Saturday, 31 October 2009

5. The Disaster

It was a pitiful sight, some of the children were calling for their mothers and fathers, while parents searched desperately for the children, both among the living and among those who were passing over, unable to distinguish between them, and unaware of what had happened to them. One man dived repeatedly under the water to try to find his infant son. He was so caught-up in this task that he didn’t seem to wonder or even notice that he could breathe underwater, or that he could pass through the side of the sinking ship with ease. People clung to one another, most in a state of shock, as they rose up out of their bodies. A few more advanced souls among them quickly realised the situation and started to help us.
When something like this happens there are many from our side who are on hand to help. Some have their own special task or skill, and are happy to teach relative newcomers like myself. I learnt how to build rescue stations for the many souls who come over in a state of complete disorientation. Others were engaged in the delicate task of gathering up the etheric bodies and gently disentangling them from the physical. There are gentle souls who have a special gift for talking to those who are crossing over, finding the right words and phrases to put each one at ease. If, as in this case, everything is in a state of confusion, with the living, dead and dying all mixed up together, it can be quite hard to persuade some souls to trust us and to leave the scene. We explained that we were part of the rescue party and that they should come with us to a place of safety. We promised them that we would look for their friends and relatives, and to reunite all those who had crossed over at the same time. We then took them into the higher ether, away from the immediate scene of the disaster. As many of those who drowned were used to a hot climate and desert conditions, we created an oasis with comfortable tents, not too luxurious as it was important that they had time to adjust gradually to their new situation, and we wanted them to believe that this was indeed a relief camp rather than a strange exotic dream from which they would presently awake. There were camp beds where they could rest, and soothing music. We gave them water and sweet tea, which not only calmed them but which also began to restore their energies. The next task is to persuade them to sleep.
There was one woman who insisted on going back to look for her mother. As she would not be dissuaded I accompanied her. We found her mother, quite uninjured, but very cold and wet, clinging to a small life raft. We could see the rescue vessels, and as dawn was already breaking she had every chance of being found alive. It was tricky to persuade the daughter to come away with me again. She clung to her mother and cried, and kept repeating that she was safe, and that they were going to be all right. Although the young woman sensed that something was amiss, as her mother was not responding, she hadn’t yet understood that she had crossed over and that her mother could neither see or hear her. Then she saw her body floating face down in the water near the life raft, and became even more agitated and confused. I do believe, however, that the older woman sensed her daughter’s presence. She seemed to relax a little, almost to smile. A little colour returned to her pallid face, a flicker of hope, and then a blush of pink in her cheeks reflected the first rays of sunlight, reaching out across the water towards the raft. You could see that she now dared to believe that she would survive, and that the rescuers would find her. I don’t think she saw the lifeless body in the water, so in that moment, with her daughter beside her, knew in her heart that her daughter was indeed alive.
I had to be quite firm, telling my charge that it was time to go, that she could visit her mother again, but that as she had had such a shock she must first rest. I think she began to understand that she had survived the death of her body, but didn’t at all know what to expect, and so was quite lost and afraid. When we returned to the camp a nurse gave her some golden-coloured nectar to drink which sent her quickly into a deep and peaceful sleep. Her guide was nearby, on-hand for when she woke up, so I felt happy to leave her then, and to get back to the task of reuniting loved ones with one another, and with comforting those who had come over alone.

