Archive | April, 2010

Proof That There’s Internet in Heaven

23 Apr

Jeff Swimming with the Sea Lions in the Galapagos

Years before my brother Jeff died, I developed a deep craving for clues to what happens after we die.  The fascination skyrocketed during my hospice social worker years.  At that time, my search for proof of life beyond this one even brought me to a few meetings of a Near Death Experience (NDE) group in Canton, MA (of all places).  The accounts were amazing and compelling and irrefutably convincing and the take-home message from near death experiencers was this: When we die, we’re encapsulated in nothing but light and love.   Whatever that means, but I really love the sound of it.

Sure, when I was in the room with these experiencers, or when my hospice families recounted story after story of a dying loved one talking to deceased relatives in the days leading up to death, I was starry-eyed with belief.  But it never took long for the romantic notion of a light and love-filled afterlife to lose its grip and for my rational, analytic tendencies to debunk everything I’d heard.

Fast forward ten years to when Jeff died tragically and suddenly.   What was once a peripheral, conceptual fascination with the afterlife became as personal as it gets.  I NEEDED to know where my brother is, or that he “is” at all, now that he certainly isn’t with us anymore.  And two and a half weeks after he died I received a pretty stunning answer to that question.

After cocooning and wrapping tightly around each other for the first couple weeks after Jeff died, my family slowly started to disband from my parent’s vacation home in New Hampshire, all of us play acting at putting one foot in front of another, in some surreal attempt to return to our lives.  After everyone else left, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave, not yet prepared to leave the place where I last saw my brother.   So I lingered a couple days longer in New Hampshire.

The afternoon that everyone left, I was REALLY alone for the first time since Jeff had died.  I found myself slumped in the driveway, sobbing, in the same place where I had my last and deeply tender conversation with Jeff.   And in that alone moment, I begged, pleaded with him to reveal something, anything, to me about where he lived now.  I whined to him “I can’t feel you, I can’t sense you, where the ____ are you?”  I asked him, point blank, to send me an irrefutable message so there’d be no confusion.  I practically demanded of him to let me know that he wasn’t as far away and permanently GONE as he felt.

That same evening my brother Kevin drove back from his home in Maine to stay overnight with me. I was a little too spooked by the idea of being alone after all.  Kevin and I sank into our respective couches, the same spots where we’d huddled as a family for the prior 17 days.   If you’ve been blessed to never experience a profound death, then the phenomenon of needing to escape the pain by doing absurd but routine things once in a while, might seem strange and bordering on crass.  If you have experienced a profound loss then it might not surprise you that this evening with Kevin was the second time in the two and half weeks since Jeff died that I found myself on the website (yes, THAT ubiquitous Apple, the computer company).  A few days earlier I’d been on the website researching a laptop computer for my mom.   This night, with Kevin, I was back on the Apple website, researching an ipod for him.   Retail therapy.  (Aside: I’m pleased to report that though it took some convincing, we are now an entirely Apple family.)

Before I go on with the story, I need to get into a few technical details but trust me, they’re pivotally relevant to the message from Jeff that I was about to receive.   The Apple website is no longer set up this way, but two and a half years ago it was set up so that once you logged in to your Apple account, you’d stay logged in permanently until you went through a few (not very obvious) steps to log out.   You had to really make a serious effort to log out.  And once logged in, you’d see a friendly “Welcome, Kyle” every time you went to the website, even if weeks went by between visits to the site, without needing to log in again.   And earlier that week, when I was on the website researching the laptop for my mom, sure enough there was the reliable “Welcome, Kyle” message waiting for me.

But on this night, sitting in the living room with Kevin, debating how many gigabytes he should get for his new iPod, returning to the Apple site to settle the question, a life-changing message was waiting for me instead.

When I opened the apple page, where four days before it said “Welcome, Kyle”, this night it said “Welcome JEFFREY.”

As chills ran through my body, and I flashed back to five hours earlier when I was sobbing outside, begging Jeff for a sign to let me know he’s around and that he’s okay, I stuttered to Kevin, who was sitting on the couch adjacent to mine, “Oh my god.  What the hell?  Why does it say “Welcome JEFFREY” on my computer?   Kevin looked at my computer and we both just sat there in total shock.

Kevin shares my proclivity for disbelief and cynicism so in a matter of seconds our minds tried desperately to create a rational explanation for what was happening.  The most obvious culprit would be if Jeff had been on my computer before he died.  Trust me when I say that there’s NO WAY my brother was on my computer before he died (the proof for this is too personal to share here) and even if he’d tried he wouldn’t have been able to get on since I had a password set up.  Not to mention that since he’d died I’d already been on the site and it had said “Welcome Kyle”, just days earlier.   The only other possibility was an amazing coincidence that somewhere else in cyberspace someone named Jeffrey was logging in and somehow that had shown up on my computer.  But seriously has that EVER happened to me or you before? (If it has, don’t tell me about it.)

After calling my mom, who quickly got my sister-in-law on the phone with us, and reporting what just happened, they encouraged me to just savor this unbelievable (literally unbelievable) message and GIFT.   My mom’s always been better at faith than I am.

After getting off the phone, the poetry and beauty of the combination of the words “Welcome” with my brother’s full birth name “Jeffrey” started to really hit me.  Was he saying that he’d been Welcomed to another world and that the use of his birth name was a reflection of the fact that he was now healed and whole again?  Was he saying that we should Welcome him into the space with us here and now because that’s where he’ll be from now on, in the space with US?!

For the rest of that evening, I was nearly giddy from such a surreal experience; I was filled with Jeff’s presence.  For the first time in 17 days I was reminded, however fleeting it felt, that there would be some unspecified time in the future, when it didn’t feel like I was living inside a nightmare.  Sadly, by morning my tenaciously analytic mind had taken over again and what happened the night before felt like a mirage.   Once I came down off of my high, I also realized that heavenly cyber communication would never be a sufficient replacement for my brother.

Yet, my pesky science-based mind aside, the experience forever instilled somewhere in my psyche the possibility that Jeff is in fact very nearby.   Even when I try, it’s pretty hard for me now to deny the possibility that there is a life beyond this one. And every once in a long while, like the other day on Storrow Drive, for no particular reason, my ego mind and all its skeptic parts do me the great favor of letting my soul take the reigns for a few minutes.  And for just a few minutes I get to reconnect on the purest level with the undeniable connection I felt to Jeff that night.

So Jeff, if you wouldn’t mind, and I know I’m being greedy here but I’d REALLY appreciate it if you could send another sign sometime soon – I could seriously use a refresher.  And I sure as hell hope that those near-death experiencers are spot on; the only peace I can come to about your death is that you were able to exchange your deep suffering for nothing but pure light and love.   Well, that or you get to swim with the sea lions every day for eternity.    Because if I remember correctly, seeing you swim with them on that family vacation so long ago was kind of what I imagine someone bathing in pure light and love looks like.