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Archive for the month “July, 2011”

Forgiveness From Behind The Steering Wheel

FORGIVENESS FROM BEHIND THE STEERING WHEEL

 

 

     The following scenario is one that I have experienced out on America’s highways on far too many occasions.  And I suspect that I am not the only one that can make that claim.  It starts out something like this.  Your alarm doesn’t go off because of a power outage at some point overnight so you rush to do the absolute minimum trying to get on the road just as quickly as you possibly can.  If you cut as many corners as possible you might make it on time for that meeting or appointment with a little luck.  And even after one paragraph you should know where this is going.

     The first thing you notice is that no one seems to want to drive the speed limit.  This seems like a cruel joke at first as you consider that every other day it seems as if everyone blows by you like you’re standing still.  After a short while you realize that no matter what,  you are just going to be late and there is absolutely nothing humanly possible that you can do about that so you slow down.  Now that you have accepted your fate you find that some cracker jack driving a beat up heap of metal that probably isn’t even legal to be out on the road thinks that he or she is going to save a few seconds to where ever their headed by cutting you off.  After the appropriate hand signals, you let it go because you’re really in no mood to be shot at today.

     You finally make the turn onto a road that isn’t as heavily traveled while letting out a sigh of relief as you cruise somewhat peacefully along adding a little speed to your journey. A fair distance ahead you spy a car that is waiting to make a turn onto the same road that you’re now traveling on, you wonder why this person just doesn’t make the turn as there is plenty of room to safely do so, but you conclude that they must be an overly cautious driver that is going to wait for you to go past, wrong!  The next thing you know you are slamming on the breaks as this person guns the engine and explodes out in front of you as if you were some kind of invisible entity.  Another deep breath and the realization that hand gestures are pretty much worthless anyway and you cautiously continue.

     Finally you make it out onto the highway where you pray that some sanity and respect will still pervade at the higher more dangerous speeds of this multilane asphalt world.  You settle in to the slow lane because you are already gun shy from the drivers that you have already encountered just to get this far.  And it doesn’t take long for proof, at least to you, that this was a wise decision as you see a car well behind you but gaining fast in the lane just to your left.  The moments pass and the car blows past you doing at least twenty five miles per hour faster then what you’re doing.  But just as suddenly, his brake lights scream out at you as he pulls in just ahead of you and slows down to a speed well below the posted speed limit for the next half mile until the next exit, which he takes, all the while as you ponder the empty lane behind you and why he just had to be in front to take this exit?

     You’re now on the home stretch, just a another mile and you will finally be out of this melee of near misses and complete rudeness, up ahead is a hidden curve in the road and a double yellow line separates the two sides of the blacktop.  Almost seemingly out of nowhere a hot road with an engine that should only be legal out in the desert away from all of humanity flies past you ignoring both the no passing zone and the impending curve ahead.  Instinct kicks in as your foot goes from gas to break in less then an instant allowing this idiot to just barely make it back into your lane as a semi comes around the corner and nearly has to ditch his truck into a giant oak tree to his right.  And this time you don’t even have to consider gestures from the heart, the truck driver is expressing enough emotion for both of you.

     As you get out of your car at the parking lot of your designation it hits you, all of these people were probably in a hurry to save a few seconds to get nowhere in particular while risking everyone else’s life in the process. 

     And that night when you’re home with the work day done, you turn on the news only be greeted with a story about a family of four, the youngest being five, all killed by a drunk driver.  And you wonder if anyone is watching that just might take the hint and be more careful the next day when they get behind their own wheel of death. 

     One can only hope!

 

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LIFE AFTER LIFE (An essay about the book, Life After Life)

LIFE AFTER LIFE

An essay about the book, Life After Life, by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., M.D.

By

Bill Walker

 

     The book, Life after Life, strives to draw the attention and interest of the reader to the phenomenon of life after death and what, if anything may exist beyond physical death.  Is there another plain of consciousness just beyond our veiled reality?  Or, when we die, is it just lights out for all of eternity?

 

     It does not matter what, religion, race, or social class you come from, we all share two common life elements.  First, a biological birth, and second, an equally biological cease to all body functions, otherwise known as death.  The book follows a wide range of beliefs, feelings, and practices.  A few examples of these would be philosophy, psychology, theology, and medicine.  But even when all of these beliefs and practices are combined the individual is left with little more then his or her own personal convictions when dealing with a subject as shrouded as death.  This usually leaves the individual searching to find a social group or system of beliefs that he or she feels most comfortable with.

