Although we hadn’t spoken in months, for the last week I’d been thinking obsessively about Billy. This was unusual because trying not to think about Billy was a survival tactic I began practicing in fourth grade. As a little girl, I adored my big brother, but I was always afraid something terrible was going to happen to him.
Billy was constantly in trouble. I didn’t really know what “trouble” meant, but when the trouble got bad, he would be sent away to some mysterious place. And when the trouble got really bad, my parents didn’t even know where to find him.
I Was Practicing the Art of Cold-Heartnedness
In fourth grade my parents explained that the trouble Billy was in was something called “heroin addiction.” To distance myself from my anxiety, I began practicing the art of cold-heartedness.
All these years later, the week before he died, no matter how cold-hearted I tried to be, I couldn’t stop thinking about Billy. I tried to distract myself from my angst by keeping to my routine—up by six, feed the cats, meditate, walk by the bay, make lunch, go to work in my music studio writing songs.
Sitting at my electric keyboard, all I could think about was Billy. I wanted to phone him, hear his voice, tell him I loved him, help him in some way. But I didn’t know how to reach him. Part of me was afraid to reach him. I was sure he was in bad shape.
The day before Billy died, a bitterly cold January morning, I layered on two sweaters, a down jacket, and two wool hats and ventured into the raw air. I walked across the frozen brown leaves, through the bare winter woods, and climbed down the wooden staircase that led to the bay. I never ask God for favors, but that morning I looked up at the silvery sky, raised my arms, and imagined pushing Billy into the hands of the great Divine. “Take care of him for me,” I whispered.
Hours later, Billy was dead.
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From Guilt and Grief to Communication
The next few days I stayed in bed, unable to do anything but drink tea. They say there are different stages of grief—shock, guilt, anger, depression. But all those feelings collided and came crashing in on me at once.
Three weeks of post-death misery and self-recrimination later, it was my birthday. Just before sunrise, as I was waking up, I heard someone calling my name from above me.
Annie! Annie! It’s me! It’s me! It’s Billy!
It was Billy’s unmistakable deep, mellow voice. I was startled, but not at all afraid. In fact, I felt comforted.
“Billy?” I said, half asleep. “You can’t be here. You’re dead. I must be dreaming.”
You’re not dreaming. It’s me! Get up and get the red notebook.
Suddenly, I was very much awake. I’d completely forgotten about the red leather notebook Billy had sent me last year for my birthday. I was touched that he had made the effort to send me a gift even though he was becoming overwhelmed by his addictions.
I jumped out of bed and found the red notebook on a shelf in my bedroom closet. The pages were blank, except for an inscription written on the first page.
Everyone needs a book dedicated to them.
Read between the lines.
What a strange thing for Billy to have written! Read between the lines? I ran my fingers over the familiar handwriting. Then I heard him again.
It’s really me, Annie. And I’m okay, it’s okay because . . . I grabbed a pen and wrote what he was saying in the red notebook.
Billy Shares His Experience of Death
The first thing that happens is bliss; at least it was like that in my case. I don’t know if it’s that way for everyone who dies. As the car hit me, this energy came and sucked me right out of my body into a higher realm. I say “higher” since I had the feeling of rising up and suddenly all my pain was gone.
I don’t remember hovering over my body or looking down on it or anything like that. I guess I was pretty anxious to get out of there. I knew right away I was dead, and went with it, more than ready for whatever was waiting.
I wasn’t aware of traveling at any particular speed. I just felt light and unburdened as the sucking motion drew me up inside a chamber of thick silvery blue lights. People who have near-death experiences sometimes say they went through a tunnel. I’m using the word “chamber” because a tunnel has sides, but no matter what direction I looked, there was nothing but light for as far as I could see. Maybe the difference is I had a one-way ticket and theirs was a round-trip.
And even though I didn’t have my body anymore, it felt like I did and that it was being healed. The lights in the chamber penetrated me and made me feel better and better as they pulled me up. It wasn’t just the wounds from my car accident that were being healed. In the first nanosecond that the lights touched me, they erased any harm I suffered during my lifetime: physical, mental, emotional, or otherwise.
Soon, Daddy appeared right there beside me, young and smiling and handsome as ever. He was making jokes and asking, “What took you so long?” It was so great, seeing Daddy, but I’m guessing he was there to be a familiar landmark in foreign territory. I’m saying that because he was only with me for part of the ride and Daddy definitely wasn’t the main event.
