Memories of Near Death


Dr. Raymond Moody, in his book, Life After Life, explains that near-death experiences are a cross-cultural phenomenon depicted in Biblical passages, the writings of Plato, and the Tibetan Book Of The Dead. He writes that to talk of life after death seems atavistic; a superstitious impulse born of fear, estranged from a scientific present.

In my novel, Crystal From The Hills, I write about a character, Chris Leavitt (nicknamed Crystal), who indulges his own atavisms, struggling with various lives after deaths: most immediately, the death of his friend and doppelganger, Weed; the death of his father from lung cancer; the spiritual death of his mother, mired in grief following the death of her second husband in the 9/11 attacks. Above all, Chris struggles with his own deaths: the literal and the existential. He laments the loss of youth, and acts out a lie instead of dealing with the reality of being adult. He observes the loss of freedom in the workplace, and in the street, and so pounds the pavement of Oakland in defiance. He notes the loss of his sex drive, partly resulting from methamphetamine withdrawal; partly a product of shame–for Chris, sex has brought mostly pain. Meanwhile, he is AWOL from his job; disappeared, like Weed, from his home in Richmond, where he does not belong. He returns, prodigally, to where he once did belong–the hills–to hear strident counsel of his Aunt Jenny, a vital yet aging woman who is awaiting death herself, yet holding so as to live vicariously through youth. Chis is alive yet dead: such is the life of the traumatized, wading robotic through their days(ze), hanging on to the fabric of their lives, their relationships, hoping that something will come along to reinvigorate.

For Chris, as with many who dwell in trauma, memory may provide a portal to healing. The future is in the past and the end is in the beginning. And so my story begins with the words, “He’s dead”, delivered with minimal context and shorn of feeling. Later there is recollection, and with it, plenty of feeling: a blend of terror and hope. Read…

“Chris struggled to the surface amid the unspeakably cold water. The seeming attack of the seaweed had him flailing momentarily, and looking down to see what horror was beneath his feet. The vision was human—his own face staring back at him. For a suspended eternity, Chris left his body and felt enveloping warmth. Death? He wanted to shut his eyes and hasten the end, and yet he could not look away. Then as he blinked the cold returned, as did life. Someone, or thing, was giving him a second chance, he then realized. Problem is: now he’d have to do something with that. Now he’d have some kind of new responsibility. Looking down, he saw the likeness of Weed, gazing up with terror-stricken eyes” (from the novel, Crystal From The Hills)

Don’t want to read it yet? Well, for more, check out the video:

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