This is a fairly long post that adds additional specifics to my encounter, with the other side, detailed in my essay titled ‘And Then It Happened’ (Essay # 1). Additionally, I need to tell you that the kicker or wow factor comes about 2/3d’s of the way into the essay (the last seven paragraphs contain an account of my first encounter with my deceased son) – perhaps you can hang in there long enough to reach it? My son Eric’s photo anchors this post. And the picture of him shooting the bird to the camera person is also included.
Before my near-death encounter (NDE) I considered myself an Epicurean. My goal in life was simple – I tried to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. There were two caveats that accompanied my Epicureanism, however – (1) my pleasure could not come at the expense of another person’s happiness, and (2) – my pursuit of pleasure, needed to be accompanied with a sense of moderation.
Pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain was all I needed to chaperon my path through this life. I studied western philosophy as an undergraduate and embraced existentialism as my guide to what’s real.
It took me decades to map out my worldview. As a lifelong student of physics, I combined scientific rationalism with western idealism and devised a theory of everything (to my own satisfaction, anyway) which provided me with a solid basis for my metaphysics (that which gave my life its meaning).
I mentioned in my first post that I am a Vietnam vet. The war in Nam scrambled my brain. I saw terrible things. I did terrible things, too. Things that still haunt me and always will. I became suicidal during my tour of duty, about seven months in. I stopped caring if I lived or died and this followed me home. I flirted with the idea of suicide for nearly four years, afterward.
But then a small unaccounted-for manifestation happened. My suicidal thoughts lifted. One day during my junior year of college while walking home from class my mind became filled with hope – hope that one day I would get better. I reasoned that every time I became severely depressed, the depression eventually would let up a bit after some time passed. And remembering this notion gave me hope that one day my depression may lift completely.
The thoughts I experienced that day are not what’s important here. What’s important is that I had hope that I would one day get better and stay that way. My journey out of darkness began that afternoon.
But I still had a way to go. I don’t recall being depressed in high school. My chronic depression was a lasting gift I brought home from the war. But every journey has its first few steps, and these were mine.
I started reading self-help books. I was no longer severely depressed, but I wasn’t all that happy either. I had to work at it. I had to recover my childhood happiness, I thought to myself.
I studied philosophy in college in the hope that knowing the answers to some of life’s biggest questions would set me free. But this plan backfired, gloriously. Every western philosopher disagrees with all of the other philosophers. They make a living debunking their predecessor’s teachings as well as their peers’. The bottom line is – I graduated with no answers and ten million more questions.
Let me digress for a moment. I became a foxhole Christian one night while pulling perimeter duty in Nam. I was literally sitting in a foxhole when I invited Christ into my life. I heard this message in church one time but never acted on it. I learned that if I confessed my sinfulness and asked Jesus to forgive me that I could be reborn, spiritually, so that’s what I did at three in the morning while sitting alone in a fox hole surrounded by sandbags and snakes.
Becoming a Christian during the war was my life insurance. I was afraid to die, and I thought becoming a believer may spare me from hell if there was one?
But I always struggled with my faith. Some part of me at a deep level didn’t buy into Christianity for a host of different reasons but I tried to make it work, nevertheless. I tried to make it work for fifteen years before my faith slipped away. But I’m the sort of person that needs to fit my day-to-day experiences into a larger context. I need a governing overall worldview to give my daily activities meaning.
After losing my Christian faith, I started working on a new comprehensive view of reality combining certain aspects of western and eastern philosophies (for lack of a better word, I became a Buddhist at heart) and science, specifically physics. I had effectively worked out my own version of faith with fear and trembling by combining the teachings of many philosophical giants and physicists (starting with Newton and ending with Bohr).
I felt good about my years of study. And I was completely satisfied with my life and fairly happy. And that all went straight to hell after my NDE.
I mentioned in my first essay about my NDE, that my random thoughts changed as a result of my brush with death. They became very affirmative and much less critical but at first, all I could concentrate on after my hospital release was that I needed to construct a new view of reality. The one I discarded had been decades in the making and now I was left with nothing to replace it with, nada. And I was pissed about it. The anecdotal story which follows forced me to rethink everything that I once thought was real.
I was married at the time of my NDE, and my then-wife (Carol) would occasionally visit a psychic, mostly for the entertainment value of such. After visiting a new mystic, she came home with a surprising experience. During Carol’s reading, the psychic (Janet) told Carol that a spirit was trying to get through and she asked Carol if it was OK if she took the time to draw an image of the spirit trying to communicate with her, and Carol said yes.
When Carol arrived home that day, she sat me down and said, “Hey, I want to show you something.” “OK”, I said. And she proceeded to pull a portrait-sized picture out of her briefcase and handed it to me. It was a picture of my deceased son, Eric. In the drawing, Eric is depicted at the age of eighteen or so.
I asked Carol where she got the drawing of Eric and she said, “the psychic drew it.” And I asked, “what do you mean the psychic drew it?” She then told me the story about how Eric appeared to Janet and told her that he had a message for Carol.
While I was still basically speechless Carol went on to say – “even though this picture of Eric is simply amazing, the message he had for you is somewhat nonsensical. I asked, “what’s the message?” Carol told me that Eric saw me put his picture on the top shelf of my closet. Both Carol and I had walk-in closets.
The top shelf of my closet was a junk collection shelf because I couldn’t reach it without a step stool. In addition to having my own walk-in closet, I also had my own bathroom, and in my bathroom, I had a picture of my three boys posing for a photo-op. Their babysitter at the time dressed them all up in my work suits and took their picture. Brian was eight and the twins were six when the picture was taken. One day while shaving I picked the photo up (it was sitting on my sink) and looked at it closely with affection. But that was the first time I noticed that Eric, while holding a coffee mug and wearing a pair of my old glasses, flipped off the babysitter/photographer. He shot her the bird in the photo, and I had not noticed it prior to that day. Eric is the kid on the right of the photo.
Eric was a nightmare to raise – he put the capital D in difficult child. Flipping off the photographer as such really annoyed me so I took the picture out of the frame and went to throw it away but changed my mind and threw it on top of my closet junk shelf instead and proceeded to forget all about it. I never told Carol what I did, and she did not frequent my bathroom or my closet. In other words, she didn’t know what happened to the picture of my boys because she never used my bathroom. Hell, she didn’t even notice it was missing. In other words, Eric gave Carol a piece of information that only he and I knew about.
I said to Carol, “come with me for a moment, I want to show you something.” We walked back to my closet together where I got on a step stool and retrieved the photo of Eric and showed it to her. We both got goosebumps as the hair on our arms stood straight up.
To be continued…perhaps?