Excerpted from My Life After Death: A Memoir from Heaven by Erik Medhus with Elisa Medhus, MD. Copyright c 2015 by Elisa Medhus To be published by Beyond Words/Atria, September 2015.
I knew that I needed to say good-bye to my family and friends. Technically speaking, my “good-byes” weren’t really good-byes. I just wanted my family members and friends to know that I was okay, that I still existed somehow, and that I appreciated all they’d given to me. I felt like I had done them wrong in the sense that I didn’t give them a chance to say good-bye to me. I was ready, but they weren’t. That’s where I kind of fucked up. Looking back now, I realize that I was already helping people when I was saying my good-byes.
Connecting to the people I love became easy after I died. The emotional distance I had at the beginning that I found so damn useful disappeared with that body bag after it was zipped up. I didn’t need that distance anymore. In a way, it was great because now—you know, we talk about using our five senses to emotionally and physically connect—as a spirit, I not only had those five senses, but I also had this whole other palette of emotions that I could use to reach out and connect. I could sense people’s feelings and hear their thoughts. I realized this new power was coming from me and that it was a natural sense, just like sight or hearing or smell, but unique to my new plane of existence, whatever that was. It was part of me, and it made me feel bigger and better and happier. Because I could tap into each one of my family members’ and friends’ feelings and thoughts, I decided to tailor every good-bye to how each person would have liked to experience it and what would be best for them. They couldn’t see or hear me, but I hoped that somehow it would soak in, and it turned out that it did.
It wasn’t like I was stuck with just picking up the phone and going, “Hey, man. I love you. Take care. Bye,” or like I stood in front of them with a bullhorn and shouted. I just sat next to them and talked, and since they processed everything I said energetically, I could give them the sensation or gut feeling that everything was going to be okay. I told each of them that I loved them, that I was leaving and that I was going to be fine.
On the day of the funeral, I could see everyone getting ready. I sensed the heaviness in everyone’s energy. It’s hard to describe—it was like a thick fog, and that fog had my name written all over it. My mom, in particular, seemed really detached. A part of her just went away that day, I think. I didn’t feel any negative emotions toward me coming from her, but I still wanted to hang my head down with sadness.
Then I went to the funeral home. I wasn’t required to go. No one made me. It was like there was this pull, like a kid sitting in front of a bowl of ice cream, and even though he’s told he can’t have it, he can’t stop himself.
First, I hung around the place where my body was. There were family members around me that I knew were already dead. It wasn’t so much that I could see them but more like I could sense them. I felt like they were there to support me and let me know that I wasn’t alone. I knew they had my back.
I looked at my body in the open casket and thought how much it didn’t look like me. I still couldn’t identify with it, so it didn’t really bother me. It was pretty surreal.
Another thing is that see your body as a shell. It’s like you’re a snake that’s just shed its skin, so when you look at yourself, it really doesn’t look like the person you were before. How can you get all emotional about that? So there’s nothing to handle emotionally because you don’t have any emotions about it to begin with. It’s the emotional ramifications your passing has on other people that gets you emotional.
Oh yeah, my service. It was kind of surreal—no, it was surreal— witnessing my own funeral. I hovered around the cars of the people who were showing up. A lot of my friends came, even the ones who weren’t so nice to me. I realized as I watched them that what they had done to me had nothing to do with me; it had to do with their own shit, like peer pressure or things that were happening in their own fam- ilies. It was like I suddenly understood the plotline of their movies. I felt compassion for them instead of getting upset or disappointed and that’s when I realized that I couldn’t hold on to negative emotions like I could before I died, even if I tried to. I might feel them for a split sec- ond, but they quickly evaporated. They were like drops of water falling into a hot skillet and completely sizzling away.
The best part about my funeral was that I felt so much love around me. There was so much laughter. It wasn’t what I would have expected a funeral to be like. Sure I felt sadness, but I felt happiness too. People shared their stories of what they remembered about me, what I had done for them and how much they appreciated it. I didn’t get to hear those things when I was alive. It made me wonder why people don’t share that shit more often in life, you know? No one should wait for death to share how they really feel.