Do you remember the 1956 movie “The Search for Bridey Murphy?” It was based on the book by Morey Bernstein. I was 14 years old and already deeply involved in the study of reincarnation, since the it was often the subject of Sunday afternoon discussions between my father and his brothers, and I was inevitably somewhere closeby listening.
In a pivotal scene Colorado housewife VirginiaTighy (Teresa Wright) is hynotized and suddenly she begins speaking as Bridey Murphy, who tells about her death and watching her own funeral. She even described her tombstone and recalled feeling neither pain nor happiness, but witnessing everything that went on at her funeral. So for years I imagined death being like that. We’d be able to hover around and see everything still going on but no one would see or hear us. At the time it provided me some comfort at the thought of dying.
Three years later, I was a passenger in a car involved in an accident on the evening of the first day of January. Somebody had continued his drinking celebration all night the night before and well into the afternoon, and then decided it was a smart thing to do to go out for a drive in the moonlight I guess. I remember it was around 11 o’clock and my date was driving me home after an evening out. As we were driving by a big family house where friends lived, I remarked, “…looks like the Stricklands are having a big New Year party tonight.”
In what seemed like only seconds later I woke up lying on the side of the road with the VW bug upside down above me, the only thing keeping the car propped up, and from cutting me in half, was the opened passenger door. One strong wind or possibly a heavy truck passing by may have proved a tipping point and I would have been cut into two pieces. It would be months before I began to remember bits and pieces.
Apparently the inebriated driver had changed his mind about the drive after all and proceeded to make a wide u-turn in the middle of the highway just as we were approaching. I eventually gained back most of my memory to the point of actually “seeing” the lights of the vehicle coming toward us, though shock spared me the reality of re-experiencing the actual impact. That part of the memory is still missing, but somehow I seemed to have known the car was going to hit us broadside, and perhaps started to open my door to jump out in the last seconds before impact. That would explain why the door was propping the overturned vehicle.
Initially I was so confused that I asked the first face I saw, “What are you doing in my dream, Jack?” and “Are we in Heaven?” Jack was the eldest son of the Stricklands from the house we’d passed a few minutes before. That was important to the doctors later. That let them know that the part of my brain that remembers people and associates them with names was still functioning.
Weeks later, with the physical and emotional healing well underway, the shock worn off, I began to think back on how it felt when I woke up on the roadside that night. I remember it felt very comfortable, dreamlike, and people seemed to be floating around me mumbling words I couldn’t understand. But I felt perfect peace. And there was no conscious sense of anything before that moment. I hadn’t known I’d been unconscious. I didn’t know I was still in danger of the precariousness of the car’s delicate balancing over me.
I figure that must be what death is like. Your consciousness is simply abruptly cut off. If I had never awakened that night, I would be oblivious to everything in and of the world, including my family, my friends. They simply would not exist anymore. Whoever “I” was simply would not exist anymore.
Srange, but that seems okay. The way it should be. None of this spirit world Bridey Murphy existence for me. I don’t want to be aware of problems still on earth, possibly in my surviving family. I don’t want to see Hubby married to a woman who is not me. I wouldn’t want to see him unhappy if his choice was bad, nor would I like to know that his life without me is possibly better. I would simply prefer not to exist anymore.
And Francis Bacon was right. It’s the unknown that most concerns me. I still can’t imagine the world without me, but I have a feeling that it will go on just as well without me as with me. If it doesn’t, I won’t know a thing about it. At least that’s the way I think I’d prefer it to be. And friends, that’s where I draw my comfort even though it may sound a little crazy. (That concussion you know!)
What an ugly yet world changing moment. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, and I am delighted the car door propped up the car so we have you today. Hugs…….
When I was young I read Our Town and I was horrified by theconcept of an afterlife of passivity and lack of emotion. I remember that as well from Peter Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place .I fear death and the closer the people I love most come to that time, the more I fear it. It’s as if the loss of my aunt and grandmother sensitized me, like an allergic reaction, and now I am hyper-reactive to death and sorrow. Yes, I cry at telephone commercials (or did when I still saw them). I would love to have your equilibrium.
G, I wish there were words to comfort you about matters like these. At this point, I believe you’re still much too young to worry about yourself. There seems to be a pattern to aging. You know how children keep going through “stages” all the way to adulthood? Well, my classes on aging show me those “stages” continue to the end of life. It seems maybe the brain is “hardwired” to cope with all the things we’ll have to as we continue to live. Whoever designed us did a good job. I just wish I knew for sure if there’s somebody I should thank for that superior design.
That’s really thought-provoking, Alice. I agree that I wouldn’t want to know about the problems of my surviving loved ones. As I age (birthday soon), I do feel that I move into different stages, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
I feel the same way you do, Alice. I understand there will be nothing and It’s OK. Thanks for writing about something most of us don’t want to think about.
I have a different comfort about death and the process … It doesn’t worry me either. Though we don’t find the same comfort I do agree that it has come with experience and aging. There is satisfaction to life and a feeling of peace when we are doing our best, whatever that may be. Another thing I have learned as I’ve aged is that I have a more diverse group of friends and I love when they share these kinds of things.. I enjoyed your post.