After Death Experience
I stood at the kitchen sink’s drain board beside my father. He was washing the evening’s dishes. He was talking; I was silent. What he was saying was important. And it was to be brief. I watched his arms as the suds rested on them. His hair was dark, his skin was darker than most men’s. I was aware of his scent. Not some artificial scent like Old Spice, but his own scent. A mixture, I think, of sweat, oil, and an unknown something that I can only identify as love. Closeness. I felt the infusion of his words upon me, not so much that I needed to hear them, as his need to say them. “Take care of your mother,” he said. “She’s going to take this real hard.” I nodded. I understood. I somehow knew the words would never come again. He was dead.
To this day, I know that the experience was real. I knew he was real. But, at the same time, I had no way to control his coming and leaving. Always brief. If I touched him he would disappear instantly. Somehow, my sleeping brain learned not to touch him, because he would be gone the instant I made contact. This knowledge carried some grief, because I longed to hold him, to touch him, to press my body against him for his strength, love, and protection. This was a real tough time for me. It still is, yet lesser so, now, after‑all these‑years.‑
For so long, I had such a need to know. My Methodist upbringing taught me the rote, ordinary story, but it didn’t suffice. Anyone could make up anything. How could I be sure that someone wasn’t perpetrating some hoax that had been accepted for so long that people just came not to question it? It wasn’t enough for me. I hated my skepticism. I wished I could be like others who aren’t haunted by the need to know. To know for sure, you understand. Thus began a long period of time hearing the platitudes of others, and listening to people’s beliefs, all along reminding myself that they were not true accounts, but only the parroting of what they had been told, or had read. I longed for information that seemed impossible for anyone to deliver. Faith is a good thing. I didn’t have anything against faith. I just wanted to know for sure. The loss of my father left a gaping wounded hole inside of me. Vacancy occupied the area where there once was a father’s presence.
I was working‑the ER one day, maybe ten years after his death, when an ordinary day was passing by, just like any other day. I went in to work, and took report from the day-shift nurse. Things become automated, I suppose, in any job, so that one day can fade into the next and you tend not to take note of it. Such was this day. It happened twenty-five years ago. Every single action of every moment of that experience is burned into my brain. I don’t know where answers come from. I’m not sure I even asked. It just sat there unattended all those years. What happens after death? Where was my father?
The day nurse finished giving me report. In bed three, she said, was a 24 year old male who had been resuscitated at the scene. Sudden death. She succinctly let me know the lab tests that were pending and the routine that accompanies such things. What she failed to tell me, and what surprised me when I walked in the room, was that he was not on a respirator.‑He was awake, sitting up in bed and taking in his surroundings.‑ He was also retarded. For an instant I chastised the day nurse for not giving me a complete report. But it was a passing thought. I glanced at the chart I held in my right arm. I noted the heading and, using his name, said, “Mr. Parker. What happened to you today?” I noticed that my voice automatically took a child-like tone as one does when speaking to a retarded person. At least, it was that way for me. He had a round face, without facial hair.
‑His hair was home-cut and poorly at that. Eyes that sat too close together peered at me with an oblivion of what had happened to him. His hands fidgeted in his lap and I noted his shortened fingers. His body was oddly shaped but I cannot tell you exactly what was odd. It just didn’t all fit together like a co-coordinated piece. Everything about him was an anomaly.‑In addition, people don’t just die, get zapped back, and sit up to carry on a conversation. That happens in movies, not in real life. I scanned the EMS report to get a grasp on what exactly went on at the scene. He was apparently found dead, and EMS was summoned. They had less than a minute response time. They must have been right on top of the run. He was immediately defibrillated and converted to a normal sinus rhythm. He also woke up. He was never intubated.‑I noted that his first name was Herman, and addressed him so. “Herman, did you have a bad experience today?” I asked. With a broad grin he immediately and enthusiastically said, “Nope!‑ I had a good time.” This took me a bit by surprise.‑”What made it a good time?” I said, smiling at him, warmed by his good humor and innocence.‑”Well,” he said, “I went on a trip.” I said, “Oh, really? Was it fun to ride in an ambulance?”‑ His face looked puzzled. “No, Ma’m. I ain’t talkin’ ’bout that trip. I mean the trip I took to see Uncle Orville.”‑ “Oh, I see,” I said, thinking he was recounting a trip he had taken earlier to see a relative. “He tole me I was gonna be jes fine too.”‑ As I stood by his bed listening to his account, his sister came in. She may not have been retarded but was quickly identified as of the same bloodline. She did not understand then, nor would she know now, what she revealed to me in the conversation we had.
“Oh, Herman, shut up!” she snapped at him. She turned her attention to me. “He’s been a’takin’ about seein’ Uncle Orville since the ambulance people shocked him. He ain’t never seen Uncle Orville, ‘cuz Uncle Orville died beforst we was even born. He got kilt by the hogs.” I looked at her stunned. “How long ago did this happen?” I asked. She said, “Well, I don’t rightly know,‑see’n how it was ‘fore my mamma ever married my daddy. He was a youngin’ when it happened. Nobody talks much about it. It’s bad luck to talk about them dead people when they die thataway. Herman ain’t never even been told about him. Don’t believe nothin’ he says ’cause he’s jest a half-wit.” She then scowled at Herman and told him to act like he had some sense. She was obviously embarrassed by his utterings. I thought my brain would explode with this new incredible information, but there was nothing more to be gleaned from Herman, much to my disappointment. I left the room and walked over to a chair and sat down. The implications of what I had just heard defied imagination. Herman was not intelligent enough to come up with such a story, yet he had experienced something so profound that I just sat and stared into space. How would you make up something like that? Why would anyone make up something like that?‑ I felt at that moment and do still, today, that Herman passed into an afterlife experience. His sureness of his encounter with Uncle Orville took me to the core of my doubts.‑ By the time I got off shift and was home in bed, I lay with my eyes closed, and whispered, “I believe.” And I do. I believe that we pass into an afterlife after death, and that we can connect with those on Earth, and that they can connect with us. Being unable to control it is frustrating to me, but to know for sure that the “experts” are wrong is very sustaining to me. It is not a lack of oxygen to the brain, as I have heard it explained, nor any of the other “explanations” given by those who want us to think they are so esoteric in their knowledge. A simple retarded man who sought no recognition for his claim uttered the answer. It’s just what happened. It’s enough for me.
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