The Out of Body Secret
Having had the letter from Grace, we were prepared for her phone call.
“Your dad is not doing well. I think you had better come home,” she said.
Coming home was a big deal at that time. We had opted for a sabbatical year in New Zealand,
and spent all our spare cash, plus some borrowed from Philip's parents to pay for our tickets. Philip's salary was half what it had been at home, and we still had the mortgage and expenses of the house to pay, as well as those from our rented property in Christchurch.
So Philip, being an enterprising sort, went to the airport and asked if he could trade my return tickets for a return trip to Bismarck, ND in the USA. They eventually agreed, but not without quite a bit of persuading and checking with various authorities – as having a return ticket in your possession was one of the rules of the visa we had allowing us to spend the year in NZ.
Within a day or two, I was set. I couldn't do the trip in one go – and needed to spend a night in Los Angeles en route. My trip had taken me via Hawaii. How I wished I had been able to have my overnight stay there. But I did preserve the orchid that we each had on our dinner trays, to give to
Before we left, our kids, aged 7, 6, and 3 made a tape for Grandpa and I was so pleased
with them for speaking so well and cleverly on it. I was sure it would cheer him up no end. Our plans had included a stop in the US on the way home from New Zealand at Christmas time. We actually flew through the States on the way out, and having already had a 15 hour flight, our six hour layover in Los Angeles before the next 15 hour flight was not a great success. We really were living on a shoestring – and had bought train tickets to London by saving up the coupons on Corn Flakes boxes. Packing for a year, with three kids was no easy task – and we couldn't afford to pay for excess luggage. So each of us including the kids had their own carry on bag – but had only two
big suitcases with the rest of our stuff. When we tried to reboard our Air New Zealand flight – the official said our hand luggage weighed way too much and we had to get rid of two cases. “The plane
from London didn't crash due to the extra weight, and chances are neither will it now,” said Philip as he pushed past the man, and we all meekly followed in his wake. "You can blame us if it does," he said over his shoulder, but we were allowed on.
I arrived home in Bismarck about midday – and after going to their apartment to leave my one small case, we drove to Bismarck Hospital – where both dad and Grace had worked, so they were well known by the staff. Dad was in intensive care – with tubes all over the place. He looked so
fragile and old – he was only 65, and had just retired – but in those days when I was 33, 65 seemed very old.
I went to his bedside and kissed his cheek – and the look on his face was of pure love. I had never seen a look like that from him before, and it made me wonder if he thought I was my mother – his first wife. I do look a lot like her.
I gave him the browning and wilting orchid – not much a present any more and I told him
about the tape the kids had made. “You won't be able to play it here – not with oxygen in the room,” he said.
We didn't stay long, as he needed all his strength to get well, but I promised to return that
night for another visit.
I finally had a chance to find out from Grace what had actually gone wrong.
“He's had emphysema for a long time, as you no doubt know,” she said. “But a few weeks ago he got a bad cold and it settled on his chest. They thought it might have turned to pneumonia, so he was brought in the hospital and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Each day he had a
specimen taken from his lung to see if the infection was better – and on the last occasion, the nurse accidentally punctured his lung, and of course, his heart stopped. They called Code Blue, and the
resuscitation team were straight there, and before long his heart was beating again. But he isn't strong, and they don't give him a good prognosis,” she put in.
That evening, Grace left me along with Dad while she went to talk to the doctor about how
things were going.
“I'm glad you're here on your own,” said Dad, very softly and slowly. “I wanted to tell
you something and Grace wouldn't understand.”
“Okay,” I said, not sure of what was coming next.
“I died, you know, when I had the lung piercing problem. I died, and I had the strangest
experience. I was floating above the hospital bed, and I could see them working on my body.”
“Were you scared you were going to die?”
“No, I think mainly I was fascinated. I wasn't in pain. But do you see what it means? It
is proof that the soul lives after you die.”
“Did you see a white light in a tunnel and relatives waiting to welcome you to heaven?”
Just then Grace came back into the room, and the subject was changed and it never came up
again. Dad died a week later. I did wonder if he didn't want Grace to know, because he had seen my mother in his out-of-body state – and would know that Grace wouldn't have pleased to hear about it.