I sit here now writing this at the wake of a funeral. I do not cope too well at these events. Not funerals you understand! The after event. Funerals are easy enough, there is a good dress code, little audiance participation, some form of reading in which to take 40 winks and everyone keeps much to themselves. But afterwards people feel the need to, connect. They reminisce about the departed, eat and drink as if it was a wedding, laugh and catch up saying things like, “oh, so many people have come!”, ” it’s so nice to see everyone, we all must meet up more often.”
I found myself quickly to one side of the room; spiked coffee in hand, allowing the vicinity and close proximity of death and the abrupt nature of our mortality wash over me. Taking me back…
To what I saw there.
Remember those times when you have gone to bed and slept. You wake and are certain you have slept hours and it must be nearly moring, but you check your watch and but a few minutes have past. Post mortum oblivion stretches on for an eternity of dreamless sleep.
I do not remember any tunnel of light that is so characteristic of accounts of near death experiences. As I sank beneath the salt waves the sea water stung my eyes and they watered. I chocked for breath and my lungs filled and there was a light, the light of what had been a pleasant sunny day refracted through the water into an effervescent underworld.
The light faded fast to nothingness.
I feel I should not write any more for at least a decade. As illustration of how that time felt languishing in the dark. It was not like sleeping. There was no rest; no dreams. Instead think of being locked in a sound proofed dark room, your body subjected to some paralyzing drug that has numbed your body. Stripped of all senses some malignant scientist with infernal instruments at his disposal plucks out your memories, your dreams and desires, your capability to imagine, your identity.
Less than a shell caught on the swell of a infinite tide. A vacuum for nothing to be caught up in.
In a moment, I remember this one thing. An epiphany, sprung from the void. That I was nothing. That in nothing I was; and ‘I’ was.
I was lying on earth. I don’t remember opening my eyes but just looking around at trees, a forest of great trees. The earth was damp and the ground soft with a bed of plants and rotting fall. It was dark, from the overhead coverage or it being dusk I couldn’t say, but for all the plants and flora surounding me; it was devoid of colour. No ruddy trunks to the great trees; a grey that betook a hue of ocre. As if the colours of the world had been muted, dulled, drained.
I suddenly felt the urge to gag; to cough up a fountain of water, but succeeded only in choking myself. There was no water in my throat or lungs. My body didn’t ache. Yet I knew I should be in pain but I couldn’t remember why. How I had come to be there, completely elluded me.
It is hard describing the confusion I felt. If you have ever suffered memory loss you’ll know the worry. It is like you know who you are but are unable to say. Like when you hear a song and it is familiar, you know it’s name and maybe the words but can’t voice them.
I was sure that I was a somebody and that I shouldn’t be there. That it was all wrong and I had been placed in this wood by some unknown agent who undoubtably wished me ill.
I did what any one would do. I got up and brushed myself down. I was dressed, a good start, in clothes I felt comfortable in. A loose shirt open at the collar, a deep red and nice fabric. My jeans, light boots. My watch was gone. I knew I must have one because I looked for it automatically. Pockets empty. Assuredly a victim of theft while I slept.
There were no paths. The trees appeared thick, the shrubbery dense. To my eyes every direction looked the same. A hard chore to walk but what would aid me in lying back on the earth? I decided to walk the way I was facing and not stop.
I stumbled more often than walked.
The wild bracken impeded me, the trees and bushes blocked my passage.
I walked a long while, but the sky being shrouded, and the light a constant grey and shadow, refused to betray how long I had laboured.
I began to consider climbing a tree for a look out when I heard something. The first sound I had heard in that wood. In that instant I realised how devoid of sound it had been. No bugs buzzing, no birds, no crickets, even my feet on the gorse seemed muffled. But I heard a clear sound. A tinkling, trickling, laughing sound of water running over rock. I was overjoyed! Water meant life. It meant direction. I followed the sound and walked on.