“What the in hell?” I thought. “What in the hell?”
I’d drowned. I’d lain dead at the bottom of a hot tub and, when miraculously revived, awoke to see a half dozen or so men, each as naked as Adam, hovering over me as if I were lying in the middle of a very strange rugby scrum!
“What in the hell?”
I guess what took me to that shocking scene was melancholy, or maybe love … though my most bizarre imaginings I’d never conjured anything remotely similar to that scene!
We all of us have this vision of “the afterlife” … but since no one has ever brought back any hard evidence to support his or her theological speculations, I’d come to the conclusion that I may as well choose whatever vision worked best for me … perhaps something along the lines of a Greek god cavorting through fertile northwest valleys, moss-laden evergreen forests, rainbow pebbled riparian shores and long sandy stretches of Pacific beach; or maybe an 1890s style New Orleans’ gentlemen’s club with young angels, old whiskey, hot jazz and infinite credit; or maybe a psychedelic flash of photons voyaging through an endless darkness like the light we still see at night from orphan stars whose parents died billions and billions of years ago.
My odyssey began the day before my death. That’s when I lay my dog Daisy down to eternal sleep. It was an excruciatingly painful thing to do, but it was time. It was the merciful thing. So, while the family was away, her fate was mine to execute.
This was a Friday, but not just any Friday, the beginning of a weekend golf tournament that I looked forward to each year. I’d meet a couple of dozen fellows from Vancouver, B.C. in a resort village called Port Ludlow on the Hood Canal. I figured I’d swing by vet’s on the way out of town, and then on to the tournament.
The vet, a personal friend, suggested that he stop by the house after work instead to save me the trouble. “Hey thanks Jack! That sounds great. I appreciate it,” I said. It wasn’t until I’d hung up that I realized I’d have to delay my departure to Ludlow until much later than I’d planned.
After we did the deed and Daisy went to sleep gently and painlessly in my arms, I was grief stricken. It wasn’t until Jack left that I realized another complication. I’d really not thought the thing through very well … I had to bury Daisy!
This was going to take time. The woods behind the house would require a whole lot of shoveling, hacking and axing, not to mention digging in compacted rock and soil left by the glaciers that towered about one mile over my lot about ten thousand years ago.
And just as soon as my son Joey, who’d stayed home, and I started to dig it began to rain. “Oh, great!” I felt even more miserable, “Great! Great! Great! Now it’s going to rain on the tournament! That’s just great!”
By the time we’d finished burying Daisy, carved a cross in the tall Doug fir towering over her and whispered our farewells, it was much too late to head out. I decided to grab a couple of hours of sleep before leaving, but sleep proved impossible.
The next morning as I drove through the rain I debated whether or not to skip golf and head back to Olympia. Exhausted from lack of sleep, burdened with guilt and faced with the prospect of walking up and down mountainous terrain in the rain, I had to ask myself, “What in the hell am I doing?”
Just then a song called “My Best Friend” came on the radio. As I listened I couldn’t help but think of Daisy. I felt devastated, and with all those tears clouding my eyes I’m surprised I even noticed the flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
A quick glance at the speedometer told the whole story. I’d zoned out on things like driving and speed limits … and now I was going to pay the price. When the trooper came to my window he couldn’t help but notice my distressed state and asked, tentatively, “Is everything okay?”
“Oh, perfect! Everything’s just great!” I replied, a bit too loudly and much too cynically. “Just dandy! I had to put my dog down, I’m headed to play golf in the rain and now I’m going to get a ticket! Yep! Everything’s perfect!”
He apologized meekly, and then, along with my speeding ticket, shared his story of the time he had to put his German Shepard down! I struggled to disguise my true feelings!
By the time I reached the Hood Canal Floating Bridge, which floats across a deep blue finger of water about 15 minutes south of Ludlow, I figured I’d at least make my tee time … but “Wait a minute! Wait just one minute! What in the hell is that band doing in the middle of the bridge?”
A red light started flashing and I found myself sitting in the rain with a Navy band, a huddled mass of freezing young mothers and a bunch of out-of-control little kids.
The wait seemed interminable, but finally the object of the occasion arrived … a giant Trident Class submarine on its way to its homeport in Bangor. With its arrival the band struck up, but since not one officer or seaman could be seen or heard, and vice-versa, I had to wonder about the logic of the gathering.
When the light turned green and I hustled to the pro shop. I made it just in time, but played listlessly, mechanically and horribly. Cold, stressed-out and in desperate need of rest, I headed straight for a very large, very hot, hot tub. About a dozen other guys, most of whom were physicians from Vancouver, joined me to wise-crack, recap the round and brag about past sexual escapades.
Much as I tried, though, I just couldn’t get into the spirit of the thing. “Maybe some alcohol will help,” I thought, but the wine tasted off, so I set it aside after just a couple of sips. Then, as irony would have it, an anesthesiologist sitting next to me started to tell a story about a nun, a priest and the horn of Gabriel.
That’s when a wave of complete and utter physical exhaustion swept over me. It hit me suddenly without warning. I couldn’t lift my arms. I couldn’t move my legs. I couldn’t utter a word. My entire world started to spin like a deadly whirlpool. It took me under.
The guys, laughing at the anesthesiologist’s ribald tale, mistook my dive for a bit of mime. It wasn’t. I was drowning right before their eyes and right under their feet. After a few minutes they realized my underwater sketch had nothing to do with the nuns, and they sprung into action like a squad of Keystone Cops.
Thank God for the anesthesiologist! He saved my life that day. However, when I awoke to see him and his distraught colleagues standing over me in the aforementioned naked rugby scrum, I’ve got to admit … it scared the bejabbers out of me!
In my confused, disoriented and half-awake state I tried to figure out if I’d entered some kind of hereafter no one had ever talked about? Had I entered a parallel universe? “What in the hell was going on?”
Thankfully I recovered quickly from my trauma and suffered no lasting physical or mental damage. However that most unusual image of the hereafter imprinted itself into my memory like an old photograph you’d just as soon misplace. But, like I said, afterlives span a limitless scope of versions.So I’ll stick with my own, thank you very much … after all, it is my afterlife, isn’t it?
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