Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Content Taxi Driver

I had a flying trip to London last week for a meeting and got talking to a taxi driver as he took me to Victoria station.
I asked the habitual question, 'Have you been busy?' Then I remembered how much of a ridiculous question that was as he was a taxi driver in the capital of England.
'Yes' he replied.

'How long have you been doing this for?' was my next question.

I watched as he did some quick maths in his head. 'Thirteen years.'

I asked him if he enjoyed it and he said he did.

'Don't you fancy doing anything else?' I asked.

'No, I don't think so,' he replied, looking at me through the rear-view mirror.
'What did you want to be when you were a kid?'

'A professional golfer,' he said.
I could see him smiling as if remembering how amazing that dream actually was.

'What do you do in your spare time? Is there a hobby you do which you could excel in?'
'Nah, not really,' he said.

There was a pause as we snaked in and out of cars, buses and cyclists.

Then he said something which made me smile.
'I'm content, you know.'

'Yeah?' I said. 'That's good.'
'I've never really been one of those ambitious people who reach for the stars and have to have this or that. I'm content driving my taxi and doing it the best I can.'

I continued to listen whilst smiling and looking at the passing scenery of tall buildings, trees and loads of busy people doing their thing.
'I'm not unhappy but I wouldn't say I'm over the moon either. I'm just content with what is.'

I think there are a lot of us who mistake happiness for contentment.

For me, happiness is on the surface and has little depth. It might be short-lived and it comes in bursts. Contentment goes much deeper, but only shows subtle ripples on the surface in the form of a small smile of knowing that all is well.
The taxi driver was content. He didn't need dreams and ambitions to find purpose in his life.

I learnt a lot from him.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

'I've been to a good place. Everything's OK.'

Whilst volunteering at my local hospice last Monday, I was made aware of a booklet called Nearing the End of Life - A Guide for Relatives and Friends of the Dying written by Sue Brayne and Dr Peter Fenwick. This booklet is there for anybody to read.

Now, it was Fenwick's name that jumped out at me because I've read his amazing book The Art of Dying.

He is a well known researcher into NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and OBEs (Out of Body Experiences) and believes that at the point of death, consciousness doesn't cease to exist, but actually goes on to another state of existence.

I was excited to find this booklet (which has been there for ages and I've never seen it until now) because other material I've read which the hospice provides for families (especially to help them with their grief) says, and I'll paraphrase, 'Once your loved one has died don't be surprised if you feel their presence around you, or have certain sensations like being able to smell their aftershave or favourite perfume. These are natural reactions to grief.'

This simple says that if you feel your deceased relative around you - it's not them. It's the grieving process.

I don't agree with this.

I'm a trained bereavement support worker with Cruse Bereavement Care and they said the same as the hospice - again, I disagreed.

If someone has felt their deceased loved one by them and it's brought them heaps amount of comfort and has eased their pain of 'losing' them, then surely, just because this experience can not be explained scientifically by our limited understanding of consciousness, we shouldn't assume that these experiences are grief-induced fantasies.

What a shame to dismiss someone's comforting experience out of ignorance.

The booklet, which I mentioned above, contains several stories. One of which I would like to share with you now:


I knew that my father was going to die that day and decided to leave him alone with my mother.

I had no problem leaving him as he had told me he was 'ready to go', wasn't frightened and very calm. We spent a lot of time talking while I nursed him, and without actually saying it, we had said our goodbyes.

I wandered around until I just felt that he had died, returning home to find he had indeed died 20 minutes before. I felt mixed emotions of relief, as he was no longer suffering and fearful.

I had not seen a dead body before. I stood nervously, with my back to the wall, at a distance, plucking up the courage to approach.

It was then I felt the pressure of hands on my shoulders and a voice whispering in my ear, 'I'm OK'. This was followed by the overwhelming sensation of a very strong force moving far away with immense speed.

I knew it was my father. Any fear I had I felt melted away. It gave me the strength to deal with the duties associated with death. Much later I realised this experience had removed my fear of dying.'

Imagine saying to Denise, 'You were just grieving. It's natural for things like that to happen.'

But that's exactly what our current scientific understanding of these experiences is saying.

I've recently read Raymond Moody's latest book, Paranormal. Moody has played a huge role in the field of after death studies. In the 70's, with his book Life After Life, he coined the term Near Death Experience. His latest book is biographical in nature.

He explains his troubled relationship with his dad, how his dad never really accepted his research into life after death. His dad, you see, was a respected surgeon so he had his reputation to protect. He even, at one point, admitted his son (Moody) to a mental institute because he thought he was loosing the plot with his latest research into the technique of scrying.

Towards the end of the book, Moody describes the passing of his dad, and this is what I'd like to share with you now, as it really made me smile. Remember, this is someone who, throughout his life, didn't believe in life after death, despite his son's tremendous research:

In the moments before his death, my brothers who were there at his side said his breathing picked up and they were amazed to see his eyes open; the doctors had told them he was in a coma from which he would not regain consciousness. He was wearing a beatific smile as he looked into their puzzled faces and said: 'I have been to a beautiful place. Everything is okay. I'll see everybody again. I'll miss you, but we will be together again.'

With that proclamation, he died.

I always remember the psychic medium, Johnathan Edward, saying, 'I prefer to live life believing in an after life and then to find out there isn't one, than to live life not believing and to find out there is one.'