 

     The author offers support, almost entirely through interviews, to the theory of life after life, but unfortunately very little factual evidence. (When this book was written the subject was so new that no one really had a clue of how to document this experience. Luckily, this is changing with many modern advances that have taken place since.) At several points throughout the book the author stresses that all of his information is second hand, and that there is little if any practical process for obtaining information on this subject, at this time.  (Fortunately things have changed a great deal since then. This book was written in 1975.)

 

     Dr Moody’s most promising attempt of offering some basis to the theory of life after life comes near the end of the book.  Here, he tries to expel some of the more common explanations for the near death phenomenon, by finding the weaknesses of these explanations.  (Even decades later, these weaknesses are still debated throughout the medical establishment.)  For example, one explanation states that the brain could be experiencing the effects of a lack of oxygen, thus causing the mind to create a hallucinated climax.  However, in many of these cases there wasn’t any physiological stress of the required type for this experience to take place. In other words, there was no lack of oxygen to the brain for the amount of time that it would take for this to occur.  Another explanation given was that most of these patients were sick and hospitalized, and most likely on some sort of drug therapy program at the time of this experience.  Once again, the hypothesis given was that this caused a hallucination or vivid dream.  But, as before, when many of these patient’s charts were evaluated, many were not only, not taking any drugs known for hallucinogenic side effects, many weren’t on any drug therapy at all during their hospitalization.  Dr. Moody then goes onto provide a very interesting, and in my opinion most convincing, set of parallels.  One parallel of many from, The Bible, that may refer to life after death, and near death experiences is, Isaiah 26:19. 

     Thy dead shall live together with my dead body shall they arise.  Awake and sing, ye shall dwell in dust for the earth shall cast out the dead.

     In most of the cases studied those experiencing this phenomenon talked of first rising in the air while also hearing music that was comforting and yet almost foreign to them and being flooded with feelings of rejoice.  And finally almost all of these people had feelings of no longer being of this earth. 

     What I personally find even more remarkable then the passages from, The Bible, were the similarities found in, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a book that was written around the eighth century from beliefs that had been passed down from generation to generation of sages.  This book describes a set of stages, including out of body travel by the soul, that are experienced after death.  These stages have an almost uncanny similarity to the stages described to Dr. Moody from people who, almost certainly, had never read or even heard of such a book.

 

***

 

     The book, Life After Life, deals directly with mans greatest fear, or at the very least, his greatest unknown.  This book may someday be looked upon as a steppingstone to further investigation into this most interesting subject. (Though the subject matter from this book had been written about prior to its publication in some journals they were considered of little scientific value. Dr. Moody gave the NDE, or near death experience, its first real legitimacy.) I honestly feel that the day will come when this book becomes a tool that will help many people deal with the fears and apprehension of either losing a loved one, or perhaps accepting their own mortality, resulting in a happier and more productive life experience.

     I have two reasons for believing that this book can be a life changing piece of literature.  One, this book helps to remove the mental block of an ultimate end: leaving us with the hope that there is a better place for which we should strive.  And two, the book gives people some insight into themselves by helping to break through the wall of denial that always seems to shroud death making it possible to consider death with a more open and positive outlook. 

     This was the second time that I have read, Life After Life.  And I was no less amazed this time around then I was the first time.  Why does this book hold so much interest for me?  Because I can closely relate many of my own experiences to the stories and experiences that are shared throughout the book.  Many of my own are equally amazing though I admit to being a bit biased.  And many of my experiences will have to wait for another day, but in my more youthful years these experiences caused me to do a fair amount of soul searching and research into the fields of both the paranormal and parapsychology.  And even many years later I still hold a tremendous fascination in these fields.

     However it was my mother’s near death experience that draws me even closer to the subjects in this paper then anything that I have experienced personally.  In the mid sixties she was in the hospital for a heart valve transplant operation.  The operation itself went very well considering this was a very new procedure using a pigs heart valve that had only been done successfully a few times before this.  In fact there had been only a few minor complications, much fewer then had been expected.  But then ten days post-op, my mother’s heart just stopped beating causing the hospital to call a full code blue to try and resuscitate her.  The following is her story as best as I can remember it.

      “The next thing that I knew after hearing many buzzers and alarms go off, I was standing on the bank of a dark but peaceful river.  Behind me was a wall of fire that I just knew was there, but I didn’t turn around to look at it.  It was right about then that I realized that I would never have to feel anymore pain ever again if I just took one step forward into that river.  It was light on the other side, but I could feel that more than see it, and I’m not really sure how to describe it in any other way.  Then I started to think about my husband and my two boys and that’s when I knew that I wasn’t ready cross over yet.  It was at that very instant that I found myself back in my hospital room with doctors and nurses frantically moving about.”

     Sixteen years later, my mother lay on her death bed.  At one point, after she had coded three times already, I asked her if it hurt to much to stay?  At this point she could no longer speak so she just shook her head, “yes.”  Then I asked her if she had seen the river again?  She only smiled.  I told her the next time she saw it to go ahead and step in.  And again, she smiled.  About two hours later she crossed that river. 

     I know, without a doubt, that when I get to that river and cross it myself I will once again see my mother in perfect health with a smile on her face.  And that is something that I find very reassuring.

 

     Just recently my father told me something that I did not know about this whole episode apparently two psychiatrists documented my mothers experience before she was released from the hospital.  I am going to try and see if I can get Georgetown University Hospital, which was the hospital she was at, to release that documentation to me.  I’m sure that there is a lot more in it than what I have stated here.

 

 

                                                                                                                ©

 

The Haunting Of Ravens View Mansion

THE HAUNTING OF RAVENS VIEW MANSION

By

Bill Walker

 

 

     Zoe Fisher sleepily stumbled over to her bedroom window only partially aware of the fact that the morning sun might be blindingly bright as she unleashed it from behind her window shade.  After several moments she slowly removed her cupped hands from in front of her eyes taking in the burst of green of late spring.  She felt a warm glow wrap around her as she realized that it was Saturday.  A day of great joy for many reasons for most any kid, but especially for Zoe as this was the day that she and her friend Darren would each earn twenty five dollars for cleaning the old Ravens View Mansion up on the gentle slopes of South Mountain in Frederick Maryland.

     Zoe laughed to herself as she dressed recalling how her father, who was the manager in charge of over seeing the mansion now turned museum, had asked if she would be interested in the job, what were his exact words?  Zoe thought about it for a moment before flipping her head down letting her long blond hair form a curtain around her oval face as she brushed out any tangles that may have formed over the night.  Her eyes lit up with blue sparkles as she tossed her head back at the same moment as the memory swirled back.

     “Zoe, if you want to clean the museum on Saturday mornings before it opens, that’s fine by me.  But you need to know that a number of families have tried to live their when it was being used as a house and they all ended up moving out a short time later claiming that it was haunted.  And from what I hear they all seemed pretty frightened when they spoke about the place.”

     That was it that was exactly what he had said when she had asked if she could have the job.  How ridicules it all sounded now, oh it had bothered her for a while, but six months had now passed without nary an unexplained thud or door opening, without someone on the other side, since she and Darren had accepted the work.  They both had long since turned it into a joke about how these families must have had very over active imaginations about this mansion that seemed to be at complete peace as it gazed down on the valley below.

     Zoe skipped breakfast and pedaled as fast as she could as the tall oak trees that lined the mountain road quietly watched her ascent.  She and Darren had an ongoing contest to see who could get to the museum first each trying to beat the other so they could do the vacuuming and dusting and not have to be stuck with the musty old smelling bathrooms and kitchen with all its little nooks and crannies.  Zoe almost always lost.  Today, however, she had gotten an earlier then usual start determined that this would be the day that she would win the coveted vacuuming job.

     About half way up the mountain Zoe crossed over what everyone referred to as the South Mountain Creek, to her though it looked more like a river as it sloshed downward.  She looked behind her as she continued upward to see if Darren might be trying to make a fast break and catch her on the last leg of the journey.  With no one in sight including Darren she slowed her pedaling certain that the vacuuming and victory were hers finally to enjoy.  Rounding the final curve the mostly stone built mansion came into sight and Zoe’s excitement rose as high as the trees that still surrounded her until the crushing blow that once again the bathrooms and kitchen would be her responsibility.  She could not believe her eyes, for there sitting on the porch with the grin of the devil was Darren swinging slowly back and forth on an old wooden bench swing watching her as she approached.

     “Why did you get here so early?’ Zoe blurted out between her labored breaths as she tried to control her disappointment at losing once again. “And where’s your bike anyway?” she said, with a touch of suspicion as she looked around for it.

     “I got here early so I could beat you.  I can’t stand doing the bathrooms, never could.  And I didn’t bring my bike. I got a ride today.”

