I can’t freaking believe it. A team from Texas actually won a championship! Go Astros! I watched parts of it, but I tend to get a little nervous and emotional with these down-to-the-wire games, so I went to bed before it was all over. Of course I smiled with every hoop and holler I heard coming from the other room and knew that they won when the cheers could be heard by everyone in the surrounding tri-county area. Go Astros!!
Enjoy this Best of Erik. I can’t bear to read it again, though.
Me: Erik, can you describe death and what happens right afterwards in great detail—at least what happens for most. I know everybody’s death is different, but just give me whatever generalities you can.
(Long pause as Jamie listens to him)
Jamie: Okay. Hmm. I think he’s smoked out or something!
Me: Ah oh!
Jamie and I giggle.
Jamie: He’s laughing.
Me: He’s going to go out for some ethereal nachos later.
Jamie: Seriously! He won’t include me. He won’t tell me why he’s giggling, so I don’t know where it’s coming from.
Erik: To explain death in general, I think it does it an injustice, Mom. So, remind all of the readers at the beginning that death is hand tailored to the person’s living belief system. Whatever you’re actively believing in: nothing, God, you face your demons before you have joy, you become a ghost—whatever it is. This is going to be laid out for you.
Me: Okay, then let’s talk about your death. You’re dead; so let’s talk about that. What were your beliefs? I never really—
Erik: God, aren’t you rude!
Me: I’m sorry, but let’s talk about—
Erik: Put this down before we change subjects, because people are gonna ask, “Why is it based on your individual belief systems?” And you need to let them know that they’re the tool. The physical body is the luggage. It contains the spirit. When the body dies, it becomes a soul. It leaves the body, and that soul is then kind of contained in consciousness. That character that you built, all those intangibles, what made you laugh—
Jamie (to Erik): Yes, your personality. Got it.
Erik: And so the way it moves through these dimensions to get to Home, Heaven, whatever the hell you wanna call it, it’s gotta do that through that conscious element that you’ve set up—that belief system that you set up. That’s gonna be told to be there. So that’s the basis. Now, you’re asking me what I believed in. I don’t really fucking know. It definitely wasn’t all this! I learned way more about the structure of the afterlife by being here.
Me: Well, when you pulled that trigger, did you think there was going to be nothingness, or did you—
Erik: I was kind of hoping for it. I mean, really, I was so desperate to get out of my skin. I was just hoping that I could (pause) kind of what I would imagine, Mom, like a person with a puppy or a baby who has a lack of sleep. I just wanted a good night’s sleep. I just wanted some good, solid peace.
Me: Yeah. So, did you, uh, you were sort of hoping there was something, or you were not even thinking about it?
Erik: Wasn’t even thinking about it.
Me: Did you ever think about, in your life, whether there could be something afterwards?
Erik: Yeah! Yeah, cuz you hear, you know, those ghost stories. For me, it wasn’t about God or miracles. What I connected more to, which I thought was way more fucking unbelievable were the ghosts.
Jamie (to Erik): Really? That’s kind of a neat way to think about it, right?
Erik: Cuz it’s not like God’s coming down—
Jamie (laughing): The way he says it!
Erik: It’s not like God’s coming to your house and fucking with your shit and knocking stuff over! No, that’s the dead dude. So, you know there might be life after the one you’re living in, but shit, it doesn’t have to be based on a religious belief system. I had an inkling that there’d be an afterlife, but I had no fucking idea what it would contain.
Me: Okay. When you pulled that trigger, what happened right after? First of all, did it hurt?
Erik: No, I don’t remember any pain. I remember the sound, but I don’t remember anything touching me. Just the sound. So, I think, I guess you know how you get pulled from your body?
Me: So, you felt a pulling sensation?
Erik: No, it was weird. It was like the lights went out. You know, I got my eyes closed. I remember pulling the trigger. I remember I was quick about it. I didn’t hesitate. I knew I was going to do this. This was the time. That was it. I didn’t have any doubt about what I was doing. I wasn’t conflicted. It’s kind of like that set of mind?
Jamie (to Erik): What do you mean, “set of mind”? Me: Mindset?
Jamie: Yeah that.
Erik: That mindset you get when you’re running a really long race, and you see the finish line.
Me: Ah, yeah.
Erik: You don’t really tap in to how exhausted you are, or what emotions you’re feeling. You just have your eye on the goal, and you’re gonna get there. For me, I had my eye on the goal. I had to get out. I remember the feel of the gun, pulling the trigger, hearing the sound. There’s darkness, and they I was looking at my body.
Me: Hmm. That must have been freaky.
Erik: Yeah. I had no clue. I did NOT know that I would be able to see myself. That never even crossed my mind. I really just kind of thought I would go into nothing. I wanted it to crumble. I wanted it to go away. I wanted to snuff it out.
Me: What were your emotions like when you saw your body? What did you feel?
Jamie (to Erik): Oh, that’s the face? (To me) He just kind of went blank on me, and his mouth hung slightly open, and he just, he said that’s what he felt.
