Go towards the light….

go towards the light

When I was a kid I grew up in a place called Somerset West in South Africa. It was beautiful and I have amazing memories living there with all of the beautifully changing landscapes and incredible wildlife. I used to go to school with a chameleon or a tobacco roller snake curled up in my pocket. I lived, breathed and ate horses (I always hated that saying – I would die before I ate a horse)…maybe…anyway, I was a happy-go-lucky kid. My parents were wonderfully social butterflies, having many dinners and do’s that were amazing. I would sneak downstairs and take a look at all the beautiful people and listen to their laughter and tinkling cutlery. My mother would let me have dessert upstairs while I watched TV way later than what I was supposed to. I had the dogs and cat crowded up in the den and kept hoping that I would be forgotten and could stay here, just like this, always.

Well that didn’t happen and life trundled on – I must have been about 14 or 15 years old and had my first boyfriend. My parents were out one night and so my boyfriend Mike, and I were over at my friends’ house across the road. Before we left we made sure the dogs were not able to get into the lounge, a light on the front porch was left on for when we came back and everything was locked up.

So we had a fun night with our friends’ and decided it was time to head back – my parents would be home soon and Mike had to go home too. We walked hand in hand down the long dark driveway and headed across the road. My house was lit up like a birthday cake. Every light in the house was on. Mike and I stopped dead in our tracks with our mouths open. I went to hurry forward and Mