A day or two after the horrors of September 11th, I was sitting in front of the altar in the Spirit Room of my then residence, a small house outside of Kansas City. I had lit some candles and offered up a prayer for healing, and was now doing a little quiet meditation in hopes of finding some answers… something to explain how this all could have happened.
As I stared into the candle flame, I felt myself falling deeper and deeper into a trance, until I felt like I could no longer move. Although I was still fully conscious of where my body was, my spirit seemed to be traveling outside of this realm, to a dimension beyond time and space. I was here, but I wasn’t here. I was there, but I wasn’t there. I was between the worlds; I had lifted the veil that separated the world of the living from the spiritual world, and had stepped knowingly and willingly into the darkness.
I didn’t know exactly where I was, but I wasn’t afraid. I knew I was where I was supposed to be, and that there was a reason why I was there. There was a purpose to this journey, even if it had yet to reveal itself to me.
Slowly the darkness began to subside… only to be replaced by clouds of fog; a grayish-white mist that enveloped everything. As the fog began to lift slightly, I discovered I was standing on the shore looking out over a large body of water… perhaps the ocean, or at least a very large lake. Over my long simple dress I wore a heavy black woolen cape, its hood pulled up over my head.
Then in my ear I heard a soft voice whisper…
You must help them. They need you.
Then I knew. I understood where I was, and why I was there.
I had been tapped. The Ancient Ones had called upon me to escort the spirits of the dead to their new home in the Summerland. I was to be their guide, to assist them in making the crossing over.
As I stood on the shore in silent anticipation, waiting for their arrival, the mists slowly began to part, and in the shadows I could make out the outline of a boat. It looked like something out of long ago times… perhaps a Roman galleon, or a Viking longship. Seated in rows on the boat were around sixty people, male and female of all ages. Nobody spoke; there was a solemn silence in the air.
As the mists continued to part, I saw floating behind the first boat yet another boat. And another… and then another. As visibility became greater, I realized there was an entire fleet of boats, around twenty in all. And in each of those boats sat around sixty people.
I gasped. It was not a gasp of fear, or of panic. Rather it was the gasp of disbelief turning into harsh realization.
There’s so many of them!
For the first time I was beginning to truly understand the full impact of this incident, beginning to understand what had actually happened earlier that week. Lives had been lost – not just a handful, or even a hundred… but over a thousand. All together, approximately three thousand people lost their lives in the attacks of September 11th. Three thousand people who had gotten up that morning, gotten dressed, and began what they thought would be just another day.
Just another day.
And now here I was, standing on the shore, gazing out over the waves into the faces of some of those people. They said nothing… and yet their expressions said it all.
Where am I? Where am I going? What happened? Why did it happen?
As I looked at each of them, my eyes brimmed with tears. What could I say to them? How could I help them make sense of this tragedy, when I couldn’t even comprehend the horrors for myself?
As I continued to study these individuals, I found myself locking eyes with a young man sitting in the first boat, which had pulled up to shore besides me. His uniform clearly identified him as a firefighter of the New York Fire Department, one of the over three hundred members of FDNY who died on this day. His eyes gazed at me with a piercing stare from a face dirty with dust, grime, and caked blood.
Standing up in the boat, his brows squeezed together in a puzzled expression, he finally spoke… his voice penetrating through the eery silence.
Where am I?
I took a deep breath. Explaining all of this wasn’t going to be easy.
You are in a time beyond time, and a place beyond space.
He seemed satisfied with this response, yet I could sense he was still confused… and still seeking answers I wasn’t sure I could provide. Again he spoke:
Who are you?
Another difficult question, for which there was no simple answer.
I’m your guide. I’ve come to take you home.
I thought I saw a quick flicker of realization come into his eyes, which was confirmed by his next question:
Am I dead?
A large lump formed in my throat, and the tears which I had been holding back began to spill down my cheeks. I couldn’t form the words to answer his question… all I could do was nod my head.
An aura of quiet acceptance came over the firefighter, and with one brief nod, he held out his hand as if to offer me assistance. Lifting my skirt, I stepped off the shore onto the boat, and stood at the bow as it backed up slowly and then began moving forward silently through the water, followed by the rest of the fleet.
