A story from the Bardo of Air Travel in the pre-pandemic era. Here is what unfolded when I was traveling with a copy of the French edition of Dreamgates in 2012:
I thought I would not have much of a story to share from my long overnight journey from upstate New York to Montpellier in southern France. No flight delays, no missed connections or lost bags, empty seats beside me on the first two flights, so no stories like that of the Death's Head Dominatrix (which you will find in my book Sidewalk Oracles).
Then, on my last short flight from Paris-CDG to Montpellier, I took out my inflight reading, a book in French titled Les portes du rêve. A flight attendant immediately asked me if she could see the book. Leafing through it with mounting excitement, she saw that one of the driving themes is using dreams of the departed and conscious dream journeys to the Other Side to gain first hand knowledge of what happens after death.
"This is my favorite theme," she told me. "I am passionate about it. I am going to get this book!"
I now confessed that I was the author. I explained that I was reading myself in hopes of brushing up my French prior to opening a depth workshop near Montpellier titled "Faire de la mort une alliée" (Making Death Your Ally). Les portes du rêve is the French version of my book Dreamgates.
Cabin service at my end of the cabin was now suspended while the flight attendant proceeded to fire a volley of questions. "To write about these things you must have had a near-death experience, yes?"
People around us did not seem to mind that the coffee and juice was not being poured. An older couple next to me wanted in on the conversation. Violette, the wife, said, "We are all so hungry for first-hand information about what happens after death. I want to know what I can expect in the afterlife, and I don't want to hear it from priests or psychologists. I want to hear it from people who have been there! And I want to know how I can find out these things for myself."
I quoted Montaigne. Puisque nous ne savons pas où la mort nous attend, attendons-la partout. I had forgotten that I don't speak good French as I quoted this wonderful counsel in the original version. "Since we do not know where Death will meet us, let us be ready to meet it everywhere."
There was a stir of agreement from folks around us. I realized I now had an audience of at least a dozen people.
"I can't think of any subject as important as what you are discussing," a man across the aisle contributed, writing down my name and the title of my book. A male flight attendant joined us, wanting the same information.
I observed that we have two main ways of gaining direct knowledge of l'au-delà, the Other Side. We can communicate with people who are at home there, and we can make the crossing before death, to see for ourselves.
This led to an urgent series of fresh questions, again centering on my personal experiences.
I noted that I have never been content with the term "near death experience" for what happened to me a s boy, when I died and came back. On one occasion, when I checked out of my body during emergency appendectomy, aged nine, I seemed to live a whole life in another world. "I don't think I had a near death experience. I think I died and came back."
More questions, more and more urgent.
"Do you have no fear of death?
"Do you talk to many people who have died?"
"Are there many different places where people go when they die?"
The short answer to those three, of course, is Yes, Yes, Yes. I gave highest marks to this question: "Were you happier in the life when you died, or the life you are living now?"
That was a tough one. I confessed that I was so in love with the people of the other world who raised me as their own when I went away from this world at age nine that I had a hard time living in the body of a nine-year-old boy when I came back. "I suppose I was in love with Death. I have learned to make Death an ally rather than a lover. I want to be ready to meet him anywhere, everyday. I also want to use him as a counselor who can help me to make my life choices with the courage and clarity only Death can bring."
The flight attendant had returned to her regular tasks, but kept coming back to rejoin the conversation. When we landed, she was waiting outside the baggage claim with some of her colleagues. They were all very interested and wanted my website and book information.
"You see, we are making you some good publicity, so you will have to keep teaching us about l'au-delà here in France."
There was a synchronicity at play in all of this that make it a marvelous confirmation, one of those secret kisses, a bisou from the universe. An hour before I left for the airport, I had sent my favorite editor a few pages from a book-in-progress, from a chapter titled "The Boy Who Died and Came Back." That became the title of the book itself, and I recounted this episode in an introduction titled "Kiss of Death".