Conversations From the Other Side...Or, We'll Always Have Paperwork

I have always heard about the close-to-death experiences where people see the loved ones who've passed on, or reach out as if grasping a helping hand into eternity.

I find this thought comforting.

A few months ago, Dad and I were driving across the bridge that spans the Trent and Neuse rivers in New Bern. We were talking about his impending death. I asked him what he thought happened after you died. I figure, he's a minister and as Christ-like as any human being I have ever known, so he should at least have an idea of what's on the other side. I want a preview of coming attractions.

"I don't know," he says.

I say, "But what about all the people who see their dead relatives? Do you think that's what heaven is like?" I am really wanting a syllabus for the course.

Dad shrugs. "Could just be a shortage of oxygen to the brain as the body shuts down."

"Oh, yeah?" I say. I am feeling like I need to refute this idea because I can't let my dad die thinking he's heading into a black hole of nothingness. "Well how come so many people in so many different cultures around the world have the same type of experience? They can't all be having the same hallucination."

This stops him. He has to consider this thought. It has merit.

"Well," he finally allows. "I do believe we continue on in some way."

We go on then to have the Big Talk- about his fears of finding himself unable to breathe and panicking; about the hospice nurse not being available when he needs her.

I reach over and rest my hand on his leg. "Dad, I know I told you years ago you couldn't die, that I couldn't handle it...But don't worry. I can do this and I can do it very well. I won't let it get to the point where you are scared. And as for Sharon, I know where she lives! If I have to go haul her ass out of bed, I will!"

Dad smiles but he is also crying. I see the tears in his eyes.

"Oh, honey," he says. "I trust you and Becky. I know you can handle it if Sharon's not there. I trust you."

Now I am crying.

"I won't let you down," I promise.

And so far, we haven't. We are down to the last few hours, maybe the last day. We don't truly know...But he is asleep, just like he wanted to be, and we are right by his side, holding his hand and being our irreverent selves. "The Flea Sisters- We're all over you! You can scratch but you sure can't get rid of us!" we tell him.

Yesterday Dad started reaching out. His lips moved in silent, wordless conversation and we Flea Sisters just knew he was talking to our dead relatives.

He roused one time while Becky was out of the room, waking himself up with his arm outstretched. Now's my moment, I thought. Now I'm gonna know for sure.

"You're reaching out, Dad, aren't you?"

He nods.

"Who're you reaching out to?" I ask. I lean in close because I don't want the answer to be lost because I can't hear him.

He gives me a small, reassuring smile.

"The file cabinet."

A while later my friend, Martha, calls me for the latest update. When she hears he's reaching out, she interrupts me to say, "Oh, honey...You know, he's talking to his loved ones on the other side. He's getting ready to go with them!"

"Well," I hedge, hating to burst her theological bubble..."He is getting things in order."

1 comment:

Kim said...


I am so glad that I've found you. Your writing is spectacular, I can feel your pain, your resolve to handle it and the compassion in your voice.

I know how you feel right this very moment.

I too, have helped someone to die. I have seen them reach out, have held them as they struggled through their final hours. I know how you feel right this very moment.

My thoughts will be with you all day today.