From Death is an Impostor , “About This Book.

” Paul Hampton Crockett

Love Never Dies 1996

P. Crockett

Here you will find chapters from my book, Death is an Impostor: Life, Love, and the Path of the Heart. The book has been written for some time, but despite all efforts not been “officially” published. Yet hand-bound copies have circulated around the globe, and back, and the human response has been extraordinary. There are stories I could tell you about this story! So, something now tells me it’s time, and I have decided to begin sharing online. It is a novel, but most certainly not fiction—it is the unfolding story of my life.

Every single word, every account related, is most painstakingly true, with that spirit of true solemnity I reserve for the realm of the sacred, and for that realm alone. It is the best that I have to offer up to this hurting world. It tells why I have come to believe that indeed:

AIDS Quilt, Detail

…and, why that knowledge is so deeply important in the here and now, and promising of hope for others. My intention in sharing would be (most especially) to help those lost in grief, and short on hope. With full humility (because I teach and remind myself, as well), I would urge that we keep

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on looking upwards, even as we learn to listen in new ways to the quiet counsel of our hearts, and pay attention if a feeling dwells deep inside telling us that one most loved may be dead, but is not gone. If this story were mine alone, I would not feel the need to share it. But it is not, and it is the greatest and most important kind of news, and so I must.

In this lifetime, I have found true love. And lost it. Or so I believed, with the death of my true blue soul mate Scott Richard Gillen on March 1, 1996. Being a reasonably rational and logical type of person, I knew that Scott’s death meant that he was gone, for good, and that he would “remain with me” in only the most metaphorical and damnably poetic way despite my huge inner longing. I could act the heartsick madman and speak to him, if I chose (and in fact I began writing to him every day, for many months), but to no practical purpose. I could feel only pathetic, very much a ghost myself. I felt torn by huge and irreconcilable crossripping tides, lost in the echo of great booming questions “Where is he?” and “How can he be gone, and I still be here?” I knew, deeper than all knowledge, that we were to be together.

Together how? Now he was dead! My heart that so clearly wanted and needed to keep on reaching out to him was quite obviously delusional, simply not to be trusted. There was nowhere to turn, no reason to hold on. All that we were ever to share, to experience as new together, would forevermore lay in the past tense alone. It felt as if everything that had once so touched and

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delighted me lay packed away in a heart that now felt somewhere else (where, I could have no idea), packed on ice, growing smaller and more dim with each day’s arduous distance. But not for long. As it turns out, I was spectacularly, breathtakingly WRONG on all counts, at the highest cost to myself. Scott’s death by no means brought about either the extinguishing of his soul nor signaled the end of a vital and ongoing relationship. Rather, an entirely new journey had begun for us both, one of timeless rebirth. But the road to getting from there to here has been far from either direct or easy, and along the way I have been repeatedly shaken to my foundations and pushed always another step beyond any prior limits. It may be important that you realize I am now writing in a vocabulary of ideas and experience once barely known to me, even (easily) beyond my imagination. I cannot begin to fully understand it all, but my experience of death has taught me volumes about life. From the very beginning of the apparent “dead end” of my journey, the seeds of my promised salvation took root with the coaching and unconditional support of my loved ones not only to simply keep on, but to dare listen to the voice quiet and steady within my heart along the way. In the wake of his passing I stood at a critical point, blinded and frozen nearly solid in pain. It was then that I was gently and repeatedly encouraged to continue to open when that seemed an impossibility. In the deepest part of me I knew not only that real love had been, but also very much still was, yet had absolutely no idea what to do or where to go with that knowledge. At exactly the right times, I was given the permission I so craved to simply ask and to explore new possibilities.

Bear Cut Sunset P. Crockett Thus was the start of my difficult path smoothed, and my life ultimately greatly enriched. As I allowed my heart and mind to open and start simply paying attention, I observed that love recognizes none of the limits we do. I learned that dead does not mean gone, or (necessarily) finished, and that miraculously even the individual personality can remain fully intact following its passage into realms the body cannot know. I experienced in the most immediate of ways the presence and touch of the angels, and came to realize they are a part of our everyday lives, larger and more real than even the most conscious of us can imagine. Death remains essentially mysterious, and I would not presume to speak otherwise. Despite its absolute universality, indeed life’s one guarantee, it refuses to submit to any insults of simple

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explanation or to the reduction of its realms to any map or chart. At this point I have learned much more about what death is not than what it is, yet found even such glimpses of the truth profoundly liberating and worthy of sharing. Mine is less a story “about death” than the daunting challenge of getting on with life. At its essence, it is about living freely, and loving deeply, and savoring the experience we are given with a feeling of safety and an attitude of abundance that in some ways defies reason.

