returned to the beginning. He is in the wind and the rain, in the sunshine and in the snow. He may not be here for you to see but, in a way, he is still with you.