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Ferry Over Jordan by Margery Lawrence 1944

 

III. ON WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO DIE

One of the most amusing and interesting talks I ever had on the above subject was with dear old T. P. O'Connor, the famous journalist and Parliamentarian, some time after his death.

I knew him well on earth and it was, indeed, largely owing to his encouragement that I first began to write.

This interview was held via that excellent medium, Eileen Garrett; and I must hasten to say that I did not seek the interview with the least desire or intention of contacting T.P., so telepathy on my part can be wiped out! I arranged the interview for the sake of another friend who wanted to try and speak to her father, and if the often-used argument of telepathy had any real value it should have been her father to whom we spoke. We were both thinking and concentrating on him, had even given the medium a fragment of his handwriting to act as a “ focus” , as this sometimes helps communication quite a lot - and yet it was not my friend's father who spoke, but T.P. I could scarcely believe my ears when the familiar voice with its pleasant brogue came through - and when, after an interchange of eager news on both sides, I asked point­blank, “ Tell me, T.P., what does it feel like to die?” I got so typically T.P. an answer that nobody who had known the dear old man could possibly have failed to recognize it as his, and his alone! I reproduce it as far as possible in his own words.

“ To die, is it?” he said reflectively. “ Well, me dear, you know I was ill for a long time - a weary long time it was too - before I left the old earth, and had to be wheeled about like a poor old cripple in a nasty chair, and didn't I hate it!” (For years before his death he was virtually paralysed


 

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from his hips downwards and had to go about in a special chair.) “ And then I got very ill and had to go to bed, and I got more ill and more tired, and I remember one day wishing with all me heart I could go to sleep for ever and ever. And then I felt myself drifting off, and I remember feeling, ‘Ah, this is the sleep I wanted, the real sleep I've been after this long while’ - only I didn't know, ye-see, me dear, that it was death coming - but it was like sliding into a dark, warm, kindly sleep. And then it seemed to me I slept for long and long, I don't know how long, but then I woke dimly - sort of half woke - and I was lying on a bed or couch of some kind in a hall or big room lit with a sort of soft blueish light, and there were people moving quietly about that I seemed to know were there looking after me. And then suddenly it seemed that me old Dad, that I hadn't seen since I was a wee gossoon, stood close to me bed and smiled down at me and said, ‘Well, me lad, so you're here all right and it's glad to see ye we all are. Just keep quiet and everything'll be all right!’

“ And then it seemed I drifted into sleep again, with the half of an idea that it was all a queer dream, because hadn't me Dad been dead these years and years? And then a long time later I seemed to wake altogether, and behold, there I was sitting on the bank of a river in the loveliest garden I ever saw, with flowers and great trees all round and in the distance rolling hills with clouds crowning 'em, blue hills that were Ireland all over again! And the sun was warm and the sky was blue and there were birds flittering about tame as you please, and in the distance the sea. And I looked down at me legs, and they were there all right, and no old wheel-chair, and I looked at me hands, and they were the hands of a young man - and I said to meself, ‘Tim, ye're drunk!'“

It is impossible - though I have tried my best-to reproduce in cold print the vigour and pungent character of T.P.'s way of telling a story; it would take a first-rate actor to mimic his turn of phrase and accent, apart from his very individual voice – and Mrs. Garrett, the medium, had never met T.P. at all! I found his description of death one of the most brisk and inspiring I have ever heard - and I have heard a good many - so I have used it at the outset of this talk upon “ what it feels like to die”.

Many talks, not only to the Guides, but to friends who have made the “ crossing over Jordan” and subsequently discussed it with me, have taught me that for the vast majority of people the death of the physical body comes much as T.P. described it - as a soothing, pleasant and in


 

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most cases more than welcome sliding away into apparent sleep; no more difficult and alarming, when it comes, than the sliding into sleep that. we accept, only too gladly, each night when we go to bed.

When death comes normally or in the course of illness, the hour of death is known on the Other Side, and those who love the dying one are often allowed to come over with the Helpers whose work it is to smooth the passage and make it easy for the dying - and thus it is that very many people, at the moment of death, speak of seeing someone they have “ loved long since and lost awhile “ standing beside their bed, or somewhere in the room.