AIDS Quilt, Detail

Although it once seemed very much otherwise I have come to understand that death is no enemy
to either life or love, and in fact without exception or accident serves only according to the purposes of its undisputed master, Love. Death is every bit as essential to the grand cycle of being as birth, and lies just as near the center of its heart. And though we observe in nature that night follows the day following the night, and witness each season yielding gracefully to the next, time after time into time and past time, we often fail to remember that we too are part of it all, or to make the basic connection between the cycles of our lives and the greater pageant always surrounding. Winter is no enemy to spring. There is a greater plan, and we are all in it together. It only seems as if our journeys from birth to death are isolated and solitary, the weight of the fragmented choices confronting us along the way ours to bear alone. In deeper truth we are always unified by the roles we share, and jointly partake of one Spirit. Not one of us walks even one step of our journeys alone, unguided, or without such protection as may be required for the benefit of our souls, ever.

Love Never Dies, II P. Crockett

Looking back on the raw horror of my experience of Scott’s death and the winding lengths of the journey that followed, I cannot help but feel that the process need not have been so damned difficult. I could not have had less of a clue, or been less generally prepared for the event had my beloved been the first mortal to ever pass, and imagine I am not alone in that feeling. Had I

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known then what I do now, or simply been open to the questions, the entire experience would have been different. Not necessarily easier, but most certainly different, and in a way promising of healing. Aware even of the possibility that love truly shared can never die, I might have been better able to face up to the gradual diminishment and final physical loss of my loved one. With the unbearable weight of anticipated loss lifted at least in part from my shoulders, I could have more fully been there during that sacred time. Held safe within the assurance that my real treasure could never be lost, I might have found it easier to begin to let go. And, after his death, been better able to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness for what we’d shared instead of sinking into a black hole of the spirit without bottom. But none of that was to be, for I had unknowingly swallowed the bitter and skimpy offerings tossed out as reality to those in my horrendous situation by “those who knew.” Strangely for a culture in which the miracle of resurrection provides a common bedrock of faith, our institutions have proudly embraced in this realm of the sacred a form of collective myopia, and presumed in unthinking arrogance to strip death of its mystery. Forgetting that death always has been and remains the greatest of the great unknowns, the most vocal, “realistic,” and assertive among us have presumed to pronounce its occurrence the end of the story. Not merely the end of a life, but also the final and irrevocable dissolution of every human bond and the sudden endpoint of each ongoing journey. “Listen, we may not like it either,” they might say. “It’s hard, yes. But that’s just the way it is.”

Along the Way

P. Crockett

It is no wonder that those traumatized by the ravages of death and its attendant losses often feel exquisitely alone. Their hearts whisper from within a comforting knowledge of deeper truth, that their love is not only still vital but received, but is even most tenderly reciprocated here and now. The “experts” proceed to nod patronizingly as they inscribe in their crisp notes such clinical terms as “denial” and “wish fulfillment,” meanwhile mentally pinpointing each experience neatly within an authoritative list defining “Stages of Grief.” In the place of meaningful guidance or support, those broken in spirit find awaiting only a sterile vacuum overcrowded with an abundance of cheap and damaging “answers” on this greatest of human questions, backed primarily by cynicism, laziness, and a resolute, unbreachable “groupthink.”

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Yet on the basis of what experience can so many with such smugness make such pronouncements, and upon what “evidence” offered? Those claiming with authority special knowledge of death’s nature and meaning need to be questioned, and hard. How would they presume to engrave upon mystery’s great blank slate their “knowledge” of the hereafter, offering only small and dingy answers in return, and why? If they knew naught of our relationships during life, how do they find wisdom and authority to effectively pronounce upon them in the event of death? If both our true origin and real purposes in life remain ultimately clouded and thus gloriously rich in possibility, why should the next phase of our journey be any different? Who among us can credibly claim an ability to first fix and then define the anatomy of a miracle? Those reeling with grief and short on hope often fall easy prey at the greatest cost to such stock “knowledge” and advice, for the physical absence of the loved one is palpable and the pain of loss a pounding reality second to none. Yet if these “experts” are wrong and their assurances counterfeit, how much unnecessary damage and human pain have been caused as a result? The cost is incalculable, and its toll in suffering beyond measure. Any door to healing that our intuition and instincts might have had us open is left shut tight in fear, the wellspring of our solitary tears finally dries up and disappears, and part of us slowly dies. We remain unnecessarily alone, a vague sense of shame and painful absurdity weighting down our grief, and have lost the ability to support and share from the heart precisely when we need it most.

