Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dead Ex-Husband...Alive at the DMV! (Part 1)

“I had the greatest time at the DMV yesterday,” I said to more than one person today. Of course I sound sarcastic. Who has a great time at the DMV?

“It was heaven on earth,” I continue, because I love this story. As a yoga teacher, I’ve said those words before, but never in regard to visiting a government agency.

“I’m getting along so great with my ex-husband lately,” I also like to say, provoking odd smiles and quizzical looks—because he’s dead. “Seriously,” I add, “We have never gotten along better. Our communication is stellar.”

In truth our communication (never that great in life) is indeed profound, and it has caused a shift that I never thought would happen between us.

I sort of knew it was the beginning of the end when I heard him say, “I don’t really care that much about my car anymore--ever since I got that scratch.” I had no idea what scratch he was even talking about, and didn’t actually even see it until days after he’d died. In truth I hadn’t actually been listening to him for, well, about 10 years. No doubt he’d told me at some point about a devastating scratch on the bumper of his much-loved car, but I’d tuned him out. I didn’t care quite as much about his car. But a couple weeks before he died I was borrowing it and promised to park it yards and yards away from all the other cars, and he’d said it. “I don’t care that much about my car anymore.” Sure he did. He still cared far much more than most people care about their car. What he was saying was that he was no longer compelled to keep it pristine…and in that moment, I saw that a part of him had given up. In general.

“I feel like I’m dying,” he had said, apropos of nothing, a few weeks before he died. I experienced his comment as a metaphor, or maybe a way to hook into me emotionally, get sympathy for the pain in his arm. Because of course he wasn’t dying-dying.

And then he did.

And now—not to be unemotional or unempathetic or…anything that I could be accused me of being when I put this thought out there—but, now, other than the fact that I have a devastatingly fatherless daughter, whose father prized her above all else, a daughter who misses her dad tremendously every moment of the day, but other than that, it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be: we now have an angel, an unseen advocate, an angel, whoever thought I’d call him that, an angel who not only makes the daily logistics of life go more smoothly, but who has shown me that the veil between the worlds is very very thin, thin enough to ingrain the message that death is not to be feared.

He helps us out so much. Just like he said he would. On the night he died.

“I can be of much more help to you from where I am now, “ he said, verbatim. My memory in general is not great, but these words still echo in my mind. This, in the middle of the night, as I was tossing and turning and realizing why Jewish people sit shiva: I wanted some company. I was not so comfortable with the massive presence of Barrett’s soul, which felt like it was sitting on the bed beside me. “Back OFF,” I had said at one point, silently, and it worked, and then I felt guilty, like, the poor guy died, and I am still pushing him away. Plus I was a bit afraid he wouldn’t return.

The second time he spoke, the following day, when I was still in the thick of crisis and mentally dealing with logistics that are only now sorting themselves out, he said, “Let me help you with that, Rachel.” As if I were carrying a heavy package. That’s just how he’d have worded it in life. And I let him help. I’d been doing a Reiki healing on a lovely wheelchair-bound client. I wasn’t thinking I needed help. The minute I let him “help,” I felt worlds open. A stream of energy poured forth through me, into her, in such abundance that I was moved to tears.

I needed to tell Lily. She was not distraught because she didn’t yet realize what I had known the minute I’d heard: she would never see her dad again, ever, ever, ever. It hadn’t hit yet, and wouldn’t for a few weeks.

“Your dad is around, and he wants to help us,” I said, in a bedtime conversation that I had requested, at the end of the day. We did a little meditation. I described both communications.

“That sounds scary,” she said. 

“The first time was scary, but the second one wasn’t,” I said.

Lily said good night to me and walked upstairs to the bedroom she was sharing with her best friend Lucy. On the way up, she said, “Daddy, if you’re here, send me a sign, and please don’t have it be scary.” She walked into the bedroom.

Lucy said, “Listen!” and proceeded to read Lily a paragraph from a book written by Barrett’s favorite author—a paragraph he had read to Lily a few months before.

“Thank you, Daddy!” Lily exclaimed, when Lucy had finished. The chances of Lucy having Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and reading that particular paragraph to Lily moments after she’d asked for a sign from her dad…were so staggeringly slim that I am still in awe. Of him. Of my ex-husband. Of the soul of my ex-husband. People ask about the content of that paragraph and and I would love to report that it was beautiful or inspiring. In fact it was an amusing and somewhat raunchy description of sex between homeless people. Had he asked me, those months before, if he should read it to her, I might have said no. But he did. And so did Lucy. After years of wondering why on earth I had picked THIS man to marry, THIS man to have a baby with, I no longer wondered. In an instant, flash! This is who he truly is! The father of my child is an amazing creator. In spirit form, the logistics that so eluded him on earth are now his specialty.

And this is who we all, truly, are. We are all souls. We meet a new soul, in the body, here on earth, and it is so easy to see Soul. After a few months, or a year, or years, or the first sleepless year of a baby’s life, or a divorce, the soul becomes more and more impossible to see.

“Send Barrett Light,” a dear spiritual counselor of mine used to counsel.

One time I showed up for an appointment and said, up front, “I am NOT sending Barrett light, so don’t even go there.” That’s how much I couldn’t see his soul, this soul, this spirit that, for the last three months, has been blessing our life in a tangible way.

He is why I could experience heaven on earth at the DMV.

Despite that scratch on the bumper, Barrett is still all about his car. After Lily, it was the love of his life.  I drove it home from his deathbed, because it was there, because it was Lily’s inheritance, because I was in Chicago with nothing to drive. But the next morning I woke up and the battery was dead. I was stunned. I look for meaning in things. “Pay attention to the car,” was the message in that moment. “Be aware.”

Ten steps away was an auto shop, and the car was running again within ten minutes. It was fairly painless. I had left the lights on the night before, because I was distraught and not used to that car, but more than that, because I needed to pay attention…to the car. A moment of gratitude every time I get into the car was what I thought he was indicating but I’m now seeing that there was more. Much more.

If I had been in love with him when he’d died, I’d be questioning all this. I’d be thinking that my extreme love was causing me wishful thinking, causing me to see “signs” where there were none.  Causing me to seek comfort. Out of love. The truth is, I love him more now that he’s dead than I have in the last 18 years. Because he’s not dead. How amazing to know, really know, that the spiritual world is real, that it is alive! It is amusing and ironic that so much of my spiritual communication takes place in and around his car; how mundane and at the same time symbolic. But have a car history together. It was a shared interest.

I couldn’t find the second key anywhere. I still can’t. The idea of losing the one remaining key sounded tragic enough that I was pushed to order a new one, which is no small expense. From his receipts, it appeared that his car was due for an oil change anyway, so I made an appointment with a VW dealership. There’s one downtown, 3.7 miles from where we live.

“Go to Jennings!” my intuition said, inexplicably. I sighed. I had no idea why my intuition wanted to make me drive to the suburbs instead of downtown, but when it came time to pay, “It’s half-off today,” the cashier said…inexplicably, making the extra drive much more palatable. And then, looking into the files, “Oh I see you have a credit.” I’d never been there in my life. Barrett’s car had a credit. So the oil change was free.  My intuition was now validated. When my car drove up it was discovered that there was a bit of an issue with the trunk. Somehow the trunk was now set to open every time I unlocked the car. I didn’t have time to stay for the diagnostics, and said let’s could do it when I came back to pick up the new spare key, in a few days.

More consciousness around the car. My daughter urged me to transform this minor irritation into a cause for laughter, every time the trunk unnecessarily opened, which was several times a day. So now, gratitude that it started when I turned the key, and laughter upon unlocking and unnecessary trunk popping.

“Wat up?” the car asked, each time I unlocked it.

We returned to Jennings VW together, Lily and I, due to her affection for her dad’s car, which by that time we had named Johnny, for reasons that amuse us. We thought the unlocking issue and key pickup would take 20 minutes.  After the first hour we went to investigate the delay.

“Just wondering what’s going on…” I said in my fake-friendliest way.  “We don’t actually know,” they said. I stared at them, the friendly group of VW service people.

“Yeah--you know when your computer does something weird and you don’t know why? It’s kind of like that,” one of them said helpfully.

In light of that mystery, they had no idea how much longer it would take. They assured me I wouldn’t be paying for labor.  Lily and I turned to leave. There was a wide, flat computer screen on the wall before us, meant for the service staff only, with names of car owners scrolling down slowly, and just then right before our eyes it said BARRETT FISKE. My daughter gasped.

Back in our waiting room chairs, before we went back to our little phone screens, something occurred to me: “When did you last talk to your dad?” And by talk, I meant…engage in communication with a dead person. Yes. We do that.

“Well, it’s been…well, ever since that woman told me to say it out loud, I haven’t.”

“We are inexplicably and indefinitely locked out of your dad’s car and we just saw his name flash before our eyes. I think he’s trying to get your attention.” Lily shut her eyes for a long moment.

“Ok, I said hi to him and apologized for not talking to him lately and I said please make the next person who comes through that door be the person who tells us our car is ready.”

The door opened. Right then. It had been happening all morning…but never for our car.

“Your car is ready.”

“Thank you Daddy!”

His car drove up with a placard on top with the number 1134. Eleven is half of my special number, 1111, the number that says to me all is right with my world. And seven is Lily’s. A 3 and a 4 suffice just fine. We got in. The odometer was at 1111. Maybe this was not as stunning as the time when my odometer was at 1111 and the time was 1:11 and I put quarters in the meter and was given 1:11, but all was, indeed, right with the world.

We were starving.  We decided to settle for mall food, because it was close, and because it was where Lily always went with her dad.

“$7.77,” the cashier said to Lily, handing her the number to put on our table: 7.  We place great stock in numbers.  Have I mentioned? They tell us that we’re in the right place at the right time. (The sacred number 108 was on a Cubs ticket (seat 108, are you kidding me?) that we found on the ground right outside our front gate weeks later, with a price $48—our dear friend’s favorite number; it’s actually her front door. We care about these things. We like when the Universe says hi to us, in a language we understand/

So we were thrilled with our sevens.

I must interrupt myself to say, with all due reverence for the deceased, that Barrett had been obsessed with a tv show. In his world, that meant not just that he watched all the episodes. It meant that he read the book the show was based on—that book was actually in his car when he died. He had looked into the author’s life. He had studied the particular dysfunction of the main character of the show, “Dexter.” He was a very smart guy and he knew way more about this tv show than anyone actually needed to know. So Lily and I found it amusing, his passion for all things Dexter. It was our private joke and when I was in Chicago and she wasn’t,  I would send her one-word texts which meant I’m with your dad right now and guess what he’s talking about: “Dexter.”

Laden with plates of noodles, our waiter looks for table number seven, and I look up at our waiter and see his name tag:


Barrett is so not dead.

Anyway...where was I? Right! At the DMV...

<go to Part 2!>

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