Tag Archives: Afterlife

Dad’s Message from The Other Side

Yes, this blog’s main topic is recovery from alcoholism — BUT it’s based in my own recovery, which has a lot to do with my 1982 Near Death Experience and the many paranormal aftereffects it brought on.  My spirituality is all about these ongoing encounters with the spirit world. I’m currently writing a book about them titled Die-Hard Atheist (as opposed to my addiction memoir, which is 90% alcoholism/love addiction and 10% NDE-related).

Describing paranormal experiences that contradict the mainstays of mainstream science is hard. You become vulnerable. Most people who haven’t had such experiences assume you’re either a) making stuff up for attention or b) so dumb you mistake normal variations of mind for metaphysical stuff. But here goes.

In November 2019 I communicated with my father, who died in 2008.

Since my NDE, I’ve accidentally read people’s minds on many occasions, in addition to foreknowing events and hearing from my guardian angel on the regular. In the fall of 2019, I attended a conference of the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS), where I described these experiences to a fellow NDEr with powers of mediumship. I’ll never forget the moment she smiled at me and said, “You’re a medium, honey! You just haven’t developed it.”

The communication with my father took place at our family summer cabin — a place he dearly loved. The cabin is rustic and constantly trying to go back to the earth, so my dad used to always keep busy with maintenance and fixes, saving money with DIY repairs. That’s exactly what I was doing — replacing the mossy, rotted shingle roof on the toolshed after a falling tree branch had crushed a corner of it.

All day Saturday I worked up there in the pouring rain, shielding with tarps whatever needed to stay dry. I kept feeling my father’s presence in a way I often do when I’m fixing stuff around there. He seems to be witnessing my work, approving. Over the course of the day, I was steeped in this feeling of his presence, which I loved and missed. Nothing paranormal about it — just a sense we all get at times.

My dad had died 13 years after I got sober in AA. For me, watching his alcoholism progress was especially painful because he did not want what I had. Instead, he continued to believe the same lie he’d told himself for decades, that though he needed to drink less, alcohol was still his best friend. After he was forced to retire at 70, his “start time” for drinking gradually crept into the morning hours — he’d pour wine into his tea cup. His liver and heart enlarged, and his brain shrank, but he dismissed these medical warnings as absurd until he succumbed to alcoholic cardiomyopathy at age 85. That’s not young, I know, but just 15 years prior, he’d  been beating his law students in games of squash.

Early Sunday morning at the cabin, I decided to try to reach his spirit. I was alone but for one friend in the second cabin who would, I knew, sleep in late. So I made up my mind: I would seek Dad. I was sitting in what used to be his place at the table, facing the row of windows that fronts the cabin and looks out at Puget Sound.

I closed my eyes to meditate, focused on the crackle of the fire and my own breathing. I had no more clue than you do how mediums work, so I just tried to call up that feeling of closeness I’d had with Dad the day before. Then I began to inwardly address him. “Dad, please say something to me. I want to hear from you. Please come to me. Please speak to me. I am ready.  I am listening.  Please.”

Nothing happened.  I kept trying.  More nothing.

This lack of response seemed to drag on for ages, but in reality it was probably about five minutes. I never lost faith that Dad could hear me. I knew there was some veil separating us, keeping me deaf to him. Then, among the many invitations I’d tried, I framed this particular question: “Is there anything you’d like to tell me?”

WHOOSH!!!

You know when a powerful gust of wind hits you full in the face? That was the experience I had, but energetically. My dad’s presence, his personality, his unique energy as a living man — not just as my father but the whole man he’d been — swept over me.  This wasn’t the guy I’d been seeking, the weary, discouraged, beaten-down father I’d known for his last fifteen years. He was young!  I didn’t see him, but he filled my awareness with the powerful charisma he’d had during the years I’d loved him most intensely, when I was about five and we read books together and I learned from him to ride a bike and tagged along through all his yard work and snuggled with him on the chaise lounge in the sunshine. This was he! But I also felt his ambition to be, to do, to love!  He was powerful.

