I’m going to Hell in a handbasket.

I grew up with religion. My Great-Grandmother who raised me was Southern Baptist just like her family before her, deep in the Hollows of Tennessee. Before that we were something else, something that moved down through the bloodline and made us question everything. Even though we had a strong sense of God, there was also a knowing that there was and is something more.

Somewhere in the late 70’s and early 80’s religion got a little freaky.  It was the rise of fanatical Christians, the 700 Club was the trendy club to get into and Jimmy Swaggart and Billy Graham were the superstars of this movement. To say this time held some crazy witch hunts was both truthful and figurative.  I was a small girl who was caught between childish curiosity and flat out fear of Angels, Demons, and God.

I have always had a true knowing that there is something more, what it is.. that’s a little shady.  But I have never questioned knowing that there is more than birth, life, and death.  Maybe that comes from faith or never quite giving up the notion of imaginary friends.  Either way, I was a very imaginative child that got older and became a very imaginative adult.  It’s that imagination and spark of creativity that has allowed me to be a writer and get lost in the worlds of my own design as well as come to an acceptance of death.

I’ve known people who have died. Yes, their passing was sad, some more than others. I’ve had family pets that have woken up dead.  Some have punched holes in me worse that the deaths of humans. Death happens, it sucks, but it does.

But it wasn’t until the death of my closest friend, Lance that I really struggled with this concept and what it really meant to me. I went through some of the normal stages of grief;

Denial – Yep, I actually toyed with the idea that he had faked his own death in order to become part of the witness protection program because he’d seen something in Chicago that he shouldn’t have seen. Oh that story had depth!

Pain and Guilt- I was stunned at how much pain I felt.  Everything made me cry, nothing made me feel any better.  I wanted him back.  I wanted his zombie self to get up and come make me feel better because life without his was almost unlivable. I wanted to be able to tell him that I was sorry for telling him that I thought he was a sexist jerk when he was here visiting, sorry for not always answering the phone when he called several times a day and I just wanted to finish a project without stopping, and sorry that I called him an asshole.. a lot. I wanted to tell him that I did call him back that morning and I was sorry that I hadn’t talked to him all week because I was sick and if he could just not be dead I would always answer the phone so he could talk to me any time he wanted.

Anger and bargaining – Yep, I got pissed.  I hated the girl who hit him in her car.  I was sure she was texting and deserved to have her life ruined and go to jail, because that is the perfect place for a 20 year old girl who didn’t mean to pull out in front of his motorcycle.  I hated her parents for hiring lawyers to defend her because someone besides me needed to feel terrible. I hated people for thinking it was time for me to stop being a bitch because I was angry that he died. I even tried the bargaining that if somehow we could just do a do-over and turn the time back so that he would be ok, I would be sooooo good.

Then I started to heal.  Unwillingly I started to reflect on my life and the choices I had made in it. I thought about our friendship and how it made me a better person and tried to rationalize that just because he was gone it didn’t mean that my life was over. The healing part is when I started opening up and actually searching for answers of what was next, not for him… but for me.

I wanted his connection with me again.  But I had to accept that this wasn’t going to be the same physical connection that we had before he died.

This is when I first found the teachings of Abraham Hicks.  It was random, and odd thought one morning as I was staring out the window and letting my mind wander. The pale blue winter skies were perfect for daydreaming and letting my thoughts drift out of consciousness.

  “Do you remember that book I was reading last summer?  The Happiness Hypothesis?

“Yeah, I read that one.  It was kind of lame, I checked out a few others like that one.. all lame.”

“Abraham-Hicks, you need to check out those videos.  I started reading the Laws of Attraction, awesome book. Truly inspired me to change the way I was thinking.”

“Who’s that guy?”

“You’ll see, hard to explain.  Just check out the videos. “

“Stop bossing me around.”

“You know you like it.”

“Shut up.”

It was at that moment that I realized that I was having a complete conversation with Lance. Not just something that my grief wanted me to believe. HE had been reading the Happiness Hypothesis and had wanted to share this radical concept that he was embracing of living life to be happy no matter the reason or outcome just for the pure joy of being happy.  At the time I was in an emotional struggle because of some family problems and wasn’t even in the mood to deal with his stupid happiness. Blinking and looking around I realized that I had been sitting there having the strangest moment completely alone. What.. the.. hell.