Friday, 30 October 2009

4. The Try

As the final whistle blew we erupted in celebration, like so-many roman candles on Bonfire Night. ‘Did you see that try?’ my mind shouted to the crowd of onlookers. An awkward pass well inside our opponents half, deftly caught. Then I ran like the wind, dodging, ducking, until with a wham my feet were pulled from under me, only yards from the touch line. The ball flew from my hands and curved into the air, but like an eel I slipped free, half turned, caught the ball as it fell, and with a final surge and dive planted it firmly behind the posts. We had done it, we had won! Now everyone was leaping around, cheering. Our bodies needed no rest and our energies were not depleted, but for old-time’s sake we conjured a massive tea with cakes so light and full of flavour that one slice fully satisfied and sated the appetite. Some favoured orange squash, others tea or beer; each one summoned refreshment according to his heartfelt desire.
Getting the team together hadn’t been easy. I had rounded up every Lions cap I could find, old team-mates and our many predecessors. Some took a degree of persuasion, having exhausted their more earthly desires and left for finer realms. Others were fully occupied with other tasks, travelling, teaching, healing of various types, but most of them finally agreed to play, and others to cheer us on. Old age and infirmity were replaced by our most youthful bodies, each in his prime and dressed in something resembling the kit he wore at the height of his powers. We decided to distinguish the two teams not but their strip but by the luminous hue that surrounded their bodies – green for one and blue for the other. The memories of earthly matches, so slow and clumsy by comparison to our glorious game, had begun to fade but there was one occasion that I still needed to exorcise from my consciousness - to clean and polish and renew, before hanging up my boots for good. I was twelve years old, my first match. I was so proud that my dad had come to watch me. He had been a famous player in his time and I wanted to impress with my whole soul and with every fibre of my being. I dreamt of being ‘man of the match’; in sleep I had covered myself and my team with glory, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. But in that game we call life I was left dejected and defeated. No one passed the ball to me. As I ran up and down the field, longing for some of the action, my fellow players seemed to look straight through me. While my legs grew tired, my spirit dropped like a stone thrown into a deep well. It was as if the game were a bus that never stopped to pick me up. I shouted, ‘Over here! I ran and tackled, but the ball had moved on. My youthful inexperience and my shrinking confidence brought me to a standstill. The new boy no one wanted to know, whom no one trusted. My body may have continued to move but my spirit died, all joy and bravado extinguished. On the journey home I cried quietly, but no one even seemed to notice; it was as if I wasn’t even there.
The game in which each one plays their part, each is acknowledged, and no one fails, had worked its magic and restored that piece of my soul-energy to me. The cords that held the old memory in place slipped away as I shone and spun, a kaleidoscope of colours and sound, joyful, light, so full of love and bursting with energy. No longer individuals, we play as a single mind, body and soul. We are a team. We are One.

3. Recognition

I laughed with surprise. Of course! How could I have forgotten; but I never guessed. Now it all made sense. The painful life just led, but a life rich with opportunities for growth, opportunities to love. That bright, mischievous smile, the many generous gestures – little tokens of affection - the freshly plucked bud, the colourful card, a kiss, “I love you mummy”. Now the years of despair and exhaustion began to take on a different hue. When you were happy the sun shone out of you, but to maintain that inner light we had to enter your world. You never really found your place in ours. The childhood battles; getting dressed, brushing teeth, going to school - followed by the searing cry of adolescence – alcohol, drugs, the fall guy who ended up in police custody. The bright-eyed little boy dulled and buffeted by a world that was too harsh for your gentle soul. But through all these years who guided who? We learnt to love without expectation, without attachment, through anger, disappointment, frustration, grief. Grief for what might have been, and for what was. In entering your darkness we found an inner light and strength. Your love for life, and purity of soul sustained and fed our battered spirits. We watched the world’s riches fall away as we were brought low by your distress. The dissolution of ambition, increasing poverty, loss of health and happiness. And now – here you are! As the warmth and brightness of the light submerge my being, joy creeps through my weary spirit. My beloved son, my wise old soul, my constant companion, my support in this life and in many others. In your wisdom and generosity you offered yourself as my guide. Through your steadfast inner beauty you protected us from the heavy materialism of life on earth. Your gentle energies helped us to dig deep within, to discover the light beyond the darkness. How much we learnt. Each small act of love, each momentary sacrifice, now shone radiant before me. Each dark moment in which through an effort to will, like one gasping for water in a desert, I cried, ‘For You’ to some higher power, was now illumined by a luminous cascade of dancing lights. My guide, my ‘angel’ companion, how little I understood and how much I learnt under your most gracious care.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

