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My Death 7Title: My Death: A Personal Guidebook
Genre: Spiritual/Self-Help
Author: Jeremy Kagan
Publisher: Balboa Press
Pages: 124
Language: English
Format: eBook

Purchase at AMAZON

This is a powerful memoir of a near-death experience. After a Native American sweat lodge, the author loses control of his body and then his life. He begins a passage that leads to a personal hell. He discovers a way to escape and emerges into an amazing exploration of the soul’s journey. In this intense adventure, there are insights into stages of consciousness and encounters of blissful perfection. This spiritual, inspirational book is meant to be an aid to removing the universal fear of the final journey we are all taking.

First Chapter:

I was with a high school buddy who told me that his greatest fear is dying and death. I wanted to comfort him. I thought if I shared my personal experience to that ‘undiscovered country,’ it could relieve some of his anxiety. And that is what I want to do for all those who read this. I’d like to make it easier to navigate where we all are headed.

***** Death is not the end of being.*****

It was the evening of a cold Sunday on the thirteenth day of December in Los Angeles, California, The United States of America, planet earth, the Milky Way. It was the day before my birthday.

My whole body was sweating. Every pore was oozing. I had never been this hot. I could barely breathe. Would I survive?

I was in a sweat lodge. These ‘sweats’ are purification rituals where you join a group of people, often strangers, and you all enter a dark enclosed space that gets very hot.

I had done sweats before. In the darkness I had shared wishes, confronted issues of life and death, and I had sweat. A lot. In these previous sweats, I had been able to deal with the discomfort. Later I learned about an infamous case where people died in a sweat that was improperly prepared, poorly led and overcrowded. I wonder if I would have gone to this particular sweat had I known people died in that one. But you can die anywhere.

Sweats were always a test for me. A lot of my life has been about passing tests.

The test of a sweat is to be present. In the heat. To be honest. In the heat.

I was in one of those transitional phases in life where I figured I might learn something from this kind of uncomfortable encounter. It seemed like a good way to sort some things out. Join in a circle of other humans in the dark. In the heat.

I had been working in the film world as a director and I had a fairly successful career up to then. But I was troubled about my future. Earlier that afternoon, I had attended a party in Topanga Canyon with a friendly crowd of Hollywood movie co-workers and ‘wannabes’ and a number of ‘has-beens.’ It was Christmas time in Los Angeles and it was all good cheer, jingle bells and twinkling palm trees.

At the party I talked about the film project I was working on and others talked about theirs. As the sun started to cast shadows, I knew it was time to move on. I made a circuit through the rooms, saying my goodbyes and thanking my hostess. She wrote a feature I had directed some years back. We liked each other, even though we rarely stayed in contact. That was the way of things for me in the movie business. I would get close to my crew and cast when working on a film. We would become a family; but after the film was done, the relationships would dissolve. If I ran into someone years later, there might be a hug and a few shared memories, and then we would drift away to our separate lives.

I climbed into my white 1981 Avanti and drove off. I liked this car. It was a classic coupe with a sleek design and red interior upholstery. Now I wasn’t a car person and could barely fix a flat tire, but when I saw my first Studebaker, I became a fan. This handsome vehicle was its last iteration. It got a lot of attention on the street. I liked to tell the story of how it was made.

The great industrial designer Raymond Loewy had his associates conceive the car in two weeks. He isolated them in a desert town where they were denied drink and women. The result was an auto that has feminine curves. It was also a car that had saved my life once. A torrential rain had turned Los Angeles streets slippery. I was driving a curved road in Beverly Hills, and suddenly the Avanti went into a 360 degree spin sliding toward a telephone pole on the driver’s side.

This was going to be bad. But to my surprise, the car stopped inches short of crashing. I breathed easier and was very grateful. Whatever and whoever was watching over me had decided not to kill me then. I had heard that you have a number of close calls before your actual death. This was one of mine. There were others.

So here I was now, in my Avanti, driving fast along the Pacific Coast Highway. I was heading into the Malibu Mountains. The route was lonely, full of curves, and sparsely inhabited. I was already late. It was a bad habit of mine back then.

My mind wandered and worried. The other sweats I had done had been strenuous and unpredictable. I’d seen things in the blackness.

Often the heat had been so heavy, I had wanted to leave before the ceremonies were over. In the past I had stayed to avoid the embarrassment of what I thought would be seen as failure. How would I handle this next sweat? Another test.

Thoughts of what might occur in this sweat pre-occupied me. I suddenly realized I was lost.

I had passed the junction for the turn off and gone way too far up the road. I pulled over and switched directions. I headed back down the mountain more slowly, paying attention to where I was.

Would I find the way in? Around the next corner, a small signpost pointed to a narrow dirt road. It read The Wright Land. This was where I was supposed to go.

The Avanti, somewhat of a low rider, wasn’t meant for rough roads. It bumped over the pits and rocks through a narrow passageway that led up a hill. Enormous red boulders threatened to scrape the doors. I bounced around until reaching a crest, which opened up to a large plateau below. In the distance was a dramatic cliff that dropped off into the ocean.

Vehicles were lined up on the grassy field below. Clearly, the other participants had already arrived. I drove down the hill and parked. I got out and hurriedly grabbed some towels from my back seat. The sun had not completely set, so even though late, I knew there was still some time before the ritual would actually begin.

I decided to walk up a little mound next to an unfinished home on the cliff. The structure was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and belonged to his grandchildren who owned the property, hence The Wright Land. On this knoll, the ground was marked out with white stones in the shape of a prayer wheel with its spokes extending in the cardinal directions. I stepped into the circle and sat on the cool ground. I was trying to center and calm myself.

The sun was creating a golden red sky. I tried to slow my breathing. Get peaceful. It didn’t work. I was still a little anxious. I stood up.

I turned, walked down the hill, and passed a lily pond with croaking frogs. I hiked up an incline through red tan sandstone outcropping. Behind these rocks was the sweat lodge.

The structure looked like a sphere cut in half. Created by bending and interweaving branches, it was about six feet high in the center. It was covered with a variety of faded quilts, so that it looked like a big colorful upside down teacup. The coverings are used to keep in the heat and the dark.

In front of the lodge was an open round fire pit filled with logs and thirty-six football-sized volcanic rocks. A shallow dirt channel led from this fire pit to the lodge. It’s called the ‘spirit pathway.’ You are not supposed to step over this channel which is as a sacred space for the heated rocks to enter the lodge. You avoid crossing the path to keep the energy flowing. That’s how I understood it. No human interference.

Like many lodges, this one had a small entrance flap. In front of it was a collection of various totems including a carved whale bone, eagle and owl feathers, an indigenous medicine pipe, a Yaqui Indian rosario which is a beaded paper flower necklace, and a reindeer horn from Russia.

Many of these symbols resonated with me. Some recalled my Russian ancestors. I had learned the language while in high school. Much of the culture appealed to me including the authors Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, the music of Tchaikovsky, balalaikas, icons, vodka, lacquer boxes, the revolution and the genius film director and writer Sergei Eisenstein.

He was my inspiration to become a filmmaker. Of course, there were the negative Russian associations as well, like the slaughtering Cossacks and the pogroms persecuting the Jews. This was one of the reasons my grandparents left that country.

The owl feathers also resonated. This bird had been a totem animal for me. An image of an owl had appeared during a previous sweat. My eyes had been open in the darkness of that sweat, and though the space was pitch black, I saw this owl clearly. Later I looked up the owl’s significance in other cultures. In one tradition, it is a messenger from unknown worlds, including the world of the dead, whatever that was.

The totem of a whale bone reminded me of the stunning songs of humpback whales I had heard on a vinyl record back in New York when I was a graduate film student. Their otherworldly deep ocean sounds suggested a hidden knowledge. These giants possessed a long distance communication ability way beyond our comprehension.

All these items – the whale bone, the feathers – had been brought to the sweat by my friend Michael. He had introduced me to these Native American traditions.

I met Michael when I was approached to be the director of an ill-fated movie about a clown who was imprisoned with children in a Nazi concentration camp.

As we exchanged histories, it turned out that a month before, unknown to each other, we had been at the same Yaqui Easter Indian ceremony outside of Tucson where participants wore masks and mixed Catholicism with Indian myths. The theme of that ritual was death and resurrection. We were among the few white people in attendance.

