Since then, aside from the occasional comment or like, we hadn't corresponded. I did know however that Bryn had been busy since our kissing days. She had had a pretty successful career as an actress, appearing on such hit sitcoms as Party of Five and Wonder Years. She had married a couple times, had a teenage daughter, and recently lost her younger brother, Warren, who died suddenly of a heart condition in his early thirties.
When I noticed that in wishing a mutual friend Happy Birthday on Facebook we both called her "lovely lady," it struck me as odd that after so many years apart Bryn and I could still be on the same wavelength. So I sent her a message. You probably think it's pretty typical for a single guy with time on his hands to be reaching out to former flames but I don't attend reunions. And I did see in her status page that Bryn was divorced, so I'm excused.
My short message led to a phone call the next morning, the first of several several-hour-long conversations spent catching up and then some. The then some included sending each other nakedish pics and playing our favorite songs and reminiscing on bygone times. The movies we had seen together, the gifts we had exchanged, the nicknames we had traded (my term for her, Nymphet, came courtesy of my father) and of course the make-out sessions - that hook-up at Jeff Nasch's graduation party being especially sweet to recall, God rest Jeff's soul.
Bryn, separated since May, even invited me to come stay with her. And who knows, maybe I will take a trip to lovely British Columbia, where she works in real estate. The weather is supposed to be really nice in May, which is the month of her birthday. Cutie...
Unfortunately, the death of Bryn's brother has really hit my friend hard. And it hasn't gotten much easier in the half dozen years since it happened. We talked of the losses I had experienced in life, specifically of my own brother, Justin, and more recently, my mom. I asked Bryn if Warren had come to visit her, as the recently deceased are wont to do, especially when they die violently or suddenly. "Not that I know of," she lamented.
I told her that sometimes the living aren't sensitive enough to signs, and even when we are aware of the presence of the dead, it may take years before there is any contact. My mom visited me a month to the day after she passed away. But it took Justin, who left his body in 1996, nearly 2 years to come around. And when he did materialize in my bedroom to sit on my bed and let me stroke his arm, I was reminded of one of my favorite songs by his favorite band. Since we're trading tunes...
And so maybe Warren was still surfing the afterlife, catching up with old friends, reviewing his past. Maybe he had merged back with the Oneness, source of all.
The precise nature of the afterlife/pre-life is a mystery, and unfortunately Western medicine has developed a fear-based approach which leaves patients clinging to life and feeling like failures when it's their time to bid this world adieu. Lengthy hospital stays and a pharmacopoeia's worth of drugs do make the establishment a lot of cash, so in our utilitarian age it's not entirely without utility, I guess. But if you read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as I am currently, you'll learn that the Art of Dying is as important as the Art of Living, and they are interconnected. You can only live fully if you know how to die properly, as for instance one's experiences in the great beyond are governed by one's last thought while alive. This information is unfortunately omitted from the standard curriculum in schools. Instead we learn about the climate and currency of Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
But I argue that we should spend our lives preparing to die, and that the interdimensional planes of existence should be foremost on our list of areas to which to devote careful study. Because there comes the day for every single one of us that death shall call. So why not know where we are headed? If you decide to go to Chile, Bolivia or Peru you don't just board a plane without any money in your pocket or any plans for when you get there, do you? You at least make some preparations, study a map, talk to locals, book a reservation or two.
While it's true that you cannot take anything with you when you die, this really only applies to material possessions. The knowledge you accumulate while living, and the love, survive the flight to the other side. So learn as much as you can, and know this: That death is a transition, and the deceased are still alive, just not in a body of flesh and blood.
Think back to when a dear friend or family member has moved away. Maybe before their departure you'd get together on a weekly basis or if you were really close even every day; but after the move and separated by distance perhaps you are only able to talk on the phone regularly, or at most see each other for the holidays or every few years. This friend isn't dead as in gone forever; only the nature of your relationship has changed. And some find when a friend moves away that where once they engaged in small talk and gossip, their relationship probes profounder truths now that interactions are seldom and time is of the essence. If you and your bestie only get 20 minutes twice a month of phone time you don't want to waste it on the weather.
It is the same with the dearly departed, I mean those who have shed their earthly vehicles. We can still be in touch with our disembodied loved ones, just not as often as before. As individual souls the dead have their own living to attend to. Experiences, jobs, learning, etc. and on interdimensional planes. For example, for me to ask my deceased mother to constantly be with me is a bit selfish when she has a whole universe to explore - the spirit realm is said to be a thought realm where all that is required to go somewhere or do something is to think it and it's done. Besides, no longer in a physical body my mother is less my mom and more a kindred spirit and guide. Because released from her physical shackle her perspective is now much wider than mine.
I told Bryn as a fellow bereaved that we cannot expect our brothers after dying to continue to be just our brothers any more than we could expect them to ignore their duties as sons and friends and lovers while they were alive. Similarly, we must recognize that when a loved one dies, they take on new roles, and the old roles they play, to us, must change.
We must roll with these new roles or suffer undue grief and the bad habits that often ensue, like drugs, alcohol, prescriptive medication and other coping mechanisms. And we have to be braced for a time after the death of a loved one, whether in weeks or months or years, that we will no longer connect. Because there is the very real possibility of reincarnation. Belief in reincarnation spans centuries and countries and but for a savvy bit of politics was only removed from Christianity in the 6th century after Christ. The soul's journey may very well be eternal and involve numerous births and deaths and an ultimate merging with the Oneness, the finish line at the end of this amazing race called life, where each competes with himself, and your only opponent is also your best friend. That is, you.
And as it's too much to ask a person to be at two places at the same time, we cannot expect that, for example, our dead siblings will continue to call on us when they as new bodies in another life have new siblings to coddle and be coddled by. I sure hope that Bryn, who at 7 years her late brother's senior was like a mother to him in his adolescence, gets some closure with Warren. And I hope I can help her get some. It would indeed be fitting, since I got some (benefits from my friend) all those years gone by.
Maybe I can help. Yesterday while browsing my parents' bookshelf I chanced upon the tome Communicating with the Dead, by Linda Georgian of the Psychic Friends Network. It was written in 1995, same year as Morissette's song. I read the book in a couple hours and put it down with a renewed conviction that the dead are waiting to be contacted by we the living, and that they can help us in our lives - not just with mundane details like finances and where we left the house keys but also with developing a greater understanding of the nature of existence, be it with a body or without.
I also came away with a few pointers for contacting those who, shall we say, have hurtled head over feet into the hereafter. Here they are:
1. Place yourself in a quiet environment: light a candle, burn incense, play music you know the spirit liked.
2. Relax and focus on a feeling of peacefulness.
3. Be open to sending and receiving feelings and messages.
4. Feel love and goodwill.
5. Think of some pleasant moment or something that belonged to the spirit in order to establish contact and an emotional connection.
6. Do not use mind-altering drinks or drugs.
7. Say silent or audible prayers of any kind that reinforce the desire to have contact for the highest good.
9. Breathe deeply and evenly.
10. Listen to quiet instrumental music you like.
11. Sit comfortably.
That about does it. I wish you many pleasant communications. And since we're trading favorite songs, this oldie is for you, dear Brynie. See you in BC, baby!