In this manner old T.P. saw the woman he loved faithfully for many years, who died a few years before him, beside his bed when he died, and Dame Marie Tempest saw her beloved “ Willie” Graham-Brown (or so I am told by a friend who watched her die); and just so (though I did not actually see him) I knew, when I found my mother lying dead of a sudden heart-attack across her bed in a little hotel in Monte Carlo, that my father was there beside her as she died. I heard his voice. Maybe I heard it with some inner ear, not with my physical ear - that I could not say - but somehow I heard it, strong and vital as in life! My mother had fallen dead in the act of getting ready for the opera, and was still lying, only partly dressed, half on the bed and half on the floor. She had been perfectly well when I had left her, only two hours before, in the Casino gardens having tea with a friend, and the shock of finding her thus was so great that instinctively I turned to the door to shout for help . . . but then I heard my father's voice. I remember the words he used. . . . I shall never forget them.

“ This was your mother ...”

I knew instantly what he meant. My mother had been a woman sensitive and shy to a degree - and to be found lying half naked, sprawling like a flung-down doll...

I was very young then, and death was new to me, and it cost me a hideous effort, for she was already cold in death. But I lifted her body on to the bed, put it straight and covered it with a quilt before I went out to call for a doctor.

For those who die by accident, or in war-time, or by violence, the transition is not always quite so easy as for those that die normally. For those whose death is sudden, since they are not withdrawn slowly and gently from the body, but are jerked or torn roughly from it, the result is


 

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an effect on the etheric body somewhat resembling concussion. And though this etheric (or astral) body is quite unconscious of pain, it suffers all the same a form of collapse due to the shock of quitting the physical body in such a hurry, and has to be taken at once by the doctors and healers who are ever at hand, and put into a special Home of Rest (of which there are many thousands on the Other Side, and all, alas, thanks to the war, full!) where the “ shocked” patient is tenderly treated and allowed to remain in a sort of coma until the effect of the shock. has worn off and he can be treated by healing rays, mental vibrations and so on, until he is fit to go out and take up his life anew.

This applies, of course, particularly to those killed in war-time. These souls are hurled out of their bodies with terrific speed and violence, also their minds are generally in such a keyed-up state of excitement, anger, fear, pain, exhaustion and kindred emotions, that it often takes a long time (as we count time on earth) before their vibrations are quieted down and they resume complete normality. These cases vary greatly, according to the seriousness of the “ shock” and the patient's natural resistance, in the speed of their recovery; but without exception they all do recover their psychic health completely in the end. But I gather that in some cases after death in battle a certain sort of nightmare, dream­like state remains for a while; a sort of “ hangover” from the heat and fury of the fight, in which the patient (for all those who die a death of violence are of necessity patients for a while afterwards) relives the battle during which he met this death, knows again the excitement, the anxiety, the thrill, the anger, all the rest. But it is only like a dream, and is soothed away by degrees by careful treatment and endless rest - and here the degree of spiritual belief possessed by the soul in question acts as a great help to his rapid recovery. It must be understood that in using the word “ spiritual belief” I do not mean, of necessity, any formulated or defined religious belief.

There are many people who have no belief that could be described as “ religious” in any sense, yet while they cannot put it into words, they have a deep-seated instinctive faith in Something. They feel that they are going somewhere after death. They feel secure that they will find again after death those they have loved and lost - and where this instinctive feeling is, here is a spiritual belief, whether acknowledged or not. And the possession of this means that personal adjustments to the new world will be far easier; and life, people and conditions on the


 

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Other Side will be accepted and understood with far greater swiftness and completeness than otherwise.

People who on earth were complete materialists often present a phenomenon after death that is both curious and pathetic- they often don't believe they are dead at all, and get very angry when they meet friends or Guides on the Other Side who tell, or try to tell, them the truth! It must be admitted (though I fear this will not please the “ unco' guid” ) that a prejudiced and narrow form of religious belief can act, as well as flat materialism, as a serious hindrance to acceptance of conditions on the Other Side!

I have known more than one case of a woman ultra-religious in the old­world, narrow sense, refuse to believe that she was dead because she was not welcomed by a choir of angels and led by the hand to the Throne between rows of harping saints! Odd and extraordinary as it may sound, I have heard an arguing spirit say with a bad-tempered “ flounce” in her voice, “ I don't care what you say, I can't be dead, because I haven't met Jesus yet!” (Comment on the system of religious teaching that can produce that state of mind is needless!) Puzzled or angry dis­appointment at the absence of golden floors, pearly gates, cherubs and seraphs, and all the rest is often found - and the spirit insists he can't be dead, because if he was dead he would be in Heaven, and this place isn't Heaven because he knows what Heaven is like! He doesn't quite know where he is, he knows he is not at home, but still he isn't in Heaven, so he can't be dead!

Yes, many a narrow fanatic who was once an ardent adherent of his own particular little sect, because he has been taught that that sect has cornered all true spiritual thought and teaching, still remains on the Other Side mentally prisoned within the ring-fence that he and his fellows have created. And until they learn better - which of course they do in the end - they get together, these rigidly-prejudiced folk, and create their own Little Bethels which, instead of broadening their minds and opening out their viewpoints, bind them down, as they did on earth, and cripple them as the ancient Chinese once crippled their women's feet... .

I know and have talked to several spirits who, though they were talking through a medium's mouth to me, were still quite certain they were still alive because they felt fit or well! Because they found themselves living in a “ real” world with trees and flowers and people, because they could walk and talk, and were functioning in the same sort of body that they


 

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possessed on this side - they flatly refused to believe they were dead (Of course, as I have tried to explain in my chapter “ Everyday Life on the Other Side”, the bodies one wears on the Other Side would be, to us, as intangible as those of “ ghosts” . But to the different senses we use on the Other Side, they appear quite as solid as ours do to us here!) They indignantly denied that they were dead - but when I questioned them closely, they reluctantly admitted that they were puzzled and rather disturbed, couldn't quite understand why they couldn't find their own houses or wives or children, couldn't make out what had happened, or where they were. And in one case, particularly, a man (we'll call him Fairfax) was vastly indignant that his wife (whom he had bullied shockingly all his life, poor soul) was not as usual at his heels awaiting his orders!

He was both angry and slightly alarmed when I told him that she was sitting beside me in the medium's room, ready to talk to him if he would only listen! And it was her subsequent talk to him, her gentle pointing­out that he must be “ dead” since she was here on earth and he was somewhere else, though they were still able to speak to each other through a human instrument, that at last made a puzzled and considerably frightened man begin to realize the truth.

I have never forgotten the astonished voice of that particular spirit, as just before the end of the sitting he thanked his wife and begged her pardon for his careless and (to tell the truth) distinctly tyrannical treatment of her on earth - and then his sudden exclamation: “ Why, Edie, here's mother! Good God, she was standing beside me all the time! Why haven't I seen her?” As his voice faded out I could almost hear his Guide laugh as he explained to Mr. Fairfax that of course now he could see his mother - who had actually been with him all the time since his death - because, as in the old fairy tales, the “ scales had fallen from his eyes” and he was no longer blinded by prejudice.

Those people - I think there are actually very few of them - who believe that man is snuffed out like a candle at the end of his physical life, find much greater difficulty in adjusting themselves to the after-life than those who possess some spiritual belief, no matter how vague - because they have never had the remotest notion of there being any after-life. It is from these that the vast majority of cases like the one I have just quoted come. They flatly refuse to believe that they are dead, and often it takes their Guides and those who have loved and awaited them on the Other Side a very long time to convince them that the - to them - utterly


 

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impossible has happened, and that they are really dead and yet going on living! Some of the stories told by the Guides of these pathetic and obstinate people make one laugh, even while one sympathizes with them: they ramp and fume angrily, asking where they are and where their relatives are, and why they have been pitch-forked into this unknown place amongst strangers, etc., etc. - and all the time their own people are standing as close to them as Mr. Fairfax's mother did to him! Only they cannot see them, since until they accept the truth they cannot see at all.

This state of mind results in many hauntings, because frequently these spirits, obstinately refusing to learn, remain attached to the place where they died or to some place that has meant much to them on earth. I have known several of these pathetic cases “ released” by a straight talk to them via a medium brought to the haunted house.

The question may be asked “ what of those, fortunately rare among our race, who are essentially brutal, who rejoice in war and tyranny?” In short, what of the Nazis and their prototypes, who unfortunately exist all over the world, though it has been left to the German race to exalt this type into a god?

