Everything you need to understand or teach The Afterlife by Billy Collins.
In the opening stanza of "The Afterlife," the speaker addresses readers as "you," observing that, as they prepare for sleep, others are dying and "setting out on their journey." Journey, in this sense, refers to the experience of the soul after it leaves the body. Collins is drawing on various religious traditions that claim the physical body holds the essence of a person which is released upon death.
The speaker sets up the frame for his depictions of the afterlife in the first sentence with the claim, "They are moving off in all imaginable directions." The remainder of the poem charts those directions. The "silent Lazarus" the speaker refers to is from the New Testament. In the Book of John, Jesus raises Lazarus of Bethany from the dead, but Lazarus does not speak of his experience. The narrator suggests that Lazarus knew that the afterlife was different for everyone... View more of the The Afterlife Summary