Me: His jaw dropped? That sort of thing? Like “What the fuck”?
Erik: No, no, Mom! It was wild. I didn’t know what the fuck. It was more of an, “Oh. Oh.” I didn’t want to stay there. I didn’t want to see everything, but I couldn’t leave. It’s like watching a bad car wreck.
Me: Oh, yeah.
Erik: But I wasn’t tethered to it at all. It was bizarre.
Me: Tethered emotionally?
Me: What else did you feel?
Erik: I guess it was shock more than anything.
Me: Did you feel euphoria along with it?
Erik: Quiet. It was quiet. I had no pain. I didn’t have any worries, and that was unsettling, because I hadn’t felt that in a long time, like everything was in its right place.
Erik: So, I think it was way more unsettling that celebratory.
Me: Did you think it was cool to just fly around? Did you feel that unconditional love that a lot of people talk about?
Me: Or was that when you crossed over?
Erik: Yes. When I crossed over.
Me: All right. Let’s talk more then. So, you were looking at that (his body), and you were like, “Wow”, and there was a little bit of shock. Did you feel a little bit of, “Oh, shit? What are they going to think when they find me?”
Jamie: He’s real quiet. I can tell he’s going through it.
(Very long pause)
Jamie: I’m telling him to take his time.
Erik: You know, I don’t slow down to think about my death too much.
Erik: To me, it was a way out. It has a lot of pain associated with it.
Me (tearing up): Mm hm.
Erik: It’s not just my pain, but my family’s pain and mu friends’ pain.
(Long pause. Clearly he’s not comfortable)
Me (sensing his discomfort and wanting to spare him further pain): Well, let’s not dwell on it. Let’s go to what happened and what it felt like when you started getting out of your room. Tell me about that.
Erik: I remember seeing my body leave.
Me: You body leave? Oh, when they were taking you away?
Erik: In the bag.
Me: Okay. Right.
Erik: Then I remember thinking that I needed to say goodbye.
Erik: And if I remember right, That’s when I started checking in with family members.
Me: That must have been painful, because we were not happy.
Jamie: He’s got his elbows on his knees; his hands are clasped in front of him. Very casual, but he’s (pause) solemn. A little bit more solemn.
Erik: I remember finding—
Jamie (with emotion): Aw. He’s tearing up.
Me: Oh. We don’t have to do this, Baby.
Erik (teasing): Shut up, Mom.
Jamie: Tearing up, but not afraid to tell you to be quiet.
I chuckle softly.
Erik: When you slow down to go back through your memories, you see more. You do miss a lot when you’re in the moment, like your eyes aren’t big enough. I know I’ve told you before. I’m really sorry—for you. I’m really sorry for Pappa and for everyone else in my family.
Me (sobbing quietly): Yeah.
Erik: But I know there’s one thing—I cannot apologize for my happiness.
Me: I know. I’m happy for you. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had to choose between you being here an miserable, of course…
Erik: How fucked up is it, Mom, that that was my option?
Me: Yeah. I wouldn’t want that to happen.
Erik: What I can’t seem to figure out when I go through it again, “Why does it hurt so bad when the outcome was exactly what I was looking for?
Me (still crying): And you’re happy. I mean, how could it hurt when you’re happy? I’m just looking at the moment. The moment is unhappy, but the result was happy. So, we’ll move past the moment. Tell me about your crossing over. Did you, I remember you said something like you felt like you were bing tugged by your shoulders. I can’t remember exactly.
Erik: Yeah. I felt like I was being pulled back. I guess I just really wasn’t’ paying attention. It sounds like me, anyway. Like, I was looking at something I wasn’t supposed to be looking at.
Me (confused): You were looking at something you weren’t supposed to be looking at?
Jamie: He’s speaking in general.
Me: Oh, okay.
Erik: That’s probably why I didn’t’ see this big gorgeous white light, you know, hear angels sing!
Jamie (giggling): He’s laughing.
I chuckle through my tears.
Erik: Nah, I was probably fucking doing something wrong and over to the side. Probably I got jerked.
Me: Oh, I see. I see.
Erik: Yeah. THAT feeling was unspeakable. That one is like taking a body and putting it through a strainer and have all of the pieces come out on the other end, but different. Clean. I supposed it would be the feeling that I would think back in the old times when people thought that if they were baptized by Jesus, everything would disappear and they’d only be good. That’s really what death is.
Me: Wow. Mm.
Erik: You really are good. You’re not missing those other parts. They’re still with you, but they don’t play a big part of the song. You don’t lose any of yourself, but what comes forward is this overwhelming sense of perfection, being in the right place, being loved and you being able to FEEL it. Like, there’s not even the tiniest comment or remark about doubting what’s coming your way or if there was some string attached, or were they just trying to lure you and really it was Hell, you know. (He chuckles.) None of that. It just, it’s so much you don’t even weep about it. That’s when your family and your friends show up. When you notice you’re not alone.