These people of low and brutal mentality, in whom the nascent spark of the spirit has been deliberately and systematically crushed - naturally they, when they awake on the Other Side, do not find themselves sitting in beautiful gardens and surrounded with lovely scenes and kindly people! They awake in what is called the Lower Range of the Astral Plane (which is the same, as I have pointed out in another chapter, as that region on the Other Side called “ Purgatory” or “ Hades” or “ Hell” and other names - the region that Christ visited when He talked to the “ spirits in Hell “ ), because since their minds and souls are clouded, they cannot ascend, as normal decent folk do, to the light, but inevitably head for a place of clouds and darkness.

Like goes to like on the Other Side, and the Nazis, and all others like them, cannot possibly escape their doom. There they must remain, in gloom and darkness, until some gleam of understanding, of repentance for the desperate evils they have committed, begins to dawn upon them - and the moment that gleam comes, one of the Guides or Helpers from the Higher Planes, who are always on the watch for any such sign, can then reach down and try to help that soul to set his feet upon the difficult way upwards out of the depths. He must still fight his own way out - but he will be helped and encouraged in his efforts.


 

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But according to what I have heard from several Guides who are dealing with this terrible problem, there are few Nazis as yet who even begin to realize the depths to which they have fallen! The dead Nazis, most of them, flatly refuse to believe they are dead, and (as the mind shapes and clothes the body after death as it wishes, as I have explained in my chapter on “ Everyday Life on the Other Side”) since they are still brave in uniform, plastered with Iron Crosses and what not, and armed to the teeth, they go stamping and heel-clicking and saluting all over the place in a fashion (as one Guide told me) that if it were not so inexpressibly pathetic, would be ludicrous in the extreme! True, they are bewildered and angry at the darkness, the chill and mystery all about them, and still more angry that those they meet do not cower before them when they bluster and bellow - they do not know what country they are in, though they all think they are still in the war, and they hold long and angry conversations and wrangle and argue over precedence and power, not realizing that there is no such thing any more! Out of the habit their minds have formed, for so long, they “ make” themselves camps and dugouts and fortresses and sit dismally in them waiting for the enemy who never comes. They still imagine that they are fighting the Russians or the British, and arrogantly boast of the day when they will conquer, but time drags on interminably and nothing in particular happens, and even amongst these minds, bovine and dull-witted, or tragically corrupted in youth, or actively and deliberately evil, there is here and there a faint stirring of uncomfortable doubt. But they are a long way - a very, very long way! - from active realization of the truth, and the Guides cannot penetrate through this terrible fog of evil, of non-faith, of despair and anger and anguish that surrounds them, in the Hell that the Nazis have literally made for themselves. Cannot, that is, until they are “ invited” , as I have just described.

This is a grim picture and I think we will not dwell on it. Mercifully, for a people like ourselves who, for all our sins and follies, have never made a cult of brutality or allowed tyranny to quench the right of man to live and love and worship in his own way, there are comparatively few who will find themselves in that dark and dreadful place.

No ! For most of us death comes as a gentle thing - and even though, to onlookers, a death-bed sometimes seems terrible and the dying person twisted and torn with physical pain, this is, in the vast majority of cases, unfelt by the dying soul. The twitchings and writhings of the limbs, even the expression of agony on the face, are all mechanical - as mechanical


 

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as the jerking of a dead frog's legs when galvanized by electricity. I hope that this may come as some consolation to those who have to watch, with agony in their hearts, the death of some loved one in apparent terrible pain - I have had to do that myself, and know how desperately one's heart can be torn by the spectacle. The apparent pain is the automatic twitching of a machine that is almost run down and ready to stop. The real person himself has been “ withdrawn” from his body often several hours before the end, and not rarely stands beside his own bedside, watching the movements of the body he has just quitted and trying hard to impress upon the weeping ones about his bed that the distressing convulsions they are watching are nothing to do with him - are, actually of no more importance than the movements of a puppet galvanized into action by the jerking of a string.

I could recount many other personal stories told me by people who have “ died” , but fear to weary my readers - moreover, space is limited and I have other important things to write about. But if this point is one that holds an especial appeal to any reader, I advise them to try and get - beg, borrow or steal, but get it somehow! - Flammarion's famous trilogy, written, of course, originally in French, but there is an excellent English edition published.

This consists of three books. Before Death, At the Moment of Death and After Death. Within it the reader will find sufficient material to keep him interested for weeks, and stories galore, all well witnessed and recorded - and if he is lucky enough to be able to buy all three books he can congratulate himself on possessing one of the classics the world of psychic literature.

ON MEDIUMS AND MEDIUMSHIP