By the time my brother Billy died he was a homeless alcoholic. The day before his death, a bitterly cold January morning, I layered on two down jackets and several wool hats, and walked across the street to the bay. Looking up at the silvery sky, I raised my arms and imagined pushing Billy into the hands of the great Divine. “Take care of him for me,” I whispered.
Unbelievably, hours later, Billy was dead.
They say there are different stages of grief — shock, guilt, anger, depression. But all those feelings collided and came crashing in on me at once.
Mostly I stayed in bed, crying. The rest of the time I was swallowing Valium until I was a walking zombie.
After three weeks of post-death misery, it was my birthday. Just before sunrise, as I was waking up, I heard someone calling my name from above me.
Annie! Annie! It’s me! It’s me! It’s Billy.
It was Billy’s unmistakable deep, mellow voice. I was startled, but not at all afraid. In fact, I felt comforted.
“Billy?” I said, half asleep. “You can’t be here. You’re dead. I must be dreaming.”
You’re not dreaming. It’s me! Get up and get the red notebook.
Suddenly, I was very much awake. I’d completely forgotten about the red leather notebook Billy had sent me last year for my birthday. I was touched that he had made the effort to send me a gift even though he was becoming overwhelmed by his addictions.
I jumped out of bed and found the red notebook on a shelf in my bedroom closet. The pages were blank, except for an inscription written on the first page.
Everyone needs a book dedicated to them.
Read between the lines.
What a strange thing for Billy to have written! Read between the Lines? I ran my fingers over the familiar handwriting. Then I heard him again.
It’s really me, Annie. And I’m okay, it’s okay because…
I grabbed a pen and wrote what he was saying in the red notebook.
The first thing that happens is bliss, at least it was like that in my case. I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone who dies. As the car hit me, this energy came and sucked me right out of my body into a higher realm. I say “higher” since I had the feeling of rising up and suddenly all my pain was gone.
I don’t remember hovering over my body or looking down on it or anything like that. I guess I was pretty anxious to get out of there. I knew right away I was dead, and went with it, more than ready for whatever was waiting.
I wasn’t aware of traveling at any particular speed. I just felt light and unburdened as the sucking motion drew me up inside a chamber of thick silvery blue lights. People who have near death experiences sometimes say they went through a tunnel. I’m using the word “chamber” because a tunnel has sides, but no matter what direction I looked, there was nothing but light for as far as I could see. Maybe the difference is I had a one-way ticket and theirs was a round-trip.
And even though I didn’t have my body anymore, it felt like I did and that it was being healed. The lights in the chamber penetrated me and made me feel better and better as they pulled me up. It wasn’t just the wounds from my car accident that were being healed. In the first nanosecond that the lights touched me, they erased any harm I suffered during my lifetime: physical, mental, emotional or otherwise.
Soon, Daddy appeared right there beside me, young and smiling and handsome as ever. He was making jokes and asking, “What took you so long?” It was so great, seeing Daddy, but I’m guessing he was there to be a familiar landmark in foreign territory. I’m saying that because he was only with me for part of the ride and Daddy definitely wasn’t the main event.
The main event was the silvery lights and their party atmosphere. Those healing lights had a festive feeling, like they were cheering me on, saying welcome home, son.
I can’t say how long I was floating up the healing chamber because I no longer have a sense of time. But I can say that chamber was some kind of cosmic birthing canal that delivered me into this new life.
I want you to know, darling, there’s nothing hard or cruel for me anymore. I glided from the chamber right out into the glorious Universe. I’m drifting weightlessly through space with these gorgeous stars and moons and galaxies twinkling all around me. The whole atmosphere is filled with a soothing hum, like hundreds of thousands of voices are singing to me but they’re so far away I can just barely hear them.
And although I can’t exactly say anyone was here to greet me, as soon as I came out of the chamber I felt a Divine Presence, a kind, loving, beneficent presence, and really, that was enough.
In addition to the Divine Presence I also feel beings around me, Higher Beings, I guess you would call them. I can’t explain why I’m using the word “beings,” and not the singular; I just know there’s more than one. I can’t see or hear them, but I can feel them moving about, swooshing by, doing different things that concern yours truly. And although I haven’t got a clue what these things might be, I’m guessing that floating out here in space is euphoric instead of terrifying because I’m being attended to by this celestial crew.
I’m looking down on the earth, and it is down. It’s like there’s a hole in the sky, a hole between our two worlds, I can look through and see you. I know how sad you are about my death. Sad is too small a word. Bereft is more like it. But death isn’t as serious as you think it is, honey. So far, it’s very enjoyable. Couldn’t be better, really. Try not to take death too seriously. As a matter of fact, try not to take life too seriously. You’d enjoy yourself a lot more. That’s one of the secrets of life. You want to know another secret? Saying goodbye isn’t as serious as it seems either, because we will meet again.