THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
My Cousin Barry from Springfield called me yesterday to see if I’d heard about the recent death of a mutual friend. Cousin Barry had just returned from the funeral and was pretty broken up. He wondered why I was taking it so calmly.
“After all,” he said, “it’s over for the poor guy. You know there isn’t really any afterlife.”
“Do I?” I said.
Cousin Barry was silent for a minute. Then: “Wait a minute. Are you telling me you—‘believe?’”
My mind went back over twenty-five years, to when I had what was called “an early heart attack.” I was 32 years old and so much in my prime that I was at the gym bench pressing, when suddenly I couldn’t catch my breath. Because an elephant’s foot was on my chest.
I thought it was nothing. That it would go away. But twenty minutes later I was being rushed to the emergency room, trying to figure out what was happening—and then I wasn’t figuring anything because I was dead.
That’s right. I was lying dead in the passenger seat of a friend’s car. Except that lying dead didn’t mean being “dead” the way I—every bit as unbelieving as Cousin Barry—had imagined.
Instead, it meant that ridiculous, hokey, so-often-quoted experience of flowing, flowing, flowing through a long tunnel toward a distant light.
It meant feeling no physical pain. Total relaxation. Total peace. Total love.
I felt like an infant in my mother’s arms. Warm. Happy. And I was curious, knowing soon I would be in the light that grew ever larger, ever nearer –
Except that instead of reaching the light I found myself short of breath and in agony again in the ER, with an anxious resident and nurse peering down at me…and then smiling widely because they’d brought me back to life.
“He’s back!” the young doctor said. “How you feeling, Mr. Brody?” I couldn’t answer. I was in too much pain. The nurse give me morphine, and a sense of well-being took me over.
But not the same kind of well-being I’d felt when I was dead. No, sir. Nowhere near it in quality or degree. And not the same kind of absence of pain either. Nowhere near it.
An hour before what turned out to be a major coronary infarction (the cause of which was never found) I’d been a confirmed atheist. Now I was a confirmed believer.
Not necessarily in God or heaven as we usually think of them, but definitely in something. A kind of wonderful continuity I’ve wanted to know more about ever since.
So do I cry at funerals? No, not for the deceased, although I do get a little misty about those who will miss them, including myself.
Do I fear death? Not in my brain, or my soul, although my body still gets the shakes at the thought. As though it’s programmed to physically resist the temptation to jump right to the end of this volume of existence and hurry into the next.
I told Cousin Barry the truth. Yes, I believe in an afterlife, but not as a matter of faith.
I believe because I’ve experienced it. I know that death is a natural part of things because I’ve been there and in those few moments learned more about life than in all the years of living that had come before.
That knowledge adds value to every living moment because I know I’ve got nothing to fear in the end. That even if I never leave the tunnel and reach the light the beauty and perfection of the journey that is the last moment will make everything else worthwhile.
Some people praise creation for its mysteries. Others damn it.
All I can do is marvel, and be thrilled by the very fact that I’m so amazed. Know what I do have faith in? I have faith in the idea that the true purpose of life is to take note of everything that happens to us.
And in the concept that the greatest thing about human existence is that every single one of us who searches for answers, who wonders about God and the universe and what happens—or doesn’t happen—after death, and every single one of us who thinks he or she already knows, is guaranteed that one perfect, beautiful moment when we each will learn the truth.