I am very sick and it is upon a hospital bed where I lay. The refrains of country music surround me. I hate the stuff but it seems appropriate. The music heralds my last rendezvous. Death is woe. Loss is woe. I was born to die and I have journeyed in between. And woe to me this country music which comes late at night on the radio my only companion now. The sadness of it all – dying. I know I am too sick to live and I’ll be dying soon. My pastor tells me sickness is not for death but for the glory of God. I don’t believe him. I am so sick he cannot tell. He leaves my bedside satisfied he is doing God’s work. My palliative care nurse leaves my bed the same way. Is it god’s work that she is doing? I am barely breathing. My eyes are doing the work of all my senses now. I study my carer’s faces as I once studied the contents beneath a microscope. Though I am dying I am not dead yet. There is some light left in me.
I hear them saying I am asleep forever. The big sleep. The eternal sleep. But I am not asleep like that! Not yet. I see myself breathing. My heart is pumping blood to all parts of my body, except the pancreas of course which is shot from cancer. Everybody is saying I have gone to the otherworld. And perhaps this is true. I am seeing myself in a way I’ve never seen myself before. I am not proud or feisty. I am not a scientist. I am not a parent. I am not robust. I am something else now. I am a dream of which I am remembering everything because I am in this dream. I am in every millisecond of it as if the time I was in were like the commuter trains passing by my parent’s back fence in London every few minutes or so and which fascinated me a child. The train sounds have never left me. They lie deep in my unconscious.
Stalking me is a shadow in my likeness. The likeness is of me when I was in my early twenties. Then I was a hippy who wore Admiral Nelson jackets, bell-bottom pants and chunky calf climbing boots. I had curly hair which grew out not down. I had long disowned this silly self of mine but now that it stalks me I am bemused enough to find it interesting. I understand what it is saying to me. And the shadow’s presence signifies that I have not died as my carer’s seem to believe I have. If I believe this shadow is an old version of me then I shall rise in a way that will astonish everyone now surrounding my bed. But I need to own it. The shadow is my life and believing in it will mean I might never truly die. It motions me to believe it, and without hesitation, because it is me, I believe this is the shadow of the person who I once disowned as embarrassing and who now comes to resurrect me.
Out of the shadow I see tears falling. It was weeping. And it groaned. Was this for me I wondered? Being a hippy in the 70’s wasn’t so bad. I had a lot of fun. Loved Hawkwind. I got high and dropped out. It was only for a few years. I planned to enrol at university and do a science degree which I did. Then it suddenly cries in a loud voice, Thelema, come forward. I hadn’t noticed but I was wrapped in white cloth from head to toe. And I saw them drop off me.
Upon the bed on which I lay I feel ointment being rubbed over my body. I feel hands and cloth. I feel tingling and other sensations. There is a strong sweet odour around my body. And my hospital surrounds then drastically changed. The shadow has taken me to another place. I passed through an entrance, a very long and narrow underground sewer or waterway; and it felt very humid, my skin clammy and moist, my sweat hot; I was stooping and my waters ran from beneath me increasing as I walked. The end of the waterway became a chamber into which I climbed cramping me. I thought of my hospital bed.
Has my shadow come in this dream to mock my present helpless and dying self? I am now filled with a sense of oppression, of stifling, and of a feeling of alienation so acute, feeling hopeless and thinking of death is my only escape. And as the air slowly withdraws from this chamber I feel my life force being painfully being rent out of my disabled body; when I should feel no pain in my body as though it is slowly exploding. I am struggling to describe the despair I feel, wishing I were dead to then end this torment and the pain.
My shadow has left me be in this place and I am without hope or comfort, and though I am risen in some way, it is not the rising I dreamed of. I am conscious of my struggle to breathe. There is no light; all around me is thick with darkness. I do not understand why this is; there is no light, and yet I can see my suffering. My life force is slowly being withdrawn from me through air. The air in me which fills the chamber which is emptying. And so go my appetites and desires I remember as they leave me, my tastes and pleasures, my ideas and perceptions, a self who made me so recognisable through time and maturity to others and who will never be repeated.
My shadow returns. Its face peers at me in my chamber. It is an old and weary face. The clothes remain the same. My body is weak and weary for I am old and the carers around my bed still say that I am in the otherworld where human spirits play and for those who believe in god the spirits are playing in heaven. Fly shall I with the billions who have lived and died before me. Fly shall the eternal future with the flying, the resurrected. I do not yet see anything. I am not moving and I do not know when the last of me will be drawn out as air. My shadow will not sign to me an acknowledgement of my distress and when it will finally be relieved.
In my past I am still living and moving with it and am, be it that I am at my end. My shadow is watching me slowly expire. Perhaps in this dream I am meant to die gracefully and with acceptance. I do not understand why this past character of myself was the one chosen to remind me that my younger self was nothing to write home about. There were others. How so when I was at my most virile, my most imaginative, my most energetic. I have admitted to myself that I had no idea what to do with this energy. Maybe there wasn’t much I could do except what I had decided to do. Youth is unexceptional until something happens that makes the world stand up and take notice. It is said that dramatic events are reserved for the youth. After all it is they who fight in wars, they who play competitive sports, they who procreate without fear. Many have gained the world and still they forfeit their youth to age and they are rewarded, for their unwearied names are tethered to memory like names on a war memorial.
My body does not shrink from the leaving air. Nor do I feel pain. It is as though what is leaving takes with it all the stresses and burdens my life bore. There were times when I felt utterly overwhelmed by my responsibilities. If only in this fading rest I could still eat my favourite pastas and drink my favourite cabernet and be merry with them before family and friends.
Though horribly wrinkled and skeletal I am of water still. For the essence of my dying flesh is in my body’s water. Since conception my body’s waters have been nourished by food that has come from the soils of the earth though I am not hungry right now. Is it that my waters are filled with memories of my ups and downs, my joys and passions, my losses which are slowly being drawn out of my in this ever expanding vacuum? For now I see greater darkness with a few bright crisp sparkles breaking the monotony.
My shadow presents something for me to read. It is written in thick black text on cardboard. It says “Let my waters bring forth a tempest of living swarms of flying creatures to cover the earth and spread beyond into the universe. From their clouds new breeds of my being are to descend onto the earth and multiply and create generations of creatures which will resemble Thelema’s shadow”. What? Hippies breeding to fill up the earth! No, it can’t be! This is not the character I am most proud of. I had too much fun that was all. I was never serious during those times. This troubled world needs a better quality of human than this frivolous characteristic of mine.
This dream is true then. As soon as I die I am a dead soul resurrected. I am very weak now. The chamber’s universe is getting blacker and blacker. There are no stars out here. My waters are going to return in the same way by serendipity my identity first came into being and my uniqueness returns to an unknown which seeded it. This is what my shadow is doing to me. I will be grateful to not know what these Thelema hippies are going to do. I pray that the sense of déjà vu do not arouse curiosity in those who sense it. Because I might be tempted to haunt them.