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My name’s Joe Davis. I run a small detective agency that handles the usual type of case found in a small town like Meadeville. Runaway mates and divorce cases our specialty. Occasionally, we get a case with more hair on it, but never anything like the one that just wandered in off the street one day.
It was a typical July afternoon when even the sidewalks were sweating. I sat in front of an open window with a small fan blowing on my face as I leaned my back against the desk with my feet on the sill. The copy of Playboy I’d been lusting at slid off my lap when the door to my inner office opened.
I jumped up and got into my desk chair and tried to look busy. The hair on my neck and arms rose as if an electrostatic charge had passed over me as I sat. I glanced up. I never should’ve done that.
A character dressed in a black robe was blocking the doorway. His face was lost in the folds of an overlapping hood.
“Come in,” I said. Never should’ve done that either.
The guy–well, he wasn’t a guy… Couldn’t tell what it was. He just stood there.
“You are Joseph Daniel Davis?” His voice was deep with gravel in it.
“Yeh. What do you want?” I didn’t like the get up. “It ain’t Halloween,” I said. Made me hotter just looking at him and besides, he give me the creeps.
“You find people?”
I didn’t like twenty questions with the door open. “Close the door and we’ll discuss it,” I said.
You can imagine my shock when he turned to close the door. A huge, long-handled scythe with the blade pointing back rested on his shoulder.
Death!
I blinked and shook my head. Couldn’t be. Some stupid prank.
I pulled my pistol from the side desk drawer where I keep it and pointed it at him just in case.
He set the scythe against the wall with a large crack in the plaster and approached my desk. Then he pushed his hood back so I could see his face. I wished he hadn’t done that. He didn’t have a face!
I froze in my chair. My pistol fell onto the desk. I had trouble breathing. Death heads do that to me.
He loomed over my old wooden desk so I had to look up at him. A skull doesn’t have any expression but I swear those empty eye sockets could see me.
I couldn’t even shudder.
“What do you want?” I did manage to croak.
He pointed across the desk at me with a fingerbone that poked out of his sleeve.
“You can stop being afraid,” he said. His jaw moved, but I didn’t see how he could form any words. His voice sounded like rocks rolling around in a tin can.
How was it I could understand him?
I tried to breathe again. I stammered, repeating, “What–what do you want?” I still couldn’t move.
“I’m not here for you,” he rattled. “I want to hire you.”
“Is this some kind of joke?” I forced the question out. “Did my ex-wife send you?” I didn’t really believe this was happening. He wasn’t real. Somehow I was being had. And I thought my vicious ex was the most likely to set me up.
“I’m not a joke,” he rattled again. “I want you to find someone.”
“How do I know you’re real?” I asked. “I don’t think death has a physical form.”
“You require proof. Very well.” He touched the pot of the only other live thing in the office, an african violet my last secretary gave me. Its meaty leaves shriveled as the lavender blossoms turned brown.
Then he turned back to me. “Do you believe now?”
I was forced to, wasn’t I? “Yes.”
“Fine. Shall we continue?” he asked.
I closed my eyes. Ah…I could move my eyelids.
As if he knew what I was thinking, my visitor said, “You can move if you want. Fear paralyzed you. Not me.”
I tried to move. I could. A little. My brain began to function, too. Well, sort of. I realized if he was Death and had come for me, I’d be gone. So maybe he was telling the truth about not coming for me. And maybe I was going to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. A guy in his line of work probably said anything he had to, to get the job done. I mean, he was one of those Four Horsemen.
“Okay, who is it you want found? And I gotta know why. For the records.” I tried not to let him see I thought I found a way to get rid of him. “And I don’t do nothing illegal.” Meanwhile, I’d try to think of how to send him on his way–without me.
He straightened and moved back from the desk a few inches. “I want you to find Calvin Desmond James. It’s his time.”
That threw me for a loop. His time? “You want me to find some guy so you can take him?”
The skull nodded.
I started to shake my head when the weirdness of the situation hit me. I laughed.
He never moved.
I started to feel uneasy. “I can’t do that. I can’t be no party to no killing.”
“You wouldn’t kill him.” Death said. “I will. He’s going to be thrown from his motorcycle and I have to be there.”
“Why do you need me?” I tried to figure this out.
“We don’t know where he is.”
Well, there went any theory I might have had. Death couldn’t find somebody? I didn’t believe that.
He read my thoughts again. “We need him.”
“Who is he that he’s so important? Why don’t you just go on to your next vic–er the next person on your list?” My body suddenly went limp. I was free. I could move so I did. I slid my chair back against the wall as far from him as I could get.
“Several years ago they hired him to program our computers–we didn’t know how–and when he was done, he said his work was guaranteed and if we had any problems to come get him. We found a problem and now we need him.”
“What’s the problem? I know several geeks who could probably fix it.”
Death shook his head. “Mr. James left his name off our list.”
“Just one guy. Why not forget him and go on to the next one?”
“He’s not allowed to live forever. He’s eighty-three now and it’s his time.”
This was really getting strange. “So because he’s old now, you gotta take him? How did you know about him at all if he’s not on your list?”
“We share data. The birth records have to match the death records. If we let him go, it becomes a bookkeeping nightmare. Always short one in the accounts closed column.” He leaned over the desk again. “That would never do.”
