Today I want to tell you about a book that touched me more powerfully than anything I’ve read so far this year. But first, let me set up the situation. I was about to fly to Oklahoma to spend a week with my daughter Jessie. Three days before the trip, while walking the dogs with my beloved, we looked up to see vultures lining the trees right beside us. Each tree had a huge, beautiful turkey vulture (Cathartes Aura, which means “Golden Purifier”) looming above us. They took flight, soared right over our heads. Now this is no small thing to me. Vultures and I have a long history. The last time one came this close to me was three days prior to attack on the Twin Towers. They are messengers to me. They represent the pathways between this world and the next, between life and death, and the transformation that takes place on that path. They also carry the energy of purification. A vulture can eat enough botulism to kill an entire human village, and when it passes through them, emerging as excrement, it has become so pure it’s antiseptic. Vultures are one of the totems of my spiritual tradition, Ravenmyst Circle, standing at the Gates of the Great Below, the Underworld, the abode of the ancestors. They are also one of my personal totems. So to have vultures swooping so near, repeatedly, was clearly a message.
For the following two days, the vultures were there again, each morning when we walked the dogs. And I got very nervous about flying to Oklahoma. So nervous that I finally got around to making a will, left Lance pages upon pages of instructions in a sealed envelope, and made sure I had a loving conversation with each of my daughters before I left.
So I made it there, and had a great visit. We went up Mount Scott, where there were vultures everywhere. Jessie suggested my vultures just wanted me to carry their regards to their Okie cousins. My second night there, twisters ravaged El Reno and other nearby places (Moore had already been walloped at this point.) I wondered if the path of destruction, so near me, might have had something to do with the vultures’ message.
While checking Facebook before heading back home, I saw a note from a friend raving about this book, The Afterlife of Billy Fingers. Since this is a friend who has very good taste, I downloaded the book to read on the flights home.
And I fell into the story. When her brother died, author Annie Kagan was devastated. But then he started talking to her. And the things he had to say were amazing. He told her what he was experiencing as he moved into the Afterlife, and he told her other things, things about other people in her life that neither of them had any way of knowing, in order to prove to her that these conversations they were having, were real. I was turning pages so fast my page-turning finger got sore!
I was about 2/3 of the way through when we hit some pretty intense turbulence. And my immediate thought was, this might be it. And I looked up from the book and realized I was completely okay with that. If it was time, it was time, and I had done everything I could to ease things for my loved ones, and I hated the thought of their grieving, but for me, I knew I would be okay. I would be off on an incredible voyage of discovery, and while now, I might weep at the thought of leaving them, I knew there would be no grieving or sadness for me once I did. I would be in bliss. Hard to believe that, as much as I love them. I had been crying over being away from Lance just for the week, to say nothing about for the rest of his earthly life. And yet, I was utterly at peace.
I made it home safe and sound, (obviously, unless you’re reading this via Ouija board and I just didn’t get the memo,) three hours late, but in one piece. The next day, I found the author, Annie Kagan on Facebook, and sent her a message telling her how much I loved the book. I had always believed strongly that we go on, but to have this personal, detailed account, told so beautifully, had supercharged my Zen. To my surprise she emailed me right back, and we both got tingles and chills up our spines as we exchanged messages. This contact was supposed to happen. We both felt it.
I posted about the book on my Facebook page, even wrote a review on Goodreads, and sent the buy link to all my loved ones who have suffered a loss in the past year. There have been many. Some have already emailed me to tell me how much the book has helped them. (And it’s only been a week!) It helped me. It’s helping Lance as I tell him about it, and I think he’ll read it too when he’s ready. (As many of you know, my fiance’s beautiful mom passed last October, the photo here was taken only 8 months earlier in February of last year.) Lee has been communicating with us since her passing. I get her in meditations and sometimes when I’m running. She always wished she could jog but her lungs were never strong enough due to damage from chemo twenty years ago. Now she jogs with me. She wrinkles up her nose when songs come on my iPod that she doesn’t like, and nudges me to change them. I always laugh as I comply. Lance gets her in dreams, very often. Last night we both dreamed about her. She had something to tell us, but we both woke up without hearing what it was.
I believe I know now what the message of the vultures was. I was drawing very near to their energy, the energy of what we call “death” and the life that continues on the other side, the energy of the ultimate transformation, the ultimate purification process. I was drawing closer to it, not because I was getting ready to transition myself, but because I was drawing closer to making this connection with Annie. This going to be (already is) an important friendship in my life. (I never argue with the vultures!)
And here’s some great news, everyone! Annie Kagan will be right here, as a guest on the Bliss Blog on the Summer Solstice, June 21st. (That’s this coming Friday!) I managed to come up with a few interview questions for her, but I know she would welcome more. If you’ve read the book, pop in with your questions or comments. If you haven’t, oh, you really should. This book blew me away. I could not put it down.
Here are some links for you to follow up as you wait for our informative and fun interview on Friday:
Annie & Billy on the Web (Free excerpt, newsletter signup, more!) Enjoy!