Next, I became aware he was showing me an image: something white with squares of fine wire mesh. It was the old crib! My parents had used a really weird crib for all four of us kids; instead of bars it had rectangles of bug screen, along with a foldable top that would keep out bugs entirely — though we lived in Seattle with very few bugs. I saw it again at closer range, and then closer still. I realized I was seeing his view of approaching it; I was inside his memory and he knew that his baby — I — was in the crib, though he stopped short of where I might actually see myself. Huge amounts of love radiated from him for that infant, HUGE love, along with tremendous joy and excitement and gratitude that I had entered this world via him. It was a sacred honor to him — then and now — that I had come into my lifetime through his.

Blown away as I was by all this, it took me a few seconds to sense his actual response to my question, the thing he’d broken through the veil to tell me. It was this: “All of you was there then, all of you in that tiny baby — and when I lived, I loved THAT!”

My mind still faltered to understand his meaning, so he added, “You didn’t have to do anything.”

Now I understood. He was right: all my life, he’d pushed me to excel. If I got an A- on anything, he’d pretend to get very grave about it — a joke, but not really a joke. When I decided not to pursue a PhD, when I came out as (temporarily) gay, when left a tenured teaching post — always I’d encountered his will, however subtle, that I be something more. What needed amendment, what he’d crossed the veil to give me, was the knowledge that always, in his heart, he had loved me without condition and with tremendous rejoicing.

I understood.  I sent him my deepest love and told him how grateful I was to be his daughter.  But then my skeptical mind butted in: What kind of craziness was this — communicating with my dead dad?!  So I asked him directly, “Dad, how do I know this is really you?”

Again, he showed me an image — something I’d never seen in my own life. In the corner of that crib sat a bright pink, brand new Teddy bear. It was downright garish. But a moment later, I recognized it as the old, one-eyed, much-loved, squashed, and faded Teddy bear I’d known in my childhood. “This was the first stuffed animal we got you,” Dad told me, “…and you named him ‘Áha.'”

With that, he was gone.

Amazement filled me. Yes, yes, the name of that Teddy bear was Áha!  I’d not thought of it in 45 or years or so, but I remembered! Áha held special meaning for Dad because one of his morning routines for many years was to make my sister’s and my beds, on which he would set up little pageants featuring our carefully posed and balanced stuffed animals with various toys or props.  Áha might have on a Halloween mask and be scaring all the other stuffed animals; he might have a little book and be reading to them; he sat with the others at a little table with toy foods. Every day, Dad poured his love for us into these little games. Though I’d much preferred other stuffed toys myself, he’d always given leading roles to Áha. Now I knew why: Áha had been the first.

Dad had was gone — of that I was sure — but the knowings he’d given me continued to resonate. I was amazed at the succinctness, the iconic concentration, the genius of each message! As a mother, I knew the feeling he was describing — that immense love for one’s baby. I can also remember toys my grown son has long since forgotten. How had Dad picked out an image only he (& Mom) could know — bright pink new Áha sitting in the corner of the crib — and connected it to a name I couldn’t have recalled for a million dollars without his prompting, but knew was right?

I’m happy to know my dad has regained all his power on the other side — all his joy and love and vibrancy. Alcoholism burdened him and masked them later in his life, but it’s an illness of the brain, that fatty labyrinth of neurons we use to navigate on Earth.  It can’t touch our spirits, which have love as their sole source.

You’d think that, having discovered I have the capability to connect with the dead, for cryin’ out loud, I would find the time to “develop” my mediumship skills. It seems a pretty huge gift, one worth cultivating, even if you’d have to sacrifice other interests to make space — right? But how many things do YOU want to do that you can’t seem to make time for? Earning a living is quite a grind! Keeping the house from getting totally gross and falling apart is a grind! And I LOVE to climb mountains, so staying in shape physically takes a lot of my time.  I’ve tried a few other times to reach Dad or my sister or AA friends lost to overdose, but always my head is just too full of clutter and unrecognized fears that block communication.

