Excerpt from Children's Past Lives
Chapter 2: Prelude
Late one afternoon, as the light in the room started to fade away and the shadows in the furniture grew deeper, I lay totally exhausted, aching for sleep. My coughing and fatigue had been battling it out all day, and my mind had been balancing for hours in the twilight zone between waking and sleeping.
Just as my body finally surrendered to fatigue and I began dozing off, I saw a vision of a frail middle-aged man. At first I saw only his face, the vision holding steady in front of my closed eyes, his deep brown eyes penetrating me. I strained to hold onto this vision to see what it was, because it was so clear and real. As I focused on his face, the image grew. In the next moment I could see a complete picture of the man and the room he was in. He was lying in bed, dressed in a white gown, bolstered by many pillows. I could see and hear him coughing, gasping for breath, and spitting up blood into a handkerchief. A middle-aged woman in a long, full dress sat beside his bed with a deeply worried look on her face. As I too lay in bed struggling to breathe, his condition was eerily familiar.
The power of these images drew me in; they had a luminescence and vitality unlike day dreams. And I knew I wasn’t sleeping, because I was aware of the barking of the dog next door. I forgot about my pain and coughing. My struggled breathing relaxed and slowed. I remained still, with my eyes closed, concentrating on the images, giving them all of my attention.
There was something haunting and familiar about the scene—the carved wooden bed, the white linens, the woman at his bedside, and the countenance of this dying man—especially his soulful eyes. As I allowed myself to sink deeper into the vision, it not only looked familiar, it began to feel familiar.
Then a bolt of recognition surged through my entire body, as if I had touched a live wire. I knew in that instant that I had been this man—that I had existed in another time and place. My body recognized the truth first, before my mind could register the fact. It was a staggered recognition, like running into a friend from the past I hadn’t seen in years, feeling the familiarity but not recalling the time or place where we had known each other until a few seconds later.
This sudden familiarity jolted me from head to toe. And when my mind finally acknowledged that I was watching myself in a past life, another realization hit me to complete the story: this man—(or should I say ‘I’?)—died of consumption in his mid-thirties—the same age that I was now in my present life.
I took a minute to absorb this new realization. When I did, the images of the movie in my mind segued to the next scene: his funeral—a procession of carriages and horses, and men and women in ornate nineteenth century dress. From an aerial view above the treetops, I saw the procession move through the elaborate stone and iron gates of a cemetery. The cemetery looked like a park, green with beautiful arching shade trees, and crowded with mausoleums. Again, my perspective shifted. At close range, I saw the woman in the long dress, who had lovingly nursed this man at his deathbed, holding a handkerchief to her veiled face. The sight of this grieving woman let loose in me ripples of unspeakable sorrow and fear. I struggled to quell these unwelcome feelings, which broke my concentration. Just as quickly as the images formed, they faded.
I opened my eyes and looked around my bedroom, anchoring myself back in the present. Some light still came in through the curtains. The neighbor’s terrier was still barking.
Then another wave of realization hit me: if I had indeed been this man who died at the same age as I was now, and with a similar affliction of the lungs, was I destined to repeat the same pattern? Would I soon die? Was this a vision of my own imminent death? I was terrified. I couldn’t bear the thought of dying and leaving my two young children and my husband alone.