The following is an abridged version of my 07/11/2016 WordPress post…
Many decades ago, across the breakfast table, my mom handed me a section from our local newspaper… all neatly folded to “frame” an obituary. Said she, “I think he was a college buddy of yours.”
As surreal as it all was, there I was reading the two paragraph, final chapter to my 27-year-young friend’s all too short life. While on a photo shoot assignment up in Canada he had suffered a heart attack. How tough this sadness was to reconcile with my fond, happy memories of our classroom / recording studio days. Though I had wanted to attend his funereal in NYC, my thin wallet meant I’d be paying my respects from afar.
Well… six months passed and, in the days leading up to Halloween, no less, I found myself browsing through a record store’s bins, near mall closing time. So engrossed in reading album liner notes was I, that a familiar, cheerful voice saying, “Hi Tom” had startled me back to the real world… or maybe to the not-so-real-world?
There could be no denying who I had just heard, YET, my logic dictated this could not possibly be happening. Cautiously glancing upward and slowly turning leftward there, right before my very eyes, stood my dead friend! I blurted, “This can’t be! You’re… you’re no longer alive!”
I even entertained the possibility that I had just joined him “on the other side”. Yet, where was that out of body, floating sensation… that brilliant, white light at the end of the long, dark tunnel… so typically reported by many a Near Death Experience (NDE) returnee?
My downward glance readily confirmed my still firmly grounded feet. There were no paramedics trying to jump start my sprawled out on the carpet, lifeless body. No tunnel vision, either. Even the ambient lighting had never exceeded the above, fluorescent fixtures. I could sense the puzzled, still startled look, frozen on my own face.
My friend almost seemed to be reveling in how he was spooking me out. He could not even begin to contain his wide grin and chuckling. Oh, how typical this had been of his brand of humor. And, on this occasion, he still had his peerless sense of comedic timing down pat.
Eventually, he relented and filled in the missing details of his death. Indeed, there had been a heart attack… BUT… the person who’d actually suffered it was the thief who’d stolen his wallet. Since New York driver’s licenses of that era were issued sans photos, the Canadian authorities had only a minimal physical description… so generic it could’ve easily described tens of thousands of men. Additionally, the discovery of their error had occurred too late to “kill” his death notice.
As we parted company that evening, it had been our warm, 98.6º, firm handshake, which, ultimately, had proven that no ghostly apparitions were we!
As I drove home… alternately glancing between the the nearly deserted road ahead and crescent moon breaking through the clouds on the western horizon… I still felt haunted by the lingering aftereffects of my “NDE.”
As for my friend’s “NDE”? In a sense, he got to trick his way out of death and enjoy the treat of reading his own obituary, too.