Maybe I’ll try again at the summer cabin this spring.  Until then, here’s a new video of me telling the story of my NDE and some paranormal aftereffects.

[No link?  See “JeffMara Podcast” on YouTube or remove spaces from https: //youtu.be/ RXp2jbLWuD0 ]

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Filed under Afterlife, God, NDE, Recovery

Afterlife: Is it Too Weird to Talk About?

Death visits frequently in my Seattle circle of sober fellowship. Two friends with years of sobriety died this past Tuesday from heroin relapse; one I knew faintly, the other well.  Jeremy leaves behind the 11-year-old daughter he so intensely adored along with a partner and countless friends who loved his playful yet self-deprecating energy, sarcastic wit, and unflinching, quirky, inspiring shares.  He’s gone.

Gone where?

As someone who’s undergone a Near Death Experience followed up by many paranormal aftereffects, I can tell you what I believe.  (Meanwhile, you believe whatever you believe 🙂 ).

In the minutes before my sister died, I was trying doze in the dark hospital room when into my mind flashed “the light” I had known on the other side: it was seeping in under a window, floating to my sister’s bed, and “pooling” above her, a million tiny points of light swirling, gearing up to receive her.  When I opened my eyes, there was nothing.  Eyes closed, I knew the lights were our extended family ancestors, who loved my sister immensely and were preparing, like a million loving midwives, to guide her “birth” to the afterlife.

As I recount in my book or this short film, I had not yet accepted this crazy stuff into my “normal” paradigm of reality, so I kept trying to dismiss it.  A thought-voice urged me to tell her (my sister) what I knew of the light to help her cross, because her fear (that cancer was god’s punishment) blocked her crossing. “She’s got two weeks!” I insisted, believing her doctors, but the voice simply would not quit.  Finally, I consented.  I knelt close by my unconscious sister, took her hand, and tried my best to describe the the light – she’d feel the warmth of god’s love all through her, it would feel so wonderful…  When the words were out, I sat back down.  Twenty minutes later, in a sudden, violent hemorrhage, she died.

Far from serene, I tore around the hospital floor with my brother screaming, “Help us!” An impassive doctor listened to my sister’s heart… but assured us it would stop soon.  One minute I truly wanted to rip that doctor’s head off; the next, my sister reached me.  Her energy was unmistakable, hovering in the room, loving and trying to calm me, loving my brother, loving the frickin’ doctor and nurse – the whole world!  Somehow she filled me with the light again, a euphoric flashback of the bliss I’d known while I got to be dead.

That was twenty years ago.

Just before my father’s death, I didn’t sense the light, but I knew when he was about to cross. I told the hospice worker to get my family, who were all chatting around the kitchen table with a visiting social worker.  In the minute I had alone with Dad, I remember telling him in thought, “You’re gonna do fine, Dad.  You’re gonna do great!”  I felt proud of him, excited for him.  That’s not how you’re supposed to feel, but it’s exactly the midwifey anticipation those million angels had for my sister – this time filling to me, too.

That was ten years ago.

Weird Things still pop into my life fairly regularly.  Last week, getting ready to leave for work, I resolved to pick up groceries on the way home.  Trader Joe’s or Safeway?  The thought flashed – Trader Joe’s: you’ll see someone you know.  I dismissed it, because  Safeway was right on the way home, so I’d– Trader Joe’s.  You’ll see Mindy.  Along came a faint flash of Mindy’s smiling face backed by the sauces shelf, though in 10 years’ shopping at TJ’s, I’d never once seen her there. Aware of other times I’d been advised in ways that saved my life, I consented: “Okay, fine!  TJ’s – I’ll go!” (I often use this exasperated tone with my guardian angel.)