The main event was the silvery lights and their party atmosphere. Those healing lights had a festive feeling, like they were cheering me on, saying, “Welcome home, Son.”
I can’t say how long I was floating up the healing chamber, because I no longer have a sense of time. But I can say that chamber was some kind of cosmic birthing canal that delivered me into this new life.
I want you to know, darling, there’s nothing hard or cruel for me anymore. I glided from the chamber right out into the glorious Universe. I’m drifting weightlessly through space with these gorgeous stars and moons and galaxies twinkling all around me. The whole atmosphere is filled with a soothing hum, like hundreds of thousands of voices are singing to me, but they’re so far away I can just barely hear them.
And although I can’t exactly say anyone was here to greet me, as soon as I came out of the chamber I felt a Divine Presence; a kind, loving, beneficent presence, and really, that was enough.
In addition to the Divine Presence I also feel beings around me—Higher Beings, I guess you would call them. I can’t explain why I’m using the word “beings,” and not the singular; I just know there’s more than one. I can’t see or hear them, but I can feel them moving about, swooshing by, doing different things that concern yours truly. And although I haven’t got a clue what these things might be, I’m guessing that floating out here in space is euphoric instead of terrifying because I’m being attended to by this celestial crew.
I’m looking down on the earth, and it is down. It’s like there’s a hole in the sky, a hole between our two worlds, I can look through and see you. I know how sad you are about my death. Sad is too small a word. Bereft is more like it. But death isn’t as serious as you think it is, honey. So far, it’s very enjoyable. Couldn’t be better, really.
Try not to take death too seriously. As a matter of fact, try not to take life too seriously. You’d enjoy yourself a lot more. That’s one of the secrets of life. You want to know another secret? Saying goodbye isn’t as serious as it seems either, because we will meet again.
Are You Real or Am I Dreaming You?
As suddenly as it came, Billy’s voice dissolved. I was sitting on my bed, the red notebook resting against my knees, its first pages filled with Billy’s words in my handwriting. Had I just imagined his voice? Maybe. But where did these words come from? They definitely weren’t mine.
Inside the front cover of the notebook I found a card my brother had sent along with it—a cartoon of a big orange tomcat hugging a girly little purple kitten. The card’s message was uncanny. Are you real or am I dreaming you?
Was I having some weird dream-like grief reaction? How could I know? I couldn’t, and at that moment I didn’t really care. For the first time since Billy’s death I felt happy . . . more than happy. Billy was okay. And as he described floating blissfully through the stars, the atmosphere of his world had somehow flowed into mine. I was almost euphoric.
And all of a sudden I was hungry. I got out of bed, went to the kitchen, and made a pot of tea. As I sat at the table gorging myself on biscuits and marmalade, I opened a magazine. Staring at me was an ad for White Cloud bathroom tissue. It featured a cloud with a piece cut out that made it look like a hole in the sky. Hadn’t Billy just said he saw me through a hole in the sky? I got chills. Maybe the ad was some kind of sign.
“That’s ridiculous,” I told myself. “I really am going a little mad.” But some part of me wondered if there really might be a connection.
From Grief to Serenity
Everything was so strange but it all fit together— Billy’s appearance, the forgotten red notebook, its inscription, the card’s message, the picture of a hole in the sky. And before I heard from Billy, I was so depressed I could barely raise my head off the pillow. Now, I felt completely serene.
Had Billy appeared just this one time to let me know he was okay? Was that the end of it? I hoped not. If he visited a second time, I would be ready. I would be objective and alert so I could figure out if he was real. I decided to lure him back by keeping the red notebook and a pen with me all the time.
*subtitles by InnerSelf
©2013 by Annie Kagan. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing. www.redwheelweiser.com
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How My Bad-Boy Brother Proved to Me There's Life After Death
by Annie Kagan.
Annie Kagan is not a medium or a psychic, she did not die and come back to life; in fact, when she was awakened by her deceased brother, she thought perhaps she had gone a little crazy. Annie shares the extraordinary story of her after-death communications (ADC) with her brother Billy, who began speaking to her just weeks after his unexpected death. Billy's vivid, real-time account of his on-going journey through the mysteries of death will change the way you think about life, death and your place in the Universe.
About the Author
Annie Kagan is a singer/songwriter who had a chiropractic practice in Manhattan for many years. She gave up her medical practice in search of serenity in a small, secluded house by the bay, returned to songwriting and began collaborating with award winning producer Brian Keane. For more information visit www.anniekagan.com.