Spirits Having Flown

P. Crockett

Here is why I therefore take that step out on to that thin wire over such deep and sacred ground: not to provide answers, but to facilitate the asking of healing questions. To re-open doors of possibility once thought slammed forever shut, and encourage the exploration of the rich and powerful mysteries that gleam like stars amongst the darkness, offering a promise of healing to those open to simply acknowledging them. It only seems as if death and its harsh silence bring an immediate end to all being and stifle any further inquiry. In truth the experience offers a rare portal to entire new realms of knowing and sharing and being, despite its raw opening in grief. Any who would dare find that doorway and step through it will encounter a vast new world of the spirit, richly abundant in possibility and reflecting an ancient language of the heart. Yet genuine openness to inquiry is no easy thing for the many of us “who know it all,” having grown into our understanding within a milieu that measures the height of wisdom by the depth of

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one’s cynicism. Also, possibly for the same reasons we tend to be “afraid of the dark,” many fear the answers that might be uncovered in the digging. Based upon their experience, many understandably reject fully and outright the realm of the “spiritual,” and mistrust inherently that which cannot be measured or weighed, much less touched or seen. That is fine with me; I am here much less to evangelize than to encourage each person to listen to their own heart, and be available to feel what it might be telling them. It is in that sacred place, and there alone, that this most critical of journeys must always begin. The journey into the depths of mystery is not necessarily the easier path. It might seem forbidding indeed, its long shadows leading squarely into the unknowable and at times painfully solitary and uncomfortable. I write to offer for your consideration the idea that, even granting all these undeniable challenges, it might still be the best way. One time a friend made me laugh out loud when he said, in a rather tense and intense spiritual moment, “Paul, don’t be afraid. It’s not like there’s anything under there just waiting to reach on up and grab you and pull you in.” I laughed for sheer delight because I suddenly realized that had been precisely what I’d feared, yet the very image appeared “cartoony” and unthreatening when put gently and with sincerity into words. For those struggling to effectively cope with the ravages of grief, a personal journey of the heart might serve as the best and only lifeline to the distant horizon of any future with promise. Despite the “cookie cutter” approach to death, grief, and loss that society might impose for its general comfort and convenience, each path to healing is unique, and travelers called upon such quests must ultimately seek out their own solutions, honoring their own needs and heeding their own intuition.

No rules universally apply here, at least that I know of. Only we can know our own hearts, have a true feel for our history, and even begin to understand the depth or textures of the relationships we have shared. Only our own discernment can tell us whether the event of a loved one’s passing marks a completion of that relationship, or a new phase of the connection, or any point in between. If unfinished business remains with one still very much loved but now in the spirit, what might be the potential costs on either side if the issue is never even examined? If this book were to succeed in but one task, it would be to simply pass along that same gift of encouragement to others shattered by loss, or left dazed or frozen in confusion, or otherwise feeling locked down in pain with no possibility of parole. I have chosen to share my experience here not to provide a guide or any sort of blueprint for yours, but rather in the hope that my doing so may simply help open you up to a new range of possibilities, and thus ease the way upon your

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path. I have learned that love is the sole refuge we can trust, and that in the quiet voice of our own hearts lies our surest guide through the dark and wholly uncharted territories in which so many of us will one day be forced to wander, outcast. No matter where you stand in life, or whom you love, death and its great mysteries will sooner or later play a role. And may it be that in the great passion play of your life you will have the strength and peace of mind to live fully and abundantly, holding nothing back. Risk heartbreak, cultivating the understanding that death is simply another transition, from which the soul continues its journey upon the completion of its mission here. Know that death need not end the relationships you hold as most precious, and that despite the possibility of heartbreak your only real safety is in love. It is with confidence that I assure you that you can find your way, but the going may not always be easy. To start healing, to make progress, you need not fully understand or believe. Just try out the assurance that love is what got you into this mess, and it is love that will see you out. It only feels like any mistakes have been made, no matter how great the pain. No love shared is ever a mistake. Follow it through, and move on with your life as and when you are damned well ready. Move forward and open up, or don’t, and only at your own pace. Remain open to the possibility that nothing is quite as it seems, and know that the love you still have to give is being received, loud and clear. Whatever emotions may still burn within your breast are neither out of place nor in any way in vain. It may very much seem otherwise, but you are on your path and cannot be elsewhere. If you still breathe, your mission here is not yet complete. And no matter how the idea might feel to you, here’s the truth: you are loved and needed, more than you can ever know. Right here and now, forever. Let’s explore.

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