Six hours later, I’m on the phone with Mom at TJ’s when Mindy sails by in the produce area.  I wave excitedly but can’t talk – I can’t tell her I knew.  I wrap up with Mom, shop a while, then decide I’m gonna track down Mindy.  I hunt through the store – did she leave?  Finally, I see her.  I greet her and explain.  She laughs – she’s a Wiccan – and admits she was thinking “very loudly” this morning that she had to go to TJ’s.  I love her immensely in a strange way – her classic Mindy-ness.  I love life.  It’s right then that I realize, behind her are… the sauces.

What the fuck is going on with this stuff, you guys?  I don’t know!  But I know something is.  I KNOW there is more to this world than the physical.

I believe many of us are steered by guardian angels, even if we can’t tell their input from our own thoughts.  Many NDE survivors can tell – often because the voice contradicts what we want.  One NDE friend of mine descending a staircase “heard” her angel warn, “If someone calls from above, don’t look around.”  A coworker called her name from the top of the stairs.  She tried at first not to look, but it seemed silly.  Turning her head, she mis-stepped, fell down the stairs, and broke her leg. She laughs telling the story.

I believe we’re collectively steered via billions of microdecisions – toward some purpose none of us can know.  I believe it’s thanks to billions of microdecisions that we have not (yet) eradicated life on Earth with our warheads.

I believe we’re Life/Love doing something.

Among adults, 10-15% who survive death bring back memories from the other side.  In young children, the percentage is far higher – more like 80% – perhaps because they’re relative newcomers here.  These figures hold across cultures.

Many NDEers encounter a love a thousand times more powerful than any we’ve felt on earth.  Some who get less far just feel a powerful sense of well-being.  NOBODY I’ve met in the NDE community wanted to get back inside their body.  Nobody!  But heaven, if you like, is not a “better place.”  It’s just a bodiless place – so not really a place.

Anger, fear, and pain are defense mechanisms built into our bodies.  We need them to stay incarnate.  So in a sense, the Puritans were onto something when they blamed “the flesh” for all our woes – for the “hundred forms of fear” and resentment that fuck up our existence with greed, insecurity, envy, etc.

And while it’s true we slough off all these bummers when we exit the body, the state of embodiment is nonetheless an absolutely amazing feat!  We are spirit invested in flesh, energy inhabiting matter – like photons, we’re both! What a crazy stunt that is.  Our emotions carry shadows that give them richness unique to earthly life.  So savor it  – all of it, the buoyancy of joy and the gravity of sadness.  As one childhood NDEer put it: “Life is for living; the light is for later.”

Life is for living, so from our perspective, it’s immensely tragic when one is cut short by addiction.  We’ll never again see Jeremy, never hear his raspy voice or belly laugh.  We all miss and mourn him deeply.  Yet Jeremy has transcended to pure Jeremy-ness.  His unmistakable, unique energy is now at large in the universe.  That I know.

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Filed under Addiction, Afterlife, Faith, God, NDE, Near Death Experience, Spirituality

Choose Life; Choose Joy

Paul Johnson was not an alcoholic, but he was extremely unhappy.  One night he drank a bunch of booze and took a bunch of pills then went up to his attic, where he hung himself.  Some time later his wife found him – quite dead.  She struggled to lift his body but failed; she had to go downstairs and get her son, the two of them panicking in their efforts to get the body down.  Though Paul’s face had turned black and he was without pulse or breathing, his wife gave him CPR for five minutes.

Then Paul took a breath.

Paul’s consciousness, far from ceasing to exist, had become exceptionally clear during the time his body was dead.  He found himself in darkness, approached from the right by four shadowy figures who showed him a review of his entire life.  “Thoughts were instantaneous. When you asked a question, you would instantly know the answers.” In a Scrooge-like transformation, Paul returned from the dead absolutely overjoyed to be alive:  “I had this vivid memory, extremely vivid, and it shouldn’t have been vivid at all for a guy that took a couple bottles of meds and drank two bottles of liquor. Yet it was so vivid and so real.  I was so happy to be alive, and to have a second chance to fulfill the things pointed out to me as being important.”

I’m in the process of editing a book of interviews with Near-Death Experiencers* – people (including me) who have died, experienced the other side, and returned with memories. Paul is one of fourteen of us interviewed by filmmaker Heather Dominguez, who has amassed the footage for a television series and is raising the money to produce it.

hooded-figureUnlike the rest of us, however, Paul did not go to the Light.  He went to blackness – a void where he existed without a body.  Far from feeling inundated with infinite love, he sensed that the four figures “wanted to take me to a darker, more horrible place.”  But as he watched the scenes of his life go by, Paul felt overwhelmed with loss.  “My biggest regrets were that I didn’t travel and see the world, and I didn’t do the things that made me happy. …It wasn’t that I missed this wedding or didn’t get this job… [It was] that I didn’t enjoy my life like I really wanted to…  As I realized that, I thought: ‘I wish I wasn’t dead!’  In that exact moment… [the experience] was over for me.”

Today, Paul lives in the Philippines with a new wife and her extended family – all of whom he loves.  He changed everything about himself and is now a man decidedly happy, joyous, and free.

Alcoholics who choose to live experience a shift analogous to Paul’s – if they commit to rigorous spiritual work to effect an internal change.  Paul’s moment of choice strongly reminds me of a favorite Big Book story in the 2nd & 3rd editions of Alcoholics Anonymous, “He Who Loses his Life.”  In it, an honors student and “boy wonder” in business named Bob has drunk his life into the ground despite plenty of intelligence and self-knowledge.  All his city friends alienated, following yet another binge he crashes in the country with a doctor he’s known since boyhood.

We worked in five below zero weather, fixing on an elm tree a wrought iron device which modestly proclaimed that he was indeed a country doctor.  I had no money – well, maybe a dime – and only the clothes I stood in.  “Bob,” he asked quietly, “do you want to live or die?”

He meant it.  I knew he did… I remembered the years I had thrown away.  I had just turned 46. Maybe it was time to die.  Hope had died, or so I thought.

But I said humbly, “I suppose I want to live.”  I meant it.  From that instant to this, nearly eight years later, I have not had the slightest urge to drink.

Bob threw himself into working the 12 steps in AA, which led him to great happiness.

Such lasting happiness can be found only by learning to love reality as it is.  To do this, we need to bring about major change in ourselves – something we can’t accomplish without help from the steps, from our fellows, and, most of all, from our god.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, drugs had just sprung lucy_in_the_sky_with_diamonds_by_alfredov90-d5tmlejinto mainstream popular culture.  As a kid listening to Beatles songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” or “Tomorrow Never Knows,” I imagined that drugs brought a higher awareness than just plain old consciousness – which was, for me, terribly uncomfortable. As I grew up, I embraced not just alcohol but “recreational drugs” – as if crippling my brain created anything.  I don’t know about you, but I dared to chase that vision, to venture far into the mysteries of the universe – so I sucked chemicals into my mouth and nose and lungs that essentially shoved my head up my ass, and from there I tried to marvel at the view.

It was dark.  It was lonely.  It was pointless.

I had to hit a bottom, to despair almost completely, before I could begin to see that in my search for “something cooler,” I had rejected life.  In my greediness to be loved, I had rejected loving.  And in my obsession with self, I had rejected a humble consciousness of my own soul and spirit – connection to god.

Deep down, every alcoholic knows they are committing a little bit of suicide with every drink.  We know we’re turning our backs on goodness and truth even as we laugh and whoop it up.  We vaguely sense that we’re completely full of shit, but we somehow can’t see a viable alternative.  It’s life.  Honing awareness in sobriety, I have found that plain old reality… is a trip.  It’s huge.  It’s rich.  It’s mind-blowing.

oak-treeTo love what is takes courage.  To love others without a parasitic agenda takes strength.  And to see clearly into ourselves takes humility.  I, of myself, have hardly any of the above.  But I borrow them (and more) from my god day after day, breath after breath.  I choose joy.

 

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*I’ll let you know when it comes out 🙂

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Filed under AA, Addiction, Afterlife, Happiness, Near Death Experience, Recovery, Sobriety, Spirituality