2. Laughter

Laugher filled the air like the tinkling of hand-bells. The sound swirled around us, gathering into its train the more sonorous peals from the great brass bells in the tower, mingling with the deeper reverberations of the organ, and all rising, rising in a vortex of luminous, sparkling bands of colour, straight through the roof, then leaping high into the sky above. The church steeple spun the threads of sound, projecting them heavenwards – attracting both angels and playful spirits of the air who came to dance among the music’s golden strands. Inside the church people were smiling, some chatting. Eyes turned from the polished wooden coffin which sat at the front of the nave to look around. Some may have heard the laughter or caught its vibrations, others merely felt the atmosphere lighten, sorrow and respect turning to wonder and joy. As I looked at each face in turn the many and varied parts of my life resolved themselves into a single narrative. Had I ‘kept the faith’ and ‘run the race’? I had certainly reached the end, only to find that it was instead a new beginning. I laughed again and the air danced and sparkled weaving new colours and harmonies. It had not been an easy life, but even in my darkest moments a dogged steadfastness and sense of humour had somehow pulled me through. I had been ready to go, my spirit gradually loosening the cords that had bound me to my ailing body, until at last I had slipped, like a hand from a glove, into the freedom of the ether. Many old friends came to greet me, and I could have gone with them then, but I wanted to enjoy this last party, to say my goodbyes, held in place by too many ties and unfinished emotions.
The horses had been splendid. I have always loved animals and found the advert in Horse and Hounds. ‘Just like mum! Trust her to make an entrance’ was the children’s response, but the even villagers enjoyed the sight, stopping to point and stare as the four black mares with their waving plumes and tassels as they pulled the elegant, if rather poorly sprung, carriage down the lane to my beloved old church. I had planned it all carefully. I left the advert for the horse-drawn hearse with my bank book, where I knew they would look first. In those last months of semi-conscious immobility I found that I could on occasion dwell consciously in the astral world, and gently plant an idea in the mind of my children or friends, or guide them to an object, until at last the whole thing was almost done. When the silver cord that bound me to my body finally gave way for good, I found their minds even more susceptible. They would dream of a hymn and on awakening, feel sure that this was the one I wanted. Turning the pages of the hymnal they would find themselves in agreement; ‘This was one of her favourites’ ‘I’m sure she would have chosen that one’. I helped my daughter and niece piece together the pages of my life, with jokes and reminiscences. I didn’t want undue solemnity and kindly but hollow sentiments, only real stories and memories of the good times, the fun and ridiculous little incidents that nevertheless become part of our shared history. It was important to me that each one of my family and friends would see the whole of a life, and not just the part each played and the scenes in which they entered or departed. That old photo album and 16mm film were more difficult. I knew where they were of course, but had never told anyone. They weren’t really interested, until now that is. I had to plant nostalgia. The children dreamt of childhood places and family holidays at the beach house. It took me three the best part of three days and nights to convince my son to open the old wooden box on top of the wardrobe. He didn’t know why he should look in there, indeed had never really noticed it was there at all, and it was heavy and awkward to get down. At last I succeeded, and he woke up with a start, staggered out of bed and reached up to grasp the worn handles. The box wasn’t locked, which was just as well as I had long since lost the key. That morning, with his sisters, they sat around the kitchen table and talked, talked freely and without the reserve that had built up over the years, while looking at the pictures of our life together. ‘It is almost as if mum is with us’ said one. ‘Well where do you think I am?’ I replied, ‘In the morgue? That isn’t me – just the body that I used. And yes, do make me a cup of tea, it isn’t silly at all. It draws me close to you all, and that steaming cup is a powerful symbol of our enduring affection, a love that goes far beyond all the petty squabbles and jealousies’ that kept us separated from one another. They seemed to hear, to sigh and feel their hearts warming, clutching the hot mugs with shining eyes that reflected a moment of longing for the time that they too would be drawn home.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

1. The Sceptic

I closed my eyes waiting for the impact, and the thought flashed through my mind, ‘This is it! It’s over’. But the sickening thud never came. I found myself surrounded by a whitish gray mist, in which after a moment I could vaguely discern moving shapes. The lorry must have swerved to avoid me, and for some reason I couldn’t quite work out at present the summer afternoon sun had disappeared, to be replaced by a thick fog. I tried to orient myself, to concentrate, but felt light-headed, or at least light, as if floating. I shook my head to clear it. Imust find the road, avoid a crash. I must have dozed off at the wheel, but at least now I was wide awake. All I needed was to focus, to get back on track. The movements in my peripheral vision started to annoy me. What were they? I couldn’t hear cars or voices but knew that I was no longer alone. Someone said my name, in my head. It was as if the sound came from the inside out rather than outside of me. As I reflected on this unusual sensation one of the shapes drew closer and sort of thickened. I felt as if I knew whoever it was, but couldn’t quite locate them. A slight sense of panic started to rise up – if I couldn’t drive the car in this fog, I that would be it, finished. This was hardly the time or place to socialise, I thought irritably. I wasn’t getting anywhere. ‘Look, what’s going on’? I demanded of the rather transparent figure, who was too close, encroaching on my personal space. ‘Where am I and what on earth is happening’? The answering voice came into my head again, simultaneously from this familiar stranger and from my mind; ‘It’s time to go. We are going home’. I was about to protest. I was confused, panicking, but as the same time vaguely curious and rather sleepy. The temptation to just let go and float away with this strange stranger grew stronger. I held on. To give in and allow oneself to fall asleep in a desert or on an ice-field can be fatal. This person was evidently trying to trick me. Whoever she (somehow it felt like a she) was, she would have to be resisted. To keep myself awake I tried to picture my study at home. I had an article to finish. Lunch-time drinks are all very well, but I now needed a clear head, not just to get home. Deadlines won’t wait. No copy, no money.
As my mind clawed its way back from the dangerous lure of abandonment I suddenly found myself in my study. ‘Thank God for that!’ was my first reaction. ‘How on earth did I get here?’ was my second. I must work it out. Something was very wrong. It all looked normal enough, and at least I was home. I must have suffered a temporary memory loss, maybe the shock of the accident, or near miss, had affected my mind. I floated down to my desk and sat down in, or rather hovered a little over, my chair, and stretched forward to turn on the computer. As I reached towards the power
button it flicked into life. Weird, but rather impressive, I thought. I reached forward again to turn it off, but before I made contact with the power switch the screen just went dead. It hadn’t shut down properly – more wretched temporary files to clog up the memory. But I didn’t want to work now anyway. I was tired, so very, very tired. I must sleep. I need a long, long, deep sleep.
When I awoke I had the sensation of lying in a hospital bed. An extremely peaceful, comfortable one to be sure, and I was aware of people dressed in white uniforms moving around calmly, ministering to patients. Although I felt refreshed my mind refused to reveal the sequence of events that brought me to this place. I remembered with a jolt waking up at
the wheel of my car to see the front of the lorry only yards away – to avoid an impact, to avoid being crushed, was impossible. Yet somehow I had survived. I was in hospital. I felt whole, no broken bones, no aches and pains. My memory had evidently been affected, but no doubt this would also recover in time. ‘Nurse’ I called. I suddenly felt hungry, and wanted
not just food and drink but attention, human company, the reassurance of the familiar. Enough of this nonsense! A thought that had been playing at the back of my mind for some time now began to grow and take hold. I had died after all. There was a crash and I did not survive it. But, I reasoned, I wasn’t dead. Far from it, I had never felt better. I know that there is no God, no Heaven, no such thing as the survival of consciousness after death. My existence itself proves as much. After all I can see my body, the bed and bedclothes, the nurses and other patients. No, all will become clear in time. I must just wait a little longer