I see dead people. In my bathtub.
Did that get your attention? I hope so; I always want your attention. But to be honest, the reality of my situation is not as shocking or creepy as it sounds. But it is a little weird.
Some background. A couple of years ago, I learned that a college boyfriend of mine – we were madly in love for about a year a lifetime ago – had died of a heart attack in his mid-40s. I was devastated; not because I was still attached to this person in any serious way – as with so many old friends, we’d reconnected in recent years on Facebook, but it was a very casual reconnection – but simply because he was MY age. Young. Exceedingly young. (Okay, maybe not exceedingly.) Like me, he was married with children. Children younger than mine. He had a family and a career and a life he loved. And he was dead.
And so it begins, I thought. It had to happen one day, and today is that day. My friends – my contemporaries – are now starting to die. This shit just got real.
So, I’m moping around the house, being all tragic and dramatic, and every song on the radio has me careening from wistful nostalgia to despair and back. And this goes on for days. (Nobody in my house seemed to notice. They don’t get me, man.) Then one night, I’m in the shower and I’m standing under the spray crying, thinking about Glenn – his name was Glenn –when all of a sudden… there he is. And when I say “there,” I mean right there in the shower. And when I say “he,” I mean Glenn. But more so. Not so much the physical Glenn I’d known as the… GLENN Glenn. The fully-realized, fully-actualized Glenn. The “real presence,” as the Catholics say. (Okay, that’s not exactly what the Catholics mean by “real presence,” and I’m being terribly sacrilegious, but the phrase so perfectly describes the actual-ness – not symbolic-ness – of what happened.) I didn’t so much “see” him as… sense him. I knew, beyond a doubt, he was there with me. In the freaking shower.
He spoke to me – though it was more like a silent mind meld – and what he said was this: “I’m really here. I’ve always been here and I will always be here. And I see you. I really see you.”
No kidding, I thought. I’m naked… And I laughed. I actually laughed out loud. And I heard (sensed) GLENN-Glenn laughing with me. But it was no mere laugh. It was this big, jubilant, infinitely comforting laugh that seemed to take in all the sorrows of the world and turn them to joy.
He continued with the mind meld thing, saying, “I see you, I know everything about you – everything – and I love you forever. It’s all going to be okay. I promise.”
And then he was gone. GLENN-Glenn was gone. It had all happened in a matter of seconds, but they were some of the most powerful seconds of my life. I emerged from the shower with clean hair, smooth legs, and a rejuvenated faith.
I figured this had been a one-time thing. I’m not the kind of girl who regularly receives messages from beyond. (I’m a Presbyterian!) But dang if it didn’t just happen again . . .
Last week I lost my friend George. I’d known him for ages, but only recently had we become real pals. George joined our choir a couple of years ago; he had a beautiful tenor voice, laughing blue eyes, and an easy, natural kindness that’s rare in this world. George loved music – all kinds, but he especially liked playing bluegrass – and he really loved people. I could go on and on about George for pages – folks just rhapsodized at his funeral yesterday – but this is just a short blog about dead people in bathtubs.
The day after they took George off life support, he showed up in mine. GEORGE-George, that is.
This time I was sitting down, soaking and weeping. And, yes, I was thinking about George. Why did it have to happen to such a good guy? What about his poor sons, now fatherless? And what about ME? (Yep, of course I made it about me.) How am I going to get through the anthem Sunday without his voice in my ear?
And then there he was. The real presence of George. In my bathtub. Like GLENN-Glenn before him, GEORGE-George spoke to me via mind meld, and he said basically the same thing. I’m really here – not just figuratively, but literally – and I always will be. I can see you, I know you, and I love you forever.
Again, the encounter was brief but mighty. Again, I laughed – at the sheer outrageousness of the situation, but also at the great pleasure of seeing him again. And George laughed, too, but his was the enormous, reassuring laughter of the spheres (like Glenn’s), the laughter that says it’s all good, always. My heart felt instantly light.
So, maybe this is my thing now. Maybe I will forevermore be seeing dead people in my bathtub. I don’t know why they choose that particular venue. I have a vague feeling it has something to do with my nakedness – not just physical, but my emotional nakedness. The bathtub is where I let my guard down . . . and I guess I do a lot of praying there, though I never think of it that way. These bathtub conversations always feel more like chats with myself than with God, but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, don’t you think? Especially when you don’t start the discussion with some kind of ‘Dear Heavenly Father’…?
I’m not exactly sure what it all means, either, but I’ve been pondering – you knew I would – and here’s where I am right now: What if being “made in the image of God” means having a mind that’s a reflection of (or “like”) the giant, all-knowing, all-loving intelligence that fuels the world? And what if, every now and then, our little “reflection minds” meld with the giant mind? And what if, when we die, our little “reflection minds” are subsumed by the giant mind – they “come home,” so to speak – and we are still ourselves, but also now part of the giant mind . . . capable of seeing and knowing and loving everybody and everything, forever and ever, amen? I know I’m not saying anything new here – for some this is theology 101, for others heresy – but I had never really thought about it quite like that. I’m a little slow. I have to come to these things in my own time, on my own terms, in my own language. I think we all do.
Many of you will read this and say, “Yeah… well, obviously what happened in your bathtub was all in your mind.” But if you’ll reread my last paragraph, you’ll know that’s not really a deal breaker for me.
Better yet, read this passage from one of the great spiritual sagas of our age:
“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows