May 14, 2023

My Brief but Deluded Life as a Beatnik

For Maria

For the past thirty months I have been blessed with the services of a wonderful caregiver named Maria. Along with my girlfriend Lauren and my daughter Kathryn, Maria has been a godsend to me. Without the loving care of these three women, I would surely no longer be here to badger you with my blogs.

Maria is in her late 30s, and does everything for me that I can no longer or easily do for myself. This includes shopping for groceries, driving, doing washes for me, running errands, lifting things that are too heavy for me, and so forth. But although I am almost fifty years older than Maria, she has come to take an interest in both my professional and romantic life, so sometimes she induces me to talk about my storied past. And just the other day, we wound up having another such long conversation (or I should say, “monologue”) about my early college days when I was a student at Cal-Berkeley.

What prompted this excursion into my youthful follies was something Maria happened to mention that astonished me. Maria is not really a reader (she just doesn’t have much time as she has a full-time job quite apart from keeping me afloat); instead she listens to books. And the book she has been listening to lately (indeed, she told me that she had already listened to it three times) was Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. I had no idea Maria was interested in writers of the Beat Generation that began to flourish in the 1950s (before hippies and well before the emergence of “the counter-culture”). Although I had never read Kerouac, not even his groundbreaking book, On the Road, which was published while I was still matriculating at Cal, the Beats were important to me and prefigured an important turn in my life away from conventional society and interests toward alienated youth and wild poets.  

So, naturally, I held forth for the next half hour or so as I regaled her with my tales of my wayward past while Maria listened raptly. Before leaving, she made it clear how much she enjoyed our conversation. Thinking about it afterward, I figured maybe you would also be interested to learn about this significant turn in my life.

If so, read on. But this story actually begins – and will end – with another important woman in my life, my first girlfriend, Carolyn. You will need to learn a bit about her and my relationship with her before I can get to my life as a beatnik.  


When I was a junior in high school, I acquired my first girlfriend after a very romantic and somewhat antic pursuit. Naturally, we spent a great deal of time together and I had my first sexual experiences with her, though whether we ever actually had intercourse is still not clear to me. (She later devised le mot juste for it – “outercourse.”) I was very strongly drawn to her, however, and we did make out a lot.  A friend took this photograph of us in a characteristic romantic embrace:

Nevertheless, we had another kind of passion between us: violent arguments about religion. At the time, I was a committed and dogmatic atheist whereas she was deeply religious and intent on becoming the first woman Presbyterian minister. Still, during our high school days, I was a pretty conventional teenager. My passions were chiefly classical music, baseball and girls, although at the time Carolyn was girl enough for me. Apart from liking to attend symphony concerts and operas (to which I dragged Carolyn), my tastes and habits were entirely ordinary for a kid of my age and time. I enjoyed movies, going to the beach, playing golf and softball, and diverting myself with various card and board games such as Scrabble, among other pedestrian pastimes.
I was never a “wild” kid, was an increasingly successful student, never played hooky, didn’t drink or smoke and never had been in trouble with the law. I graduated from high school a half-semester ahead of Carolyn and, more or less by a fluke and at the last minute, decided to enroll in college at the University of California in Berkeley. At first, I continued to live with my parents, but as soon as I could afford it, I moved out and lived near the Berkeley campus. 

When I was a freshman, Carolyn and I were still going together, but within a relatively short time, I found myself very strongly drawn to the then just emerging “Beat culture” and began to identify with the lifestyle of what later came to be called “alienated youth.” I had gone from being a relatively conventional, clean-cut young man who used to attend Cal football games in a white shirt salivating after “pom-pom” girls (i.e., our cheerleaders) to becoming in effect a bearded slob, a kind of a caricature of a Jules Pfeiffer cartoon figure, who took pleasure in flouting the pretensions of bourgeois society and who came to view himself a young existentialist. The Berkeley campus didn’t really afford a café society, much less a Left Bank, but if it had, I would have easily found a niche for myself as a denizen of that world.

All this appalled and disgusted Carolyn, and before too long, she had decided she didn’t know me anymore and wondered how we could continue as a couple.

I myself have only very dim memories of those days and what I must have been like then, but several years after I had rediscovered Carolyn much later in life and began corresponding with her, she reminded me of them and told me how she remembered me during that period:

As you acknowledge, you were drawn to Beat culture. I remember a particular bar that you frequented. You took me there once and tried to pressure me into drinking a glass of beer that I did not want. Part of this Beat culture seemed to be aversion to bodily cleanliness. Instead of remaining lovers we were pulled into a destructive nagging mother/rebellious son relationship that was no fun for either of us. I was always after you to get a haircut, shave, wash your clothes, take a bath, and you responded with all the sarcasm that you are capable of. Furthermore, you just dug in your heels. I seem to remember a period where day after day you wore the same soiled clothes. I am sure that the pants were grey, and I think that the shirt was as well. The smell of sweat combined at times with the smell of beer made me gag. I wanted to cut the tie that bound us into this destructive relationship but was reluctant to hurt you. I hated not only what you had become but what I had become.

Carolyn finally broke it off—and broke my heart—but by then it was too late. I actually rued her loss in my life and mourned it for the next several years, but I was set on my course and would not look back. For my part, I had no intention of trying to rectify my behavior for her sake or anyone else’s. To me, I was just behaving in a way that had quickly come to seem natural to me. I had already learned to identify with the radical fringe and alienated youths like me. And the wild poets of the Beat generation strongly attracted me, too.

Case in point: I remember when I first came across Allen Ginsberg’s famous cri de Coeur, “Howl” with its arresting initial lines like a punch to one’s gut:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, hysterical naked,
Dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn, looking for an angry fix, 
Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night….

Wow! I remember just where I had discovered and bought the book, what it looked like, the effect it had on me. It opened up a new and thrilling world of sensation. I was now a long way from Whitman and Blake; this was a voice from my own time, speaking as it were, to my soul. I was finding my people.

So I began drinking, mostly beer and gin, as I recall, and hanging out with kids like me, if I could find them, and in time, I could. As Carolyn noted, I started dressing differently, too, as if my changing my clothes, sporting a beard, and affecting an insouciant matter, I could change my character. In effect, I had found new role models now.

An example: By the time I was a senior, I found myself living with a Belgian immigrant. His name was Dwight David Gaston, and since he arrived on the shores on the United States when Dwight David Eisenhower was the President, the customs agent who processed him, who couldn’t understand this newcomer’s accent, gave him a new name.  

Dwight was quite a character and our living arrangements were unusual, too. We had rented a small house without a bed on the south side of campus. We had to share a pull-out couch. But I didn’t always share it just with Dwight. Since this was the beginning of the era of “free sex,” sometimes Dwight would ask me if I wouldn’t mind studying at the library of an evening. I would usually comply, only to find when I returned home, Dwight had brought along a comely companion from San Francisco to share our bed. Oh well, I just turned to the side and pretended to be asleep. Still, I spent so much time in the library, I got straight As that semester and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.  

Dwight was always more adventuresome when it came to sex than I was, and was really a somewhat raffish character, though not dissolute. In fact, I was very fond of Dwight, but it was he, not I, who was really living the beatnik life I was just playing at. My forays into the Beat world were mostly superficial and, in truth, something of a pose. I never truly had the cajones to explore and fully embrace that life, much as I was drawn to it.

And it’s only been recently, thanks to Maria, that I learned that in those very years, in the same neighborhood that I was living in, the most infamous of the Beats – Kerouac, Ginsberg, and the poet, Gary Snyder – were hanging out. They were effectively just next door. Why did I not know that? I had blown my chance to pal out with those guys. Now I can but wonder how my life might have developed, if only I had taken the trouble to track them down and not just breathe in the heady atmosphere of Berkeley that they had created. I missed my chance to become a real dharma bum.  

The Dharma Bums of Berkeley 

After my chat with Maria, I decided I should do some remedial reading, so I ordered and am currently reading Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums. It was from that book that I learned that the Beats depicted in that book (but given easily identifiable pseudonyms) were spending time, drinking and whoring and writing poetry, just down the street from me, so to speak. Just to give you some idea of what kind of thing I had missed out on, I will simply copy out for you one long passage from the book. In it, Kerouac has given himself the bland name, Ray Smith; Ginsberg has become Alvah Goldbook; Gary Snyder is now memorably dubbed Japhy Ryder. Here is a typical scene from the lives of these Beats: 

I forgot to mention [that] a rock artist had called on Japhy in the late afternoon, a girl had come right after, a blonde in rubber boots and a Tibetan coat with wooden buttons, and in the general talk she’d inquired about our plan to climb Mount Matterhorn and said, “Can I come with ya?” as she was a bit of a mountainclimber herself.

“Shore,” said Japhy…”shore, come on with us and we’ll screw ya at ten thousand feet” and the way he said it was so funny and casual, and in fact serious, that the girl wasn’t shocked at all but somewhat pleased. In this same spirit he’d now brought this girl Princess to our cottage, it was about eight o’clock at night, dark. Alvah and I were quietly sipping tea and reading or typing poems and two bicycles came into the yard: Japhy on his, Princess on hers. Princess had gray eyes and yellow hair and was very beautiful and only twenty. I must say one thing about her, she was sex mad and men mad….

I went into the kitchen to get a bottle [of wine] and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Japhy and Alvah taking their clothes off and throwing them every whichway and I looked and Princess was stark naked, her skin white as snow when the red hits it as dusk, in the red dim light. “What the hell,” I said.

"Here's what Yabyrum is, Smith,” said Japhy, and he sat cross-legged on the pillow on the floor and motioned to Princess who came over and sat down on him facing him with her arms around his neck and they sat like that saying nothing for a while. Japhy wasn’t at all nervous or embarrassed and just sat there in perfect form as he was supposed to do….

“But what’s she thinking?” I yelled in despair, I’d had idealistic longings for that girl for the past year and had conscience-stricken hours wondering if I should seduce her because she was so young and all.

“Oh this is lovely,”said Princess.“Come on and try it….”

“Take your clothes off and join in, Smith!”

Believe me, this is the expurgated version. This comic madcap orgy goes on for pages. Who was I kidding? This was not exactly Puccini’s La Bohème, which was frolicsome enough for me. Had I come into this bacchanal, I would have fled in terror. If this was the beatnik life, I clearly wasn’t cut out for it. I now thank my lucky stars that I just contented myself with Dwight’s casual bedroom pleasures and never actually ever encountered the Beats next door.  

When my college life was over, so was that romantic affectation. I would become a professor and though I would indeed go on to have my share of sex, drugs and rock and roll (at least the Stones and the Beatles) in the years to come, my fantasy life as a would-be beatnik dissipated like a dream upon awakening. It was never real at all.

Carolyn Redux

What did last – or at least resumed – was my relationship with Carolyn. She had married a philosophy professor and moved to Canada. We continued to correspond occasionally over the years. She still had difficulty understanding me, however, and professed to be puzzled by all the amorous relationships I had had during the course of my life. Most women I have known had found me a winsome fellow, but not Carolyn who was completely impervious to my charm. She never really loved me either – certainly not the way I had loved her.

But when we were still encoupled at Cal, we happily participated in a rather daring escapade. Some friends of ours had wanted to get married, but the girl was underage. So she and her husband-to-be hatched a plan. Together with a third couple, we would drive up to Reno so they could get married. We wouldn’t tell our parents or anyone else, but we pulled it off. It was great adventure.

Fifty years later, this same couple wanted to re-enact this ceremony and get married again. All six of the original party were still alive, so we all met again fifty years later to the day, and reunited.  It was a beautiful occasion and that’s when I saw Carolyn again for the first time in nearly half a century.

After the ceremony, we repaired to some kind of large general function room with a restaurant, and as we were having dinner, a young woman from another party came over to our table, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Would you like to dance with me?”  

I winked at Carolyn and as if to say “See?” Carolyn looked non-plussed as I waltzed off with this woman to do my version of the light fantastic, despite having been born with the equivalent of two club feet. Carolyn could only shake her head in disbelief afterward.

Since that time, we have, according to what Carolyn has told me, exchanged more than a thousand e-mail messages. We still argue about most everything except now we have switched sides.

April 24, 2023

An Interview with Yours Truly if Unruly

Dear Friends,

As I’ve been beset with a sprained right wrist and tendonitis for the past six weeks or so, on the advice of my doctor I’ve had to forego writing any more blogs for the nonce. He suggested that instead of using my fingers to wander over the noisy keys of my computer keyboard, I would be better off using my left hand to beverage myself occasionally with a glass of sarsaparilla

Still, while I wait to recover, which should be in about another month, I was at least recently able to participate in an e-mail interview about my latest book, A Near-Death Researcher’s Notebook. If you remember a previous blog about this book, you will know it consists of various blogs I’ve written during the past few years that I have rebranded as essays. So most of you who have read these blogs for free are not likely to want to buy this book.

On the other hand, wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said that a good essay was worth reading twice?

Actually, no. That was me. What Oscar said was “Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.” I only wish I had run across this quip before the first of my several disastrous marriages.

But I digress. All I really wanted tell you is that until I can blog again, I thought you might enjoy reading this interview, which appeared in a somewhat expurgated form recently in the IANDS’ newsletter, Vital Signs. And who knows, there may be some people who haven’t read my blogs who might after all be interested in this book and keep it from languishing into obscurity before I myself wind up there.


Pioneering near-death experience (NDE) researcher and founding IANDS president, Ken Ring, Ph.D., just published his most recent book, A Near-Death Researcher's Notebook. Another long-time NDE researcher and current IANDS president, Jan Holden, Ed.D., read it. Ken agreed to an email interview by Jan; here is their exchange.

Jan: Ken, I just finished reading your newest book, A Near-Death Researcher's Notebook. Although you gave me permission to prepare for this e-interview by perusing rather than completely reading the book, I was frankly entranced and ended up reading every word. As an NDE researcher myself, as well as an aging person facing physical deterioration and demise, I related to much of what you wrote. But I think your book would be engaging for anyone interested in how learning deeply about NDEs, as you have, can affect someone's outlook on everything from the most personal—such as peeing challenges--to the most general—such as prophetic visions about the global future of humanity.  

Thank you so much for this comment, Jan. Of course, I’m delighted to know that you responded so positively to my book.  Let’s hope your enthusiasm will be contagious!

That said, here are a few of my questions and reactions, to which I invite your response—and any additional comments you might wish to make.

On p. 13, you described how, even fairly early into your NDE research, you felt as if what you were learning was provoking in you an "extended religious awakening." I was struck by the word "religious," which I associate with organized religion. The reason is that NDErs often (but not always) gravitate away from organized religion because they find it is not big enough to accommodate what they experienced in their NDEs. And you yourself, later in the book, say you have no use for the religion of your upbringing—Judaism—and that Buddhism comes closest to your views—though you also don't consider yourself a Buddhist, per se. If I'm on target with all those points, perhaps you actually meant "an extended spiritual awakening?"

Yes, you're right, but I think I can explain the contradiction. I wrote that article when I had just started interviewing my first NDErs in the late 1970s. At that time, I often felt a sacred atmosphere enveloping me when conducing those interviews and a numinous feeling would come over me. In those days, I thought of it as a profound religious experience. But in time, I realized, as you did, that it was really a spiritual, and not a religious experience, as such. I do not consider myself religious, but I do have a sense of the Holy, which I guess is more mystical rather than religious. I never have read
Rudolf Otto’s book, The Idea of the Holy, but what I have read about it seems to reflect what I experienced during those first interviews.   

I loved how your book chapters were so substantial while being so short. Your book structure enabled me to read, even briefly, and take a break whenever I felt a need to ponder what I'd read. In reading your chapters on the process of aging and dying—including your reconciliation with your dying father as well as your attention to the "warehousing" of the elderly in senior living homes, loneliness, and accompaniment of the dying in their final days, I often felt, in turn, touched, saddened, and uplifted. I've always considered you an exceptionally talented thinker and writer, and despite any other changes you've experienced, those qualities have not changed. I don't have a question here but, maybe, an opportunity for you to express gratitude that you still have so much to give humanity?

Thank you so much for these words of appreciation, Jan, both for me personally and for what I wrote in my book.

I’m coming to the end of my working life — and perhaps my life itself before too much longer.  I’m 87 now, and I have many physical difficulties to cope with, including at present a really bad case of tendonitis, which makes it very difficult to write now. But of course, I’m very grateful to have lived a long life and been able, somehow, to continue to write not only my own books and blogs, but to tout the work of others, as I do in this book. 

It has been the privilege of my life to have devoted so much to it to my work on NDEs and to have met so many wonderful and loving people over so many years from whom I have learned so much. As the old song goes, “Who could ask for anything more?” I have been blessed beyond measure.

I was so glad you gave a rave review for Bruce Greyson's recent book, After. I was also surprised and pleased to learn about some of your most-recommended books on NDEs of which I wasn't aware, such as David Sunfellow's 2019 The Purpose of Life: As Revealed by Near-Death Experiences from Around the World and his 2020 500 Quotes from Heaven: Life-Changing Quotes That Reveal the Wisdom and Power of Near-Death Experiences. I was also pleased to be alerted to very recent and impending publications, such as Jeff Janssen's Your Life's Ripple Effects, which you seem to consider an ultimate treatment of the NDE life review, and Alex Batthyány's Threshold: Terminal Lucidity and the Border of Life and Death, which is due out in September 2023. These books contribute clearly to the field of near-death studies. If you could wish one more NDE-related book into existence that you think either would further enhance the field or would potentially greatly influence humanity, what would it be? 

I’m going to do an end run around this question, and respond to it in a different way. We have been studying NDEs and similar transformative experiences for nearly a half a century now, and there have already been so many wonderful books published on this subject, including several recent ones you alluded to. So, while acknowledging my limited prophetic powers, I don’t see any new NDE bombshell books on the horizon.

But I can tell you what does excite me, and what I think may be “the coming thing” in near-death studies. It’s one of the books you mentioned — Alex Batthyány’s on terminal lucidity (TL). When I first read about TL several years ago, having come across the pioneering work of Michael Nahm on the subject, I was thrilled. And later, I got in touch with Alex, and we had and still have a very warm and cordial connection. I told him then that if I could still be active in doing research, I would certainly be studying TL myself. I subsequently read the draft of his book, and when it comes out this September, I think what it will do for terminal lucidity what Raymond Moody’s Life After Life did for NDEs — open up a new and exciting frontier for near-death studies.

I also loved that you touched on your own experiences with psychedelics and their potential to facilitate NDE-like experiences and/or aftereffects. I myself very recently participated in ketamine-assisted therapy as a consciousness exploration exercise. It was awesome, and I plan to write an article about it for an upcoming issue of Vital Signs. I'm embarking on a study of how reliable ketamine can be in facilitating NDE-like experiences and aftereffects in healthy adults seeking such experiences but not wanting to nearly die or engage in 10 years of meditation to experience them. Anything you'd like to comment on regarding such research?

I was very interested to read about your ketamine experience, Jan, and how you want to look into how it may be used to induce NDE-like experiences in healthy volunteers. Of course, ketamine has become quite in vogue lately, but, actually, you’re running about thirty years behind me.

In brief, in 1985, I was approached by a ketamine therapist who wanted to use me as an “expert” (she said) on NDEs to see whether ketamine could engender an NDE-type experience. (She and an oncologist were then working with terminally ill cancer patients.) I wound up using ketamine a total of nine times during the late 1980s, and eventually published an article about my experiences called Ketamine Days,” in a book entitled The Ketamine Papers:  Science, Therapy, and Transformation, edited by Phil Wolfson and Glenn Hartelius.  

You might well want to consult this book, Jan, and if you do, you can find out what I experienced when I was using it. I’ll leave it at that, but, if you read my article, I think you will agree that my own experiences were “out of this world.”

One thing that struck me was your use of the term "life preview" to describe how some NDErs get what you have called "personal flashforwards (PFs)" -- glimpses into specific scenes of their likely futures that often bear out in their actual future lives. In the interest of verbal economy, I wondered about changing the lexicon to: life review, life preview (instead of "personal flashforward"), and global preview (instead of "prophetic visions"). What do you think?

Well, I have a fondness for the terms I used (originally in my book, Heading Toward Omega), but I agree that your proposal certainly has the virtue of verbal economy. You don’t need my blessing, of course, but I have no objection. I just wonder how you could get people to adopt your terminology, but I’ll leave that to you.

Something I resonated to was your occasional reference to, "If only ___ had read / would read about NDEs: I wonder how their [atheistic, nihilistic, warring] attitudes might change." I have so often thought this same thing! In your chapter on Russia's war on the Ukraine and speculation about the life review that's in store for Putin, I had this fantasy: Remember the scene in the movie, A Clockwork Orange, in which the lead character was forced to watch horror scenes so that he would have an aversive reaction whenever he even considered taking aggressive action? What if we could kidnap Putin for a week and force him to watch one NDEr after another lovingly describe their life review? Maybe along with testimonials of veridical perception in NDEs so he could not dismiss NDEs as mere products of imagination? Considering the impossibility of this scenario, what about making your next book A Letter to Putin—and Other Actual or Would-Be Leaders on the World Stage? In it, you could address both the life review and what I'm calling global previews—for them to take into consideration when they make policy or military decisions.

Well, Jan, that is a beguiling but impossible fantasy in two ways. First, I can no longer write any more books. (Hell, with this damn tendonitis, I can hardly write this e-mail today.) But, second, world leaders, especially vile autocratic curs like Putin, even if one could capture him for a week of NDE “brainwashing,” would surely find a way to dismiss such testimony as fantasies of another kind. And even if I could write a book like A Letter to Putin, he would never read it, much less be influenced by it.  

Or to take this closer to home, do you think ex-and-possibly-again President Trump would be moved by such a book to change his ways? Hell, I wonder if that man can actually read at all. I think the late Philip Roth joked that Trump had a vocabulary about 75 words (doubtless including such tired tropes as “witch hunt” and “hoax”). 

No, the lessons of the life review would be lost on such people, but they can and do change the lives of us mere mortals, and to me, as I make clear in my book, I think the most important takeaway from the study of NDEs is the life review. It may not change the world, but it can transform people’s lives if they take the time to read and reflect on it. 

Well, my friend, anything else you'd like to say before we sign off? For my part, I'm very glad to have had this opportunity to reconnect with you, and especially on these particular topics! Thank you for your Notebook, and I encourage anyone interested in the implications of NDEs for meaning in death and purpose in life to read it. It was well worth my already-stretched-too-thin time!!

No, Jan, I think I had best rest my tortured fingers today and let you have the last word — particularly your concluding advice to the readers of this e-mail exchange. I don’t expect to enter into the days (I say days, not years, deliberately) of my retirement living off the royalties of this book on Majorca, but perhaps, thanks to this interview, I won’t have to end my career as a literary failure.

Thanks so much for making the time to do this interview with me. It was a pleasure in every way but digitally.  

It was my pleasure, Ken! Your book was a rich read, from your reminiscence about the early days of IANDS to your musings about the future of our planet and humanity. And, of course, your sense of humor and your Renaissance-man knowledge of literary and other figures only contributed to the experience. I believe that others will find it as enriching a read as I did. And best wishes grappling with those irritatingly persistent health challenges! 

April 6, 2023

Contra Reincarnation: Part II

Summer, 1976, our nation’s bicentennial. I am sitting outside my house, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face, reading through a new journal on psychical research. I come across a review of a new book. Reading that review will cause an upheaval in my life. It will never be the same.

It's a review of a recently published book put out by a little Georgia publishing house of which I have never heard. The book reviewed is by a young psychiatrist named Raymond Moody, Jr.  It is called Life After Life. The review is by someone I also don’t know. His name is Michael Grosso. He will also change my life.

After I began my work on NDEs and helped to found IANDS, the International Association for Near-Death Studies, I made contact with Michael. I actually don’t remember how or when we met, and he had only a peripheral relationship to IANDS, but not to me, as it turned out. He would soon become one of my best and most valued friends.

At that time, he was a professor teaching at a college in New Jersey, but often came to New York where I would meet him. I had to be in New York in those days to meet with my publisher and my other New York friends, and Michael had his own reasons to visit the city frequently.

Michael had received his Ph.D. at Columbia in philosophy, but he had wide-ranging humanistic interests. He was a deep student of psychical research, he was a painter, he played the flute, and he was an exceptionally gifted writer and wonderful conversationalist. I have since read quite a few of his books, and always admired his stylish writing and envied his impressive erudition. I have joked that if I were ever to reincarnate, I would like to come back as Michael Grosso. I just loved the guy.

But apart from our shared interests in psychical research and near-death studies, we had a warm personal connection, too, talking about our amatory life (I learned the word, “amatory” from him, too) with our various girlfriends in those years. Michael was a very handsome man then and it was easy to see why he would be so attractive to women, but not just because of his looks. He was witty, charming and soigné.

Although he was a few years younger than me, he seemed like an older and wiser brother, even a kind of mentor. For example, even though my father was an artist, he disappeared from my life when I was about six years old, and I obviously had inherited none of my father’s genes. I really knew nothing about art. So Michael would take me to museums, such as the Metropolitan, though we might also have gone together to the Frick, which was my favorite museum (as it is for many), which I visited many times when I lived back east. So Michael would try to tutor me; he was effectively my personal docent.  

I learned a lot from him in the years we were able to pal out together. And we stayed in touch for a long time. However, after I left for California in 1996, we gradually lost touch with each other. Eventually, I learned that he had moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, so that he could become affiliated with the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS), which is a code name for psychical research, near-death studies and work on reincarnation. It was headed for a long time by Ian Stevenson and after Stevenson retired, by Bruce Greyson. And in time, Michael and I re-established contact with each other, though by now we could only do so through e-mail.

But we had a lot to catch up on, reading each other’s books and learning about what had happened in each of our personal and professional lives during the years that had intervened since we had last seen each other. I was really happy to be in touch with him again and regretted that it had taken so long. 

One of his books that Michael recently sent to me floored me. It was called Yoga of Sound: The Life and Teaching of the Celestial Songman, Swami Nada Brahmananda. It is just an amazing, mesmerizing tale, and is capped by a long discursive chapter on transcendental music that shows off Michael’s flair for vivid, captivating writing. I was just “wowed” by his book, and tried to express my enthusiasm for it in a blurb I was happy to write for it, which I will reproduce here:

Many years ago, G. I. Gurdjieff published a book called Meetings with Remarkable Men. In Yoga of Sound, Michael Grosso introduces us to one of the most remarkable men of our own time, Swami Nada Brahmananda, who lived in perfect health to the age of 97, rarely needing to sleep for more than an hour or two, who didn’t dream (confirmed by scientists) and who, apparently, didn’t have much use for thinking (it makes one dull, he said). This swami, shunning honors or fame, lived to teach others, including the author, the transcendental power of music and made his own body itself a musical instrument and a channel through which the divine could sing. Yoga of Sound is itself a remarkable book and deserves to be included among such classics as Autobiography of a Yogi, Ram Dass’s Be Here Now, and the books of Carlos Castañeda. In short, stunning, mind-blowing and a marvel of the miraculous.

But this blog is not really about Michael’s books. All this prefatory material was really just to give you a sense of Michael and my personal connection to him. However, what it really means to be about is Michael’s views on reincarnation, so let me now turn to that subject.

During the time I was incubating my own blog about why I was opposed to reincarnation, I happened to mention to Michael that I was planning to write a blog about it. I was not prepared for his response.

What he sent me was a blog he had just written, not only on the subject of reincarnation, but with exactly the same point of view that I was prepared to argue in my blog.  

Neither Michael nor I have ever discussed reincarnation since we had been back in touch with each other. What is the antecedent probability that the two of us would be writing on the same subject, with the same point of view, at virtually the same time?   

Anyway, when I recovered from my stupefaction at this astonishing coincidence, I asked Michael if he would be kind enough to allow me to use his blog in one of mine, and he consented. I have reproduced it below. You will find that it comes with a bit of a sting, an edge. I try to leaven my blogs with a pinch of humor, but Michael lets you have it between the eyes. Read on, reader.

Why I Prefer Not To Be Reincarnated

I have sometimes met people who embrace the idea of reincarnation with enthusiasm. Moreover, it’s fair to note that the research of psychiatrists like Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker, and others, do make a case for the reality of reincarnation. It may not be altogether compelling evidence, but, as Stevenson said, it is suggestive, often strongly so.
Equally suggestive, and often strongly so, is the evidence from the near-death experience and deathbed visions; from mediumship, apparitions of the deceased, ghosts and hauntings, and in some types of poltergeist case. In these forms of evidence, the surviving consciousness carries on in some kind of afterworld and is continuous with one’s earthly personality.  
The continuity of consciousness, which certifies who and what we are, is shattered by being reincarnated. My inner self is inserted into a new body and my memories will be buried under the new memory deposits of a new little person in a new body. Suppose I am the reincarnation of somebody who died and whose soul became the basis of my soul. Unfortunately, I’m totally clueless about this. As far as I can make out, the soul and consciousness of my predecessor is extinct. So I’m not sure what’s to be enthusiastic about. What is the difference between there being no life after death and being reincarnated? In other words, smothered out of existence by another person.  
I can, however, see why reincarnation might appeal to some people. Christians are taught to believe that after death bad people go to hell and suffer ineffable torture forever. Such cruel doctrines might turn a few people off. It’s easier to embrace the idea that a very bad person (I can think of a few) could reincarnate in a rat or a wild dog. Even the worst of us would at least have a chance to try to work our way back up the ladder of evolution
I see the attraction of believing we have plenty of time to carry on the adventure of our evolution. We need time to become enlightened beings. It might take eons for some us to finally achieve enlightenment. But better late than never. The tone of this scenario is a whole lot gentler than having one life shot at heaven or hell. But there’s a problem.
There is no evidence whatsoever that our species, or even some segments of the human population, are in any way uniformly evolving toward enlightenment. There have been high moments and great principles declared and sometimes lived in human history. But who really lives by the Golden Rule? Or by any of the high ideals proclaimed by our spiritual geniuses? Look around the world today. There is every reason to believe the same proportions of good, great, average, and outstandingly vile human beings are exactly the same today as they were in any epoch of human history. You would think that if the dead keep coming back, presumably learning something along the way, by now we might see some signs of collective advance. 

On the contrary, what we see is a humanity that created a climate crisis that promises to bring world civilization down, while destroying a million species of living creatures. While all of this is beginning to happen, the great powers are beefing up their world-destroying nuclear armaments, real wars are raging everywhere, while poverty, homelessness, and starvation are spreading all over the planet. I prefer not to be reincarnated on a planet being destroyed by the morally insane “leaders” of the world.   
Think of it this way. A man or a woman struggles to learn some skills in the art of living, some wisdom humbly garnered through a life of pains and challenges, some knowledge of the heart ripe for giving in a heartless world—and then dies.  Suppose such a person is reincarnated.  All that wealth of soul is forgotten, swallowed up in oblivion in some loveable baby who causes great joy when it is finally coaxed into saying da or, if he’s a genius, daddy, or mama, or possibly pooh pooh.  


So now there are three of us who are strongly against reincarnating – my webmaster, Kevin Williams, Michael Grosso, and me. Perhaps it’s too early to claim that we have started a kind of anti-reincarnation movement, but perhaps we have the beginnings of an anti-reincarnation club. If you would care to join us, just let me know.


To read Michael Grosso’s blogs and about his books, go to:

To see his art, go to:

March 30, 2023

Reincarnation? No Thanks!

I agree that the idea of reincarnation is repulsive. If I have a choice, as I believe we do, I will choose not to reincarnate.

When my favorite philosopher, Woody Allen, was asked how he felt about death, he replied tartly: “I’m against it.” That’s exactly how I feel about reincarnation. I’m completely opposed to it, and, given a choice, I would definitely opt out. I would rather stay dead than come back to life, especially if I could no longer be myself of whom I am, despite everything, inordinately fond. And then I have this still niggling fear that because when I was a kid and would amuse myself by sticking pins into a grasshopper, it might be my karmic fate to return as one. Sure, I know that’s very unlikely, but then where transmigration of souls is concerned, there’s no guarantee that just because I am a human in this life I would necessarily return as one.

Of course, the trouble is, if you look into the research on reincarnation and the many books on the subject, what you will find is overwhelming evidence that reincarnation does indeed occur. And not just in countries in Asia where belief in reincarnation is widespread, but in the West as well. Furthermore, it’s not just that people can “flash on” purported past lives as, for example, in the many anecdotal cases of déjà vu when an individual travels to a city he has never before visited, and yet “recognizes it,” and knows exactly what he will see when he crosses a bridge and climbs a hill at the top of which he is a certain he will see a cathedral – and does. He will also have an uncanny knowledge of other landmarks as well. Such experiences are surprisingly common, but they hardly constitute compelling evidence for reincarnation. Alternative explanations are obvious.

But what about cases like this?

A contemporary French journalist has a vision of a man, a Nazi soldier. He sees him clearly, sees him killed, sees what appear to be other people in the soldier’s life, another man, a little girl. And he somehow knows the soldier’s name, Alexander Hermann.

The author, Stéphane Allix, realizes from the start that he is this man. He knows words in German, a language he doesn’t speak.

He wonders what this could mean. Did such a man actually exist and, if so, why did he manifest to Stéphane in this startling but undeniable way?

In a book Stéphane wrote entitled When I Was Someone Else, what follows is the story of Stéphane’s obsession to divine the meaning of his vision. The book is a riveting detective story, a thriller, a harrowing journey back into the darkest days of WW II, and, most of all, the author’s relentless quest for self-discovery and to fathom the nature of his identity. 

In the end, one reads how Stéphane was led – one would almost have to say “guided” – to ultimately find that everything he had seen in his vision was true, and why it had been given to him. It seems clear that he had lived and died before when he was this Nazi soldier.

Stéphane Allix is a dear friend of mine. I’ve known him for many years, and have visited him in Paris and he has also visited me in my home. I have no doubt that what he reports in his book really happened to him.

And of course, he is hardly unique in recounting his memories of a past life as someone else. There are many such accounts in the literature on reincarnation. You can find quite a few in books like Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery by Joseph Head and Sylvia Cranston. One famous case of this type is Edward Ryall’s Born Twice: Total Recall of a Seventeen-Century Life, which is extensively described in this book. It was also exhaustively investigated and authenticated by the world’s foremost student of reincarnation, the late Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist, whose career was mostly spent at the University of Virginia. I will be discussing Stevenson’s own work based on about 3000 cases of apparent reincarnation next. But the book by Head and Cranston is a veritable treasury of evidence and testimony that make a compelling case for the reality of reincarnation. 

Ian Stevenson, who died in 2007 at the age of 88, was a legend in his own lifetime, even before his death. The reason for his fame and the esteem he received from many of his professional colleagues is that no one with such a distinguished professional pedigree had researched more cases suggestive of reincarnation more sedulously than Stevenson. His research is noted for being extremely meticulous, thorough and critically evaluated. He is by far the most highly regarded and quoted of reincarnation researchers as a result of the many books he published on the subject.

I was privileged to meet Stevenson twice at the University of Virginia about forty years ago. I found him reserved and dignified, but courtly. I remember he warned me against starting a journal devoted to NDEs; he thought it would be mistake. But here Stevenson was wrong; The Journal of Near-Death Studies has continued to be published quarterly for over forty years now.

Turning, however briefly, to Stevenson’s work on reincarnation, which took him all over the world, particularly to Asia and the Middle East, he typically studied children who claimed to recall past lives. In most instances, they would spontaneously talk of their prior life sometime between the ages of two and four, though these memories would generally begin to fade by the time they were between five and eight years old. But if “the devil is in the details,” so is the truth to be found there.

It was common for these very young children to know intimate and obscure details about the person they claimed to have been, and Stevenson was able to verify the great majority of them, about 90%, to have been correct. When taken for the first time to the neighborhood where they claimed to have lived before, they would recognize it immediately, and when introduced to the family among whom they had, in a prior life, grown up, they might say to a woman, “Oh, you were my wife then.” Reading about these cases, as I have, you can’t help but be stunned by the accuracy of a child’s memory of his former life and impressed by the strong emotions expressed on being reunited with his prior family.

One particularly intriguing type of case has to do with birthmarks. Stevenson had over 200 cases of children whose birthmarks corresponded exactly to the location of a fatal would suffered by the previous personality. It might be known, for example, that this individual died as a young man from a stabbing in the neck. And on the neck of the child in this life, there would be an inexplicable scar of unknown origin in just that area. That Stevenson could find so many instances where biology and reincarnation seem to intersect sends the mind reeling – at least, they did mine.

Okay, we could spend page after page talking about the evidence for reincarnation, but let me now turn to why I am so viscerally opposed to it.

To begin with, consider me. I am now very old, not in the best of health, and in my opinion, I am not likely to survive the year. So suppose I die later this year. And say, after spending the next fifty years or so somewhere off-planet, I have to reincarnate in the year 2075.

By then, if current projections for climate change are correct, our earth is likely to be an unlivable inferno, with torrid unbearable heat, crippling droughts, violent storms, glaciers that have disappeared, and human and animal life in the greatest possible peril.  

Would I want to come back to earth then? Hell, no! Would you? Count me out!

But I have another objection as well. Let me give you a hypothetical, if admittedly simplistic, version of how reincarnation might be supposed to work. This is, I submit, is a fairly common understanding of the process.

Say you are man, a farmer, who has spent his life on his farm in Nebraska. You have lived your life, have married, sired four children, lost your left hand in farming accident, developed cancer and died at the age of 81.  

At your death, you are first greeted by guides who take you into the realm of the afterlife where you are then met by what John Audette calls “the welcoming committee” – your deceased loved ones. You are overjoyed to see them again.  

You spend your time (although there is no time there; there’s not even a “there” there, but never mind) in eternity, but eventually your guides make it clear that you are going to have to leave this heavenly realm and reincarnate.

You are naturally reluctant to leave, but apparently you must. You still have lessons learn, you see, and you can only learn them in an embodied state. So you are asked to select your parents in your next life whose circumstances will afford you the opportunity to learn the lessons that will further your spiritual growth.

So down the chute you go, heading toward your new mother’s womb; you drink the waters of Lethe, so that you completely forget who you were, and wake up, a bawling Black babe in Alabama.

Then, you live out that life, only to die again, and go through a similar process of death and rebirth – over and over and over again – until eventually after what?  -- hundreds of incarnations, perhaps? – you have learned all your lessons and can finally “get off the wheel of death and rebirth.”

Well, bloody hell! Do we have to suffer living life after life after life on this doomed planet of ours, or perhaps elsewhere, until we can ultimately be discharged from this kind of seemingly endless torment of life in a body? What kind of monster set up this horror show? It’s enough to turn you into a gnostic who believes in a malevolent god, a demiurge who is running this ghastly recycling affair.  

No thanks, this is not for me, and I think I know a way to escape this trap of doom.   

When a person has an NDE, although he is sometimes told “it is not your time – you have to go back,” other people appear to be given a choice: either to remain in the heavenly realm or go back to their earth body. Of course, in my research I can only talk to those who chose to return. Those who elect to stay are difficult to interview.

Well, then, even if reincarnation does occur, perhaps not everyone has to reincarnate. Perhaps it’s a choice, and if that choice is given to me, then, by jingo, my answer would surely be: “Reincarnation? No Thanks!”

March 24, 2023

The Phantom Hitchhiker

To provide an example of the kind of mysterious and mind-bogging experiences John Audette describes in his new book, Loved by the Light, I will simply reproduce one of the stories he relates. But to John, it was just one more instance of an event that seemingly kept him from having a fatal automobile accident. Another “angelic intervention?” Well, see what you think after you finish reading it.    

The fourth “angel encounter” in my life took place in April or May 1976 in southwestern Virginia. I was a full-time graduate student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University in Blacksburg. One of my interests in graduate school was thanatology, the studying of death and dying, along with gerontology and medical sociology.

The year before, I had the great pleasure of meeting and befriending Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the late prominent Swiss-born psychiatrist who single-handedly revolutionized treatment and care of terminally ill patients in the U.S. and abroad, and who pioneered the hospice movement in the United States and elsewhere. I had read her books and attended several of her workshops and lectures during that time period. I deeply admired and respected her. She was a true original. 

One day in March 1976, Elisabeth called to tell me that the she would be flying into the Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, TN. It was about 130 miles from where I lived at the time, or a little over a two-hour drive. Elisabeth was to be the keynote speaker at a gathering of nurses there. She was also to receive an award for her work. 

Elisabeth asked me to pick her up at the airport, which I was more than pleased to do. Spending time with Elisabeth was a true honor, so much so that I was willing to skip classes for a couple of days and drive better than a hundred miles for the privilege of having some private time with her, which was hard to come by in those days.

Her plane was due to arrive from O’Hare early in the morning, around 8 a.m. as I recall. This meant I had to set my alarm for 5 a.m. to allow enough time for the drive and other things that needed to be done. The night before, I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight. I had stayed up later than usual to finish a term paper that was due on that very same day. 

When the alarm rang, I reached over in my sleep to turn it off. I then started to drift back to sleep once again, but after a few more moments of light dozing, I finally roused myself out of bed. After a quick shower and a quick bowl of cereal, I ran out the door and jumped into my white mist-covered Aston Marina. I headed to my first stop, which was the mail box of a fellow graduate student who had agreed to deliver my term paper to our professor. 

It was a foggy morning in rural southwest Virginia and in 1976, street lights were not all that plentiful along Interstate 81, so the highway in front of me was quite dark. Visibility was very limited. I drove along speedily headed southbound, determined to get to the airport on time for the arrival of Elisabeth’s plane. There was hardly any traffic heading south. I mostly had the entire interstate to myself.

After an hour or so of driving, my eyes began to close. Tired from not getting much sleep the night before, I began a dangerous descent into falling asleep at the wheel of my car (yet again). More than a few times, my eyes would close completely and my head would drop, whereupon my car would veer over onto the right shoulder of the interstate. The sound of gravel heading the undercarriage of my vehicle would abruptly awaken me each time. My eyes would open wide and I’d quickly pull back on to the pavement.

This happened several times in fast succession. Each time I’d hear my inner voice warning me to pull over and sleep for a while. But I stubbornly ignored that voice, bound and determined to arrive on time to meet Elisabeth. She was counting on me to arrive on time and I was not about to let her down. She had a tight itinerary during this visit and I was not about to be responsible for getting her off to a late start. 

About 50 miles or so from my destination, I could no longer keep my eyes open. I was running off the road with much greater frequency. Once, I almost lost of control of the car as I had a knee jerk reaction and turned too sharply in an effort to bring my car back onto the pavement. It was scary, and I tried everything I could think of to keep myself awake, but to no avail. No matter what I did, my eyes kept closing as I sped down the interstate. 

This part of Virginia is hilly and mountainous. Steep drop offs, ravines and gullies were commonplace on both sides of I-81, and there were no guard rails in place at this time to stop a wayward car from going over a cliff. I knew that I could easily kill myself if my car was to crash into one of these ravines or gullies. I knew I would be a sure traffic fatality if I continued to drive and continued to allow myself to fall asleep at the wheel. 

My inner voice grew louder and louder. “Pull over and go to sleep for a half hour or so, dummy, before you kill yourself!” But I kept turning a deaf ear to it. In desperation, I even slapped myself in the face several times in a vain attempt to wake up, but to no avail. My eyes kept closing, even though I sensed that my life was in peril.

I admonished myself. I gave myself stern warnings, thinking I could somehow scold myself into staying awake. “Next time you fall asleep you’re going to run off the road and nose dive into one of these deep ravines down there,” I told myself. You’ll die a horrible, ugly, nasty, gross death in that dark, black void down below and they won’t even find your body, so WAKE UP!” 

I fully expected that the next time I fell asleep, it might be permanent. Nevertheless, foolishly, I kept on driving, tenacious as ever about making it to my destination on time. Sensing the hopelessness of my careless attitude, and the immediate prospect of certain death, I believe God then intervened in a supernatural effort to save my life.

Half asleep at the wheel, with eyes mostly closed, I barely noticed a man with long black hair, wearing a white suit with his thumb outstretched, hitchhiking alongside of the road, mostly obscured by fog. I zoomed by him in a rather oblivious state. When my brain registered his presence there amid the fog, I pulled over to the shoulder of the road better than 150 feet in front of him. Yes, my reaction time was that bad as I was so very, very drowsy. 

I stopped the car and sat for a moment to absorb what I had just seen. I could hardly believe my eyes. For an instant, I wondered if I was imagining the sudden appearance of this man. I thought to myself, “That guy just materialized out of thin air. What’s he doing out here in the middle of nowhere in the pitch-black dark, hitchhiking?” I mean, there was no one around. No other cars. Nothing but nothingness. He was not even close to an interstate exit. I could not understand how he got way out there in the middle of nowhere. The scene was weird and eerie. In fact, it was surreal, so surreal, I wondered if I was dreaming the whole thing, but I was not.

I wondered whether it was safe to pick this guy up, but then I realized that his company would keep me awake. It occurred to me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t pick him up, some terrible fate might befall me as I would probably continue falling asleep at the wheel. So, reasoning that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, I put the car in reverse and backed up to offer this gentleman a ride.

By now, he was running toward my car as I was backing up to meet him. But I did not have to back up very far because surprisingly he was right there already beside my car.  I could not figure out how he got up to my car so fast, but in my half-asleep brain-dead state of being, I did not seriously question it or think too much about it.

He came up to my car door on the passenger side. I turned on the dome light and rolled down the window of the passenger door. He politely bent down with one hand on the door and asked if I would give him a lift. I asked him where he was going. He said west to Reno, Nevada. I told him I could take him as far as the exit for the Tri Cities Regional Airport near Johnson City, Tennessee and Abingdon, Virginia. He said that would be fine, so I invited him to step inside. 

We quickly introduced ourselves. He told me his name was Michael. He said he was going to Reno on instructions from God to raise money for his church. He said he was a preacher and that his fledgling church in northeast Virginia needed funds to pay for renovations.  He went on to say that God had told him where to go and what to do when he gets there to procure the needed funds. He said God instructed him to visit a certain casino there, and to play “blackjack” at a certain table. He did not reveal the name of the casino, but he was certain that God was guiding him to the right place for the right reason. He was sure of it, and was a driven, determined man on a mission as far as I could tell.

Michael was about 34 or 35 years old; I would guess. He was approximately 5’ 11” and weighed about 175 pounds or so. He had collar length wavy black hair, black eyebrows and piercing soulful brown eyes. He was wearing an all-white suit. Even his shoes were white. All he was carrying with him was a Holy Bible with a black cover. That book was his only possession, no suitcase or shaving kit or duffle bag with a change of clothes, nothing else but a black Holy Bible. Again, very strange.

Michael and I talked and talked, non-stop. We spoke about God, about religion, about good and evil, about forgiveness, as well as social theory and my studies in graduate school. We also spoke about Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her work. The conversation was enlivening. 

Suddenly, I became wide awake. The sleep that had clouded me earlier was gone, long gone. Michael’s company was invigorating and strangely comforting, like I was having a reunion with an old friend. His company quickly put an end to the driving equivalent of Russian roulette that had overtaken me in my drowsiness behind the wheel only minutes before. 

We had driven for more than an hour together, but it seemed timeless. As I looked into his eyes, I felt deep recognition, almost at the soul level, like we had met before, or like I knew him from some other place, perhaps some other time. I remember wondering if he could be an angel sent to save me, but it was just a passing thought at the time. 

Soon, the sun rose and the new day had begun. Before I knew it, we arrived at the exit for the airport. I liked Michael and was not ready to say good-bye. So, I invited him to join me in meeting and greeting Elisabeth. Politely and graciously he said, “No thanks. I don’t think that’s going to work out.” I thought who in their right mind would turn down an opportunity to meet Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross at the height of her fame and popularity? Well, Michael did. I was about to find out why.

Just before the exit, I pulled off onto the shoulder of the road and stopped the car momentarily. I asked Michael for his address and told him I would write him in a month or so to find out how his trip to Reno, Nevada turned out. He obliged and wrote down his name and address. He handed me the paper with his address on it. I placed it in the glove box of my car. I wished him lots of luck. We shook hands and said goodbye. I pulled away and headed up onto the exit ramp, watching Michael in the rear-view mirror for part of the time, feeling grateful for his company which clearly kept me from meeting with certain catastrophe. 

As I turned left onto the overpass from the exit ramp, I lost sight of the place where Michael was standing, but only for a few moments. When that spot came into my view again just a minute or so later, Michael was gone. He was nowhere in sight. He could not have walked to under the overpass so quickly. It was too far away from where he was standing to have walked or run there in the short time that he was out of my sight. And no other car could have picked him up so quickly without me catching a glimpse of it. He had to be around there somewhere, but he was nowhere to be found.

I drove slowly along the overpass looking for Michael. I surveyed the median and the shoulder of the interstate, up and down, through and through, but he was nowhere in sight. As I searched around for Michael to discern where he might have gone, I did not see any place for him to go except to keep walking straight ahead along the shoulder of the road toward the overpass. 

Puzzled by Michael’s sudden disappearance, I made a mental note to write him as soon as I returned to Blacksburg, where I lived at the time, to inquire as to where he went once I drove away from him. I then parked my car in the airport parking lot and proceeded into the terminal. Once inside I quickly made my way to the gate designated for Elisabeth’s arriving flight. I arrived there ten minutes or so before the plane pulled in to the gate, right on time.

All of the deplaning passengers strolled by me, every single one of them except Elisabeth. Then the procession stopped. A few moments later, the flight crew came walking through. I asked if any other passengers were on board. They said there were none. I went to the ticket counter for the airline she was supposed to have flown and asked them to page her. The nice lady at the ticket counter obliged by paging her three times for me, but all was for naught. A supervisor then returned from break, and said “Are you Mr. Audette?” How did she know my name? I wondered. “Yes, that’s me,” I replied. She said Dr. Kubler-Ross had called earlier and left a message for me. I was to call her at home.

I changed dollars for quarters, and then made a long-distance call to Elisabeth from a nearby pay phone inside the terminal. Elisabeth was at her home in Flossmoor, Illinois. She was home sick in bed. She had taken ill at the last minute and could not make the trip. She canceled her flight and her appearance. She had tried to reach me too at my home, but apparently sometime after I had begun my journey to pick her up at the airport. She apologized to me and, of course, I said no apology was needed. I then wished for her a speedy return to perfect health and said good-bye.

As I walked through the terminal on my way back to the car, I stopped in the gift shop to buy a post-card to mail immediately for Michael. Now my mind was really racing. “How did he know that this was not going to work out before I knew it was not going to work out?” I asked myself. “Who was that guy?” I wondered. 

The first thing I did when I returned to my car was to open the glove box to retrieve the paper with Michael’s address on it. I wanted to send him the card right away as my curiosity had gotten the better of me. There was only one problem. The piece of paper which contained his address that I had carefully placed in the glove box maybe an hour or so before was not in there anymore. It too had vanished, just like Michael. Just like Michael, it was nowhere to be found. I looked through everything in that glove box, including each and every one of the pages in my car’s owner’s manual. Not there. Gone. Vanished. 

As quickly as Michael had appeared, he disappeared. As quickly as the paper with his address appeared, it too disappeared. “This is really strange,” I thought. Could he have been another guardian angel sent by God to keep me from dying before my time? I think so. No other explanation makes any sense to me.