This is dedicated to Mark, wherever he may ďnowĒ be.
This story begins in January 1976 - with the ending of a young life. My step-son was killed in an accident involving his 1966 Mustang and a school bus.
The events that preceded and followed his death are chronicled here. There were ongoing premonitions of the event before Markís death, and many conversations with Mark after his death.
Markís name and mine are the only accurate oneís that you will find here. I have changed the remaining names, as this is not intended to be a book involving any living persons other than Mark and myself.
Yes, Mark is living. Thatís the message. Thatís Markís word. I hope that those of you feeling the pain of loss find comfort in Markís description of ďthe other sideĒ.
Around midnight, January 19, 1976:
Thatís how it began. Mark was killed in a car accident on the afternoon of January 19, 1976...the bicentennial year that he never saw. Mark was 17, a senior in highschool. He was driving home from school around 3:15pm on a dreary day - a day of snow mixed with rain. Cloudy. Cold. Wet. Messy. He stopped on the way out of the school parking lot to help a friend get his car started. His friend - and Joyce, Markís girlfriend, were at the hospital that evening.
Joyce: Oh, Iím
so sorry about Mark. Oh, I feel so terrible.
(crying, crying, and more
The need for completion is very strong. I suppose not seeing Marís body left a lot of things undone in my mind. That night at the hospital, a nurse came in and rustled us into a room and closed the door. She offered no explanation except that ďIt will be just a minute.Ē
I didnít know what she was talking about. My husband Jim said that they are probably moving the body - that Mark had to go to the county hospital because the accident happened on a county road. All of a sudden it rushed in on me...moving his b-o-d-y!! I tore open the door and ran down the hall.
They were rounding the corner with beautiful Mark laying quietly on the stretcher. He was covered with a sheet - mostly. His tennis shoes were easily identifiable...but I wasnít prepared for the emotion connected to recognizing the right arm of his jacket hanging out from under the sheet. I stood in the hallway frozen. I never saw him again.
I wish I had.
I guess I heard that a
lot those first few days...ĒI canít believe heís dead... We didnít help any by
choosing to have a closed casket. For some reason, the whole thing was never
really final. I never saw his body. I guess he was in the casket, but Iíll
always wonder what he looked like.
CM: Do you
really think heís in there? I donít know. Why didnít they open it?
(more crying, and more crying.)
You know, I wonder if the crying ever stops. To this day, when I re-live this, I cry. Iím crying now. Itís difficult to lose a son...or a step-son. Itís not supposed to happen. Kids are not supposed to die before their parents.
R: I hate
this! I hate this!!! Kids arenít supposed to die before their parents.
Thatís not the right way! Itís not supposed to happen that way!
(Wow! I was experiencing everything Mark was ďsaying.Ē The light was like none other I had ever seen. And it burst open. There was a hint of it for just a second, and then it just burst open! Incredible! The brightest thing you ever saw...and sound -not music - but sound - not the sound of an explosion, but the sound of explosion. And then it softened.)
R: Oh Mark!
That was wonderful. You didnít feel anything at all!
The next night Mark and I talked about that experience. I asked him to go over it one more time:
M: I can find
you. Not your thoughts but you and then I experience what you
are experiencing. Thatís how I talk to you.
I experienced it again.
M: See? You
see it or experience it but you never moved from where you were.
But you experienced it just like it happened to me.
I found out a lot of incredible things. Havenít you always wanted to know what ďheavenĒ was like? Donít you have a lot of questions youíd like to ask? Just for fun, take a few minutes and write down all the questions youíd ask about ďthe afterlifeĒ if you had the chance. Go ahead. Really do it. Write out the entire question in long hand. Iíll wait for you, and then weíll do an experiment. Donít cheat...go write your questions.
Now take your questions, and see how many of them I asked. You may need to re-read some of the book, because sometimes I didnít ask Mark my questions directly...he just gave me the answers.
M: What do you
want to know?
(Flood of pictures...experiences:
light.....music --- I mean light that makes music ---I mean thereís sound but itís coming from the light thatís everywhere. There arenít notes or a tune...just tone...Itís like a background to everything...Everywhere I look I see figures that sort of fade in and out. When I focus or concentrate, then the images are clearer...and become distinct...Ēthree dimensional.Ē People are walking around - talking to each other. Others are moving - and are alone Everyone is dressed in clothing of light but thereís so much light all around...)
M: Got it?
R: I got it!
(Theyíre studying. There are groups of people speaking and discussing and studying. They are learning from each other. They are sharing experience...literally. They are feeling the feeling. One is remembering and the others are experiencing and learning something)
M: You got it!
(acceptance...total, unconditional acceptance...from everyone, including yourself)
R: Mark, Iíve
never felt like this before.
Mark told me so much in those first few months. It was such a very special time - though I didnít know it. It seemed so natural. I just never questioned it. Then, one night, I asked Mark if he could help his father...
R: You know
your did is taking this very hard.
Well, wouldnít you know, Mark was right. I spoke with Jim the next day and told him about my proposal to Mark and Jim said ďI wouldnít want that.Ē I was shocked! Mark was right. Mark knew.
But I still didnít understand why. Jim explained that he had already given up his son, and he couldnít say goodbye to him again.
Ohhh.... the silence I had felt from Jim was not indifference, nor pain. It was an ice pack, deliberately constructed to eliminate all feeling, and avoid human touch. He was terribly hurt - and hurting - and I had misunderstood. But Mark knew!
R: How did you
That was a typical comment.
I just couldnít get any real advice from Mark. He made sure I knew at all times that all decisions were mine. I could stop the conversation just by turning my attention away.
In the beginning, those first few days after Mark was killed, my attention was completely on him and the other children who were in the car. His sister Jane had a compound fracture of the leg, and glass was imbedded in her face from the windshield. Gene, the boy in the back seat, had a chipped vertebrae - chipped on the front of the vertebrae, by the larynx. He went through excruciating pain with the halo head brace and surgery. Amy, the girl who was in the back seat, had gone between the two bucket seats in the front, through the windshield, and back in the broken windshield only to eventually land on the stick shift. She lost a lot of front teeth, and required extensive stitches and surgery.
It was very touching, that very first day. Those children in such terrible pain themselves, bursting into tears when we entered the room - expressing their sympathy at our loss of Mark. They were alive, but were in terrible shape. The injuries were awful.
June was delirious the night of January 19. She was lying on an examination table in the hospital with her leg elevated - the compound fracture was a sight to behold...and so was her glass riddled face.
I sat with her for a while...she kept asking about Mark and Iíd tell her he was in the other room...I didnít tell her he was dead...then sheíd ask about her earrings. We had given her pierced earrings for Christmas. They were very tiny, just a small oval with hand painted pink flowers. The oval that hung from the stud was about a quarter of an inch long.
I kept telling her that the earrings were okay. The fact of the matter was, they werenít okay. One was still in her ear. I removed it. The other had been torn out and was gone.
In the back of my mind, I determined to buy her a new pair - sheíd never know the difference, but then I couldnít remember where I had bought them.
Jane wants her earrings. Itís so terrible. Sheís such a mess. Oh God,
Too many things were happening then. We were arranging for the funeral, and calling relatives, etc., so the trip to the car didnít happen right away. However, the next week, I woke up early.
R: Mark, this
is it. Letís go.
So I called the police and asked where they towed the car. They gave me the address and general directions. Mark and I started driving.
R: I donít
know where Iím going.
I turned left...he
told me where to get off the highway and where to turn...and we were there.
So we walked outside.
It was another dreary day, cloudy and cold. It was late in the afternoon...and what happened changed my life.
There was a large van on the right blocking my view of the car as we walked down the wreckage aisle. The guy was nervous and walked more and more slowly...and finally he asked me if I really wanted to do this. I replied ďyes,Ē but that he didnít have to go with me. He wanted assurances that I would be okay. Naively, I said Iíd be okay. I was right...but I was also wrong. Iíd be forever changed.
He turned and walked back to the garage, saying over his shoulder: ďItís just past that big van, lady. On the right.Ē And he disappeared into thin air.
The wind blew cold as I stood alone in the aisle. I still couldnít see the car...but I knew I would soon. I wanted to find Janeís earring.
R: Mark, this isnít going to be easy. Letís do this and get out of here.
There it was. It was incredible. The front of the Mustang was pushed back to the front seat. The windshield was out. The doors were displaced. The tires were twisted. There was glass on the dashboard.
The car was as wrecked as my life.
The starch went out of me. The pain rose to the surface and I groaned along with the kids in the car. There was no way to avoid feeling it. The pain was intense.
l approached the car slowly, as if it were pulling me toward it. It was facing me. Where do I begin?
I opened the driverís
door. I got in. I wanted to get closer to him...to find out what it felt like.
Mark had been wrapped around it. it was now folded down toward the drive shaft. And there it was - the Mustang.. the insignia...the circle of steel that hit Mark's heart...it was ended so fast! I cried.
R: Mark, come
on. I want to get out of here. I'm going to go through this car once. This is
I looked around in the debris. No earring. 1 got out, and climbed into the back seat behind the driver. I got another surprise.
Not only was Mark impaled on the steering wheel shaft, but he was also shoved into it from the back. Gene was thrown forward so violently that his arm went through the back of Mark's seat. He had apparently tried to brace himself on the back of Mark's chair. The 1966 Mustangs didn't have all the safety features that are standard today. l doubt that the seats even locked in position since it was a two door car. When the impact occurred, Mark was thrown forward and then also crushed from behind.
It happened...and it happened fast.
Nothing in the back seat but more indescribably touching remembrances of a school day, and death...
I got out, walked around the car, and sat where Jane was sitting. Again, nothing but my own tears. Her car door was stuck - as though it were rusty. Actually it wasn't clearing the fender very well anymore. I had to push hard to get the door to open from the inside.
I stood there looking down into the front seat through the empty wind-shield. I was desperate. Jane wanted the earring. She needed the earring.
R: Mark! This
is it! I'm going to do this one more time and then I'm leaving.
I did the entire rotation again. I ran my hand all along the floor. I told myself that I would not get cut on any of the glass. I absolutely refused to be injured. I would not allow that to happen. 1 wouldn't be able to take physical pain on top of all the emotional pain l was already feeling. Apparently, my demand worked. I wasn't cut.
I sifted through the glass and the teeth and the blood and the books... and rotated around all the seats.
Still no earring.
I pushed my way out of
Jane's side of the car again - and I was mad. I yelled "God damn it, Mark!" as I
slammed the car door shut with all my might.
A pencil stood straight up on its eraser when I slammed the car door. It was standing where the windshield wiper used to be... with the eraser stuck under the hood. Instinctively I knew to look where it was pointing. Look where the pencil is.... in the tiny area at the base of the would-be windshield, lay the earring. It was laying flat, on the ledge, about to fall into the guts of that pitiful machine.
What do I do? I can't pick it up. My fingers won't fit in there. I've only got one chance. No mistakes.
1 licked my index finger, pressed it mightily against the pretty pink flowers on the oval earring, and withdrew the prize easily.
1 cried and laughed and
said thank you a thousand times. Gratitude. Relief. Elation.
R: Mark, thank
you for finding that earring.
(a relative who died some months before. I got impressions of seeing him from afar. Elmer was in a different "division.")
R: Do you like
what you're doing?
(I'm lost in
amazement...in awe of the mysteries that we are unaware of. We can't see
what is all around us -all over, if we could only see!)
M: You have to
believe and be willing to "go along." I can't communicate with you when you
Naturally, I immediately assumed that Mark was going to come back, and so I became very interested in pregnant women. I assumed that Mark was in there someplace.
M: It doesn't
work like that.
(confusion on my part)
M: Let me see if I can show you...
I got some strange pictures or impressions, but I couldn't get any clear idea of what Mark was saying. I got the impression of vastness, a wholeness that had no parts and a lot of noise and nothing but quiet. l never did get the idea. I got very confused and so had Mark stop.
M: Anyway, try
to focus on my happiness - I'm not really gone, you know. I'm
M: Don't be
surprised at anything! What you call miracles happen all the time. You're
It hasn't been "glorious ever after," and it didn't seem glorious before January, 1976, either. I had been having nightmares for months and months. I was waking crying and screaming. I was seeing an accident. And someone was killed. And I was hysterical. And l cried and cried. Jim thought I was losing my mind. He suggested I see a professional.
My diagnosis was that there was too much pressure.. raising my two year old daughter, working, taking care of the house, etc. But that wasnít it.
lt was the events to come casting their shadow ahead of them. It was Mark's accident and death that I saw that 1 lived in my dreams over and over again before it happened.
That day, when Mark died, 1 was teaching a data processing class to personnel from Roosevelt Federal Savings and Loan. We were really pushing to get through the material.
I was about to call a break when I noticed that it had begun to snow. It was 3:25 PM. 1 walked to the window - and got "spacey". When I got myself back together, I suggested that we shorten the break and get done early so everyone could get home before the rush. I dismissed class at 4:15.
But I didn't go home. l
was staying for something. I sat at my desk and put innocent items away.
been an accident. Mark is dead.
When I hung up, it hit me. I knew ahead of time...literally. I don't want to know ahead of time. I murmured that phrase again and again...and then began screaming it.... "I don't want to know ahead of time. Mark is dead, Mark is dead."
My boss, John, was in his office two doors away from me. I was lost. I was wandering. I went into his office and delivered my message. "I don't want to know ahead of time. Mark is dead."
Somehow I got to my car that night. I wanted to drive alone, even though John didn't think it wise. I wanted to drive alone because I wanted to scream and cry at my leisure... which I did.
It was 20 miles in the snow to the hospital... with stop/go lights all the way. l was rocking back and forth in the seat, holding on to the steering wheel. Mark was with me even then....
R: Mark, what the hell were you doing!? I can't believe this is happening! What happened to you? Are you all smashed up?
(awareness of my heart, a sudden drop in pressure, blackness.)
Why did I know this was going to happen? I don't want to know. Oh God, it hurts to know ahead of time.
When I got to the hospital, a cop was speaking with Jim. He was cruel. He was assigning blame. He was cruel. He was waving a clipboard. On it was the long form he had filled out at the scene of the accident. He was explaining that the road conditions were bad and Mark was driving too fast, not over the speed limit, but obviously too fast to drive safely. And there were no skid marks on the pavement...but the pavement was wet...and there were people around...but no one saw the brake lights go on. He must have been driving too fast...kids...just driving too fast.
Like I said, he was cruel.
I asked Jim what happened to Mark.
Before he could answer, the cop replied that Mark's neck was broken. I stared him right in the eye:
R: That's not right! It was his heart!
"Cop: No ma'am. His neck was broken."
No sense in arguing over a dead kid who was driving too fast, I suppose.... I was angry and sarcastic.
As it turns out, I was also right, but it took a few days to prove it.
I told Jim that I wanted to find Mark's clothes. He said that he told the funeral home to get rid of them. I wanted to see the damage on the clothes. I wanted to touch everything I could. 1 asked Mark - he told me that the clothes were in a box at the funeral home, so I headed there.
One of those eternally kind men employed by funeral homes met me at the door. I wanted to relax in his arms. I was so tired of holding myself together.
He went downstairs and retrieved the box...tennis shoes, socks, a Leviís shirt, and jeans... very little blood on the lower leg of the jeans... very little on his shirt. Mark was right. It was over very fast. Confirmation.
I asked about Mark's ring, since it wasn't in the box. The kind gentleman told me that it was probably removed at the hospital. His experience was that folks had very little luck getting personal possessions back.
When I went back to my car, I asked Mark if his ring was there. He said yes, I could get it today if I wanted to, but I'd have to say that I was his mother.
In this case, I didn't mind phrasing things in such a manner as to allow an incorrect conclusion especially when there would be no harm done. I was going to give his mom the clothes anyway.
So I went to various offices at county hospital until I got his "DOA" bag by signing my name followed by "relationship: mother". I put the "step-" in front of "mother" with light pressure from my fingernail. No one could see it but me. Mark laughed about my conflict in signing the fake relationship.
The envelope contained all that he had "on his person" when they brought him in that night. An almost empty pack of Kool light cigarettes, a change purse from Roosevelt Federal, a parking receipt, a ticket stub from a movie, a black comb and the senior ring they had cut off his finger. Clutching the DOA bag, I went to the coroner's office --- I mean right up to the office where he works, if you know what I mean. I walked around by myself - no one around. It was clean. and white...and tidy...and I couldn't imagine Mark laying on this table with all these people gathered around while they cut and examined and determined and recorded.. .I couldn't see it happening. That's because it didn't happen. A nurse stumbled across me with great surprise. When I identified myself as a distraught mother gathering what was left of a 17 year old boy, she was understanding and helpful. We sat down and she got the records. They weren't official yet - too early for a death certificate. But the doctor had described the cause of death. She couldn't give me a copy, but she translated what it said. It was his heart. It was disconnected by the blow.. .the steering wheel. They didn't do a full autopsy. They didn't need to ..he hadn't been drinking. He was just a kid coming home from school with three other teenagers in the car.
She helped heal me that day. She told me, with the news of how he died, that this really was happening. Mark was talking to me. Mark was telling me things that only he could know at the time. Just hours after he died, he told me what killed him by letting me feel what happened to his heart.
Mark, this whole experience is amazing. It's wonderful.
So I took notes, and recorded all the conclusions and observations, until...
R: Hi Mark. I
can tell you're here now even before you speak.
(Suddenly, I'm traveling light-years in a second - out to the far reaches of the universe. It's a completely different place. It's purple. and what Mark will learn there is very specific. He's signed up for a specific course. Heíll have to make it on his own... learn everything again as though he never knew it. But there's a goal, an objective. Itís a single thing he's signed up to learn and the best place to learn it is here, in this far corner of the universe.)
R: When are
here, aren't you?
(God is everywhere. He's the baseline. There's background and foreground and ground. He's ground. He can't be "found." There's no place to look.)
M: God in your
frame of reference is unimportant. We're not "singing his praises for all
R: Are there
lots of people there? Where are you, anyway?
(...empty space which fills in with images whenever attention is directed somehow.. not clear, but had strong impression that it was right here where I was. Like it was all around me...and I am part of it too.)
Then it happened. The real good-bye. I suppose I was ready for it. It was very simple. Very quiet. Very natural.
I was driving on a sunny spring day. The air was light and warm. A really perfect day. Then I was aware that Mark was with me.
M: Do you have
any more questions?
(relay information - like a contact at another level who can pass the message on. Has something to do with interference patterns. Saw images scrambled. Needed this person in between to understand and transmit the picture on.)
R: How do I
I drove along a very scenic drive, that went through the middle of the city park. I seemed to be the only one on the road. Everything became quiet, even the sound of my car faded.
As a looked out the window at the trees, the scene began to change. 1 saw light. The light was streaming out in all directions from the leaves, the branches...and the grass. The colors were like none Iíve ever seen. The trees were transparent and fading into the light. The sound was glorious...coming from the light....
And then it was done. The car noise came back and the trees became three dimensional figures again...and the music stopped...and I knew Mark was gone.
I wished him well - and let him go.
I still feel close to Mark when Iím outside on a clear night. 1 don't know if Mark is in this reality. Perhaps the "planet" he's on isn't in this frame of reference ... I can't tell. But I did get the impression that there are lots of "training locations" all over. The one Mark chose was just one of millions. From that perspective, I suppose we're experiencing just one of millions, too.
Did Mark come back? No. not yet. But I was contacted by his friend. He heard me cry out. And told me to write the book. So I did.
MY WORDS by Roberta