Death works for a bunch of bookkeepers?
“How do you know when he’s supposed to go, if he’s not in your records?” I asked. I couldn’t figure out how they could know the time a guy was supposed to go and not know where he was. Didn’t make any sense.
“The time of passing is included at birth. Each person has an allotted time. No more. Each one is different.”
“Don’t you keep track of him while he’s here?”
Death shook his head. “That’s the Life Department and they have trouble keeping their data up to date since the invention of the automobile.”
I kept quiet for a minute. Let him think I was considering taking the job. Okay. One thing sure to drive him away.
“You’ll have to sign a contract,” I told him. “It’s a standard form. I don’t take any job without a contract. I have to protect my license and, in case you don’t pay,” I figured I had him here. Death wouldn’t be carrying cash or have a credit card, “I have proof you hired me if we gotta go to court.”
No response. Nothing. Several seconds passed and then he nodded. The hood fell over his skull again.
“I’ll sign the contract,” Death said in that rolling-rock voice of his.
How could he? For a few moments I didn’t know what to do. He’d called my bluff. So I took it one step farther. “I require five hundred bucks up front for two days and expenses. I refund anything not spent and you get a copy of the expense sheet. A bill, if it takes longer than two days.”
He nodded again. The skeleton of a complete hand came out of the sleeve this time with five one-hundreds in it. He lay them on the desk.
I opened the center desk drawer and took out a contract and pen. While I had it open, I put the pistol back, then pushed the form over to him. He appeared to stare at the form for a bit and then one word appeared on the line where the client signs.
Death.
I sagged in my chair. I had Death as a client. I was stuck. I figured if I tried to weasel out now, he’d take me for spite. Besides, I needed the money.
So, okay. I had a new client. He wanted a man found. I took a deep breath and found my backbone. Yeh, I know. Bad pun.
“Do you want to know what Mr. James looks like?” Death asked.
I shook my head. “Nope. Just tell me how you got in touch with him the first time.”
He appeared to ruminate over the facts. “We ran an advertisement in the help-wanted section of the local newspaper.”
Huh?
“And he answered it?” I asked.
Death nodded, his hood fluttering in a breeze the came in my window.
I looked at the sky. A storm was coming in. There’d be lots of noise in those clouds. They were black as sin, black as Death’s robe. I’d have to close the window and then I’d roast. The landlord hadn ‘t installed the new air conditioner yet.
“How long will it take you to find him?” Death asked, interrupting my train of self-pity.
I looked at him. Well, best get it over with. “Not long,” I told him.
I pulled the cover off the computer and turned it on. I seldom used it, not being a techno-geek. It sat on a little stand in a shadowy corner out of the way. It always took a while to warm up. After a prolonged period of coffee-grinder sounds and grunts like a contented pig, the screen lit up. I clicked on the logo for my server and waited for the connection.
No, I didn’t have the speedy service. Cost too much. I only used the machine to play games and visit a few adult sites. Yeh, I know. I had too much free time. My ex-wife says the same thing. I need to get a better job…
Finally, the server answered and I was on. I brought up the search engine I favored and clicked on the name find logo. When the screen came up, I typed in Calvin Desmond James, clicked and waited.
Death seemed taller now. His hood faced the monitor. I swear his bones rattled with excitement.
A screen came up, notifying me of sixty-six Calvin Desmond James in the country.
“I’ll need Mr. James’ last known address,” I told Death as I started looking for an eighty-three year old man. The name find service I subscribed to included age, occupation, address, criminal record, date of birth, phone number, and other information.
“He never gave it to us.”
I raised my head to look at him. “How did you pay him? Didn’t he send you a bill?”
The hood moved in a negative fashion. “He was paid just as you have been.”
Great. So now I had to check all the names.
I scrolled down slowly, discounting the first fifteen. On the sixteenth, I sensed that static electrical charge again.
Death pointed at the screen. “That’s him. He’s eighty-three.”
“There might be more than one. Let me finish checking before you go rushing off and maybe get the wrong guy,” I objected. Much as I wanted him gone, I had to be sure.
He seemed to be fidgeting with his robe, but he waited. I noticed though that he moved closer to the door and his scythe.
I rolled through the rest of the list and found no more of a matching age. I scrolled back up to the sixteenth name. “That’s him,” I said. And felt sad for the guy who thought he’d fixed it so he’d live forever. But bookkeepers are a persistent bunch. They’ll spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to find a missing penny so I guess Death is one of them.
Death opened the door and turned to me. “If we ever need to find anyone else, I’ll be back.” He vanished.
Wonderful. Just wonderful.
Fini??

Copyright 2009. This story may not be copied or reprinted without permission from the author. Previosuly published in New Mystery Reader.

About the author:

Anne K. Edwards enjoys writing mysteries, but dabbles in children’s stories and other genre. She reviews for some publicists and web zines and is co-editor of Voice in the Dark ezine. She is a member of Pennwriters and Books We Love. She does an occasional editing job and loves to read. Her website is http://www.Mysteryfiction.net.

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