(Author’s Note: Just for the record – This is fiction. RM).
It happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to be scared. I remember that I was pulling into the next lane. I had my left turn signal on, and I glanced back over my shoulder to make sure the coast was clear. I must have been going about 65, which was actually a little slow for the 405 that day. But when I turned back around, the truck in front of me had stopped. All I saw was red tail lights. Then black.
Next thing I know, I’m in the ER at Cedars. I see lots of little kids. One with her head in her mother’s lap, and the mother was stroking her head, ever so gently, with that fifty-yard stare. Then I saw me. It felt like I was on the other side of the room and I recognized my hair. The rest was harder to make out. I was a mess. I saw lots of activities around my guerney. Someone pulled out the paddles and yelled “Clear!”, just like they do on TV. They were pounding on me for a long time. Then someone pulled a sheet up over my head and wheeled me away. But – Wait a minute! They couldn’t have wheeled me away because I was still in the room, checking out everyone else. Then I realized what had happened.
There was no tunnel. There was no bright light. Nobody called my name or waved to me. It was very disappointing, to tell you the truth. But not a bad sensation, just floating. You know that feeling you get when you’re falling asleep and you’re about half-way there? It used to happen to me all the time. Then images began.
Now I was in a steam room. I mean it. A schvitz. Like the old Jewish men used to visit once a week. All tiled in black and white. Hot as hell. (Just a figure of speech). In fact, I heard my grandfather, Mair, was very fond of the schvitz. He took my father there as a rite of passage. It was probably more important than a bar mitzvah. Now, this is funny because I’ve never been in a schvitz in my life, so now that I’m being inducted into my own personal heaven, why a schvitz?
Pretty soon, the heavy steel door opened, and in walks, well, George Burns. As in “Burn and Allen”. As in the movie, “Oh, God”, and the sequels. There he was, wrapped in a big white towel, a cigar hanging out of his mouth. He took the cigar out and said, “Hiya, kid!”. I was stunned.
“Are you God?”
“But – Why do You look like George Burns? As a matter of fact, you sound like George Burns.”
“Isn’t that what you expected?” A little sly smile played on the corner of his mouth.
“Well, I guess so, but I always imagined that that was just my immature spirituality and that You would enlighten me later on”.
“Your spirituality is fine. Listen, I don’t really have an image that you could recognize, so I do it on a case-by-case basis. You expected George Burns. Moses expected a burning bush. Get it?”
“Okay, yeah, I think I do. Do I get to ask questions?”
“You just did. Go ahead. Fire away.”
“Am I – um – dead?”
“Your old body is vacant, if that’s what you mean. It’s ready for the recycling bin.”
“The ‘recycling bin’?”
“Oh, sure. Nothing goes to waste, I promise you.”
“So – How are we having this discussion?”
“Well, just because your old body is sent back to the earth doesn’t mean your soul is scrapped, too! You’re a good soul. Sturdy. Indestructible, actually. You’ve heard the expression “immortal soul”?
“Yeah, but I never took it very literally.”
“Well, that’s understandable. Most people get confused by the body and think that’s the whole deal. Very common misunderstanding.”
“Well, so. How did I do?”
“You done good, kid. I’m proud of you”.
”Yeah. You did your best. You learned from your mistakes. And you were really good at loving.”
“Yeah, but I mean. I never did figure out why I was here, I mean, there. You know, I wasn’t a big success at anything. I never got that hit record.”
“You mean, you weren’t famous or wealthy?”
“At the risk of sounding shallow, yes.”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret. Hit records never impressed me. Neither does fame. And wealth, well, you know. In and of itself wealth has no value. Can even be a problem.”
“But – I don’t know what my Purpose was. Can you explain that?”
“I don’t make up your Purpose. You do! That’s free will. One of my finest inventions, if I do say so Myself.”
“No. How do you think I amuse myself? I’d be bored if I could predict your every move, much less control it. So now I’ll ask the question. What was the purpose of your life?”
“Ummm. I was a good daughter, a good friend, a good sister. . . I guess.”
“Don’t you know?”
“Yes. I was.”
“Very good, kid. So, what’s the purpose of being a good daughter, a good friend, a good sister?”
“Is there a purpose?”
”Sure. An important one. See, it’s all about connection. The biggest misery is to feel isolated, alone. The greatest joy is to feel connected.”
“So by making people feel connected, I contributed to their joy?”
“You’re a quick study. More tomorrow. I’m an old man. I’m tired”.
“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere. Everywhere. Don’t worry kid. Just because you can’t see me doesn’t mean I don’t exist. I’m as near as your own heartbeat”.
He left by the door, which I thought was very sensitive. I was new to all this, and He was trying not to shock me.
© 2004 Robin Munson