After we had traveled for some distance, one could begin to see through the mists our destination… an island rising up out of the sea, with a welcoming sandy beach leading back to a thick forest of trees.
Avalon. Valhalla. Elysian Fields. Djanna. Happy Hunting Ground. Otherworld. Heaven. Summerlands.
By whatever name you wish to give it, this was to be the resting place of these spirits… these heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Here they could live out their days in the other realm – perhaps to be reincarnated, or perhaps only to be rejuvenated. In any case, for now…
this was to be home.
As the air began to clear and the sun shine brightly through the clouds, the boats pulled up several feet away from the beach, gently floating in the shallow waters. One by one, people began stepping off the boat and wading to shore. I too stepped off the boat, and stood in the water, the waves lapping around my ankles, watching as these spirits walked past me onto the beach and then disappeared into the forest, leaving behind footprints in the sand.
The lump in my throat had grown larger, and the tears continued to run down my cheeks. So many lives needlessly gone. How could I reconcile myself with this loss?
Then I felt a gentle tug on my cape. Looking down, I found myself staring into the face of a little girl, perhaps four or five years of age, with blond hair and big blue eyes. Those eyes stared back at me; not in fear, not in pain, not in bewilderment… but with an ancient wisdom that belied this child’s youth.
And in those eyes I found what I was seeking. Comfort. Peace. Acceptance. Yes, what had happened was horrible and painful for many of us. These were not merely the “walking dead” – they were family members and friends. They were mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, husbands and wives. They were co-workers and good buddies. They were your neighbor upstairs, the girl next door, and the cute guy who lived down the street.
We miss them. We mourn them. We memorialize them.
But they are okay. They have come to accept what has happened to them, and we must as well. We can and should never forget… but it is in the living that we most honor the dead.
As my tears subsided, I smiled down at this little girl and offered her my hand. With a big grin, she took my hand and we began to wade to shore. However, we had only gone a few steps when a woman started moving towards us. I quickly realized that this was child’s mother. There were no excited shouts, no cries of exclamation, no joyous reunion. Rather, it was as if both had been waiting for the other, knowing that they had to make this journey together.
A journey I could not take with them. It was not my time.
I stopped, realizing that my job was finished. I had done my duty… and now it was time to say goodbye.
I looked back down at the little girl, and the lump returned to my throat. She gazed up at me solemnly and then lifted her other hand, which was clenched like a fist around some object. Slowly she opened it so I could see what rested on her palm ~
A small seashell… its design curling around much like a spiral.
The spiral, my favorite shape. The spiral, a reminder of life, death, and rebirth. The spiral, a process of growth and evolution. The spiral, a path leading from outer consciousness to inner enlightenment. The spiral, a symbol of transformation… and of eternity.
This was her thanks, her gift.
It was a lesson for me, a reminder that even in the midst of death… life is eternal.
I picked up the shell and held it in my own palm. Giving a final gentle squeeze, I released the little girl’s hand and she moved forward, grabbing her mother’s extended hand. Together the two of them walked toward the beach.
I stood, watching them go. In the final moment, before they stepped on land, the little girl turned her head and peered back at me over her shoulder. She broke out in a huge smile that just brightened her entire face.
And then she was gone.
I came out of my trance quickly after that. I was back in my Spirit Room in my little house. I did not know how much time had passed… it could have been five minutes, it could have been five hours. I was drained… I could hardly move, and collapsed on the floor, panting and gasping for breath. My body was drenched in sweat. Slowly I began to revive, until I could finally sit up, continuing to take deep breaths. I felt very tired, and yet very exhilarated at the same time. I knew I had been through a powerful experience, and I felt honored to have been a part of it. I quietly thanked the spirits, snuffed out my candles, and left the room.
It has been seven years.
And yet I can still remember my trance as vividly as if it happened yesterday. I can close my eyes and conjure up the images… the mists and the island, the boats and the people, the grimy face of a firefighter, and the big blue eyes of a little girl.
I shall always remember.