The big man is rattling the French doors to my library, where I am engaged. before breakfast, in unpacking books from the movers' boxes and placing them on my shelves. I go to him with some apprehension, because he is the size of a tall refrigerator.
"I just came from the graveyard," he announces hoarsely. I can smell beer on his breath.
"And you are?"
"Oh." He hastens to apologize. He introduces himself as my neighbor, pointing to a white colonial house with gray shutters beyond the creek at the edge of our property. He has heard something about my work, and thinks I can help him.
I invite him inside, and his bulk fills my reading chair.
He explains that his father came to visit him during the night. "For real," he insists. "Dad was there, in the bedroom, shaking me to make me wake up. But Dad died years ago. I had to go to the graveyard to check that my father is dead. I needed to make sure that he's still in the ground."
I am tender with the big man now. So few of us, in our society, receive any guidance on communication with the dead. Yet our dead are often with us, because they stay around, close to the living, or because they come visiting. Or because we journey, in dreams or astral journeys, into their realm.
We talk about what the big man's father may want to share with him. Maybe just a beer and a sense of continuing connection. Maybe he wants an update on the family. Maybe he has some counsel for his son, or needs help from the living because he is lost or confused, and has found that the afterlife is nothing like what he may have heard in his church.
I suggest a simple ritual by which he can open conversation with his dead father. He agrees he'll light a candle, pull out some old photos, pour a second glass for his dad. He'll assume his father is present, seen or unseen, and say the things he needs to say, hopefully offering love and forgiveness. He'll be open to hearing what his father needs him to hear.
He came to me later, tears in his eyes, to tell me that he had had a great talk with his father. "He put me straight on some things, and he had some information on a business situation that may have saved my ass. Funny how it's easier to talk to him now he's dead than when he was alive."
I have been working for more than twenty years to help people understand that there is nothing weird about contact with the dead, who are alive in a world next door to us, whose borders are highly permeable. I have written books to facilitate timely and helpful communication with the deceased, including Dreamgates and my Dreamer's Book of the Dead.
Recently I had the pleasure of reading and lending my blessing to a wonderful new book on this theme, The Last Frontier by Julia Assante, who melds a scholar's mind and extensive research with the first-hand experience of a practical mystic. I remembered the scene of the big man at the door of my library, from my first days at my previous home, as I re-read Julia's book, which explains - passionately and eloquently - why we need to "normalize" relations with those who are living in the afterworld, for mutual benefit.
Julia Assante will be my guest on my Way of the Dreamer radio show today. You can listen to the show live from 9:00-10:00 a.m. Pacific (12:00-1:00 p.m. EST) or download from the archive at http://www.healthylife.net/
Photo by the great Czech photographer Václav Chochola (1923-2005)