     “Never Could” Zoe fumed inside at Darren’s words, how many bathrooms had he cleaned in his lifetime?  He was the same age as she was, ten.

     Zoe scrubbed each bathroom to a shiny brilliance soon forgetting her irritation with Darren as she mentally planned on how she might spend her twenty five dollars when her father paid them.  And in what seemed like no time at all the only thing that remained was the dreaded kitchen.  When she entered the room of old heavy cutting boards and blocks with their dark soulless color she found Darren already there and just finishing up. Zoe was shocked, amazed, but gratefully happy, upon realizing that at least Darren had spared her from this chore.  However she was equally amazed at how he had accomplished vacuuming three levels as well as dusting all of the furniture, of which there was a lot and still had time left over to not only start the kitchen but finish it as well.  Darren had always been a good worker but to finish this all in less then two hours was almost inhuman. 

     “You’re already finished all the vacuuming? She asked, still in disbelief.

     “Yep.” He replied.

     “And all of the dusting? She continued.

     “Yep.” He replied again.

     “And you were able to do all of that, and the kitchen, this quickly?”

     “Do you want to go around and check it to see if it meets with your approval?” Darren challenged her with that same goofy grin he had earlier when she had first arrived.

     “No, I guess not, the kitchen is spotless. It’s just hard to believe, you’ve never finished this quickly ever before.”

     Darren just raised his arms as if to say, “Whatever, just look around for yourself”.

     Zoe locked the front door to the old mansion as they exited.  She knew that she had to get the key back to her father before they opened the museum that afternoon.  She also knew that her dad had another key but he liked having two incase of an emergency.

     “Who’s coming to pick you up?” Zoe asked.

     “I don’t know, someone will be along soon enough I suppose.” Darren said as he sat back down in the swing and slowly began to rock back and forth.

     “OK then, I’ll see you later unless you want me to wait with you?”

     Darren just shook his head.

     “Thanks for doing the kitchen. I really wasn’t looking forward to that.”

     “I could tell, and you are most welcome.” Darren paused before adding in a very soft voice, “I’ll see you soon.”

     Zoe pushed off heading down the pathway towards the road.  The ride home was much easier as she could use the speed she would build up going down hill to propel her much of the way without having to pedal at all.  It was always such a relief after working up a sweat from cleaning.  After a few moments she was nearing the bridge over the creek when she decided to turn around one last time and wave goodbye to Darren when, much to her surprise, he was no longer sitting in the swing.  In fact he was no longer anywhere in sight.  The only proof that he had been their at all was that the swing still gently swayed back and forth as if it was now being pushed by an invisible breeze.  Zoe decided that he must have gone for a walk, but something just didn’t feel right.  But she just laughed it off, Darren had done the kitchen for her, what more did she want and why should she care if he was acting just a little strange all morning anyway that wasn’t anything new?

     Zoe let the increasing speed of her bike break through the air sending her hair fanning out from beneath her helmet behind her as it waved to the passing trees.  Her mind considered the many possibilities that lay ahead of her on this Saturday that had only just barely begun.  The curves in the road were now coming fast and furious as the sun peaked down between the tree limbs watching her progress as the mountain grew above her.

     And then suddenly Zoe slammed on her breaks almost causing the bike to veer dangerously close to the steep mountain edge on her right.  As she came to a stop she could feel her lips freeze even though she desperately wanted them to form words.   She could feel the blood drain from her face as her legs turned to near rubber now only barely able to support her weight.  If it hadn’t have been for the bike acting as a support she was certain she would have crumpled in a heap to the ground.  All of this as Darren road steadily up towards her with little beads of sweat proving how much energy he had exerted to get this far up the mountain as the heat of the morning worked against him.

     “Are you already done?  Geez that was fast, how did you manage to do the whole house this fast by yourself?  Sorry I didn’t make it in time to help you, but my mom made me go with her to some sale for school shoes that she just couldn’t pass up.  It was so lame.” At some point as Darren rambled on he began to notice the look of utter and complete disbelief that had now engulfed Zoe’s entire manner. “Are you alright Zoe?”

     Zoe wasn’t sure at all how she felt or if she would ever be alright again.  The only thing that kept going through her mind were the last words spoken up on the porch and who, or what, might have spoken them, “I’ll see you soon!”

 

 

 

 

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     This story is dedicated to Deborah and David Fisher along with their daughter (The star of this story.) Zoe.  The rough draft of this story was written in Oakland California during the weekend that Deborah and David were getting married!

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