So I turned to my laptop and looked up Abraham-Hicks and waited to see what this old guy was all about. The first thing that came up was this… Abraham talks about relationships with the Non-Physical.

Apparently, Abraham.. not an old dude at all, he’s a woman who reminds me a lot of my Aunt Karen! Okay…. And what is this Non-Physical?  And there it was, the spark that took me from grief and suffering to acceptance, delight, eagerness, and even joy.

“Told ya.”

Today I was working on cleaning my office, not a chore I like but it was movement and  I have come to understand that movement is good no matter what it is and feeling good is the purpose of each day. In the background Esther was talking to a group of people about feeling good and getting on high flying disks and I was feeling very good and enjoying her voice and the way that I felt so calm and happy when I was listening to her. When someone asked about finding their own Abraham and she said to them simply, they just needed to learn how to listen.  Huh…

When I was a small child immersed in the “Holy Roller” movement Jerry Falwell and his fellow preachers would say in their excited raised voices that Christians needed to HEAR the words of God.  And that they had heard his messages and were messengers of his holy spirit and that we needed to follow their guides, give money to their missions, don’t stray from their laws, or else God would make us suffer.  God would send us right to Hell.  Hell was for those who didn’t believe.  Hell was for sinners.  Hell was for Gays, for Liars, for Thieves, for the Non-believers.  Hell was the place of nightmares for children, the place parents warned their children they were going if they didn’t behave.  Hell was held over our heads as the ultimate threat.  Hell did not feel good.

Back then my family would attend marathon prayer meetings that would last for days.  People would come and pray for hours and hours for the sinners in their lives that didn’t believe the way they did, they prayed that Jesus would take pity on the non-believers and save them from the fiery lakes of Hell. They would cry for the souls of those who did not embrace the blood of Jesus as their savior. There was little joy in those sessions. As a child there was no fun, no laughter, no feeling good.  The voices of imaginary friends couldn’t be anything more than demons that were sent to trick children and drag them to Hell where they would be tortured and imprisoned for an eternity.

Conversations with dead brothers was a sure sign that you were infected with demons and needed heavy prayers and your life disinfected from the evil that was dwelling in your soul.

Instinctively I’ve rejected listening to those conversations with him.  “Just my imagination.”  I would chant, even though they felt so real as if he were standing right behind my shoulder and throwing up his hands as he often did when he didn’t think I was actually listening or getting his point. But once I gave up rejection and found acceptance, things have changed and hearing his messages aren’t so hard.

“Believe it or not, I am so excited for this.”

“How can you be excited to be Non-Physical?”

“Acceptance.”

“But you not being here has been so difficult for so many people.  Why am I feeling good about it?”

“Acceptance”

“People spend their entire lives trying to get into Heaven and avoid going to Hell, and you are saying that it doesn’t matter? How can this be?”

“Acceptance”

“Why can’t everyone hear how to feel better about their lives from their relatives, or higher powers, or Non-Physicals? What makes me special?  What makes Esther special?

“Acceptance… what part are you not accepting?”

I’m not sure if this is just another stage of grief.. talking with the dead.  But it’s one that I really hope lasts for a long time.  I feel good.  I am in love with the life I have and the joy that I feel.  I like waking up and feeling good and I know when I am not on the right train, because I feel BAD.  I like looking for the good things in each day and having fun, I want more fun!  I am enjoying FUN!

I don’t know if Lance was the one who led me to this path of feeling better or if feeling better has allowed my imagination to create an alternative version of my brother.  But I honestly don’t care.  I miss him in this physical place, I miss his huge presence, I miss hearing with my ears the sound of his laughter even though quite frequently I FEEL his laughter and the echo of it off my happiness.

Life isn’t perfect.  Most of us aren’t born into perfect families.  There is contrast to happiness in order to bring us into awareness of what happiness actually feels like.  There is great sadness when someone dies because we are feeling the stark contrast of the joy we felt when they were alive.  It’s that shock that brings us tears and grief, it is the feeling that we are somehow powerless.

But it is truly what we make of this experience that defines who we are.  It is our choice, our own free-will of how we are going to feel, how we are going to live our lives. We are given free-will and it is our choice of what to do with it.  Will we wallow in grief for the rest of our lives, give up the opportunities to come back into a state of happiness that we ultimately are always seeking?  Or will we find acceptance?

What do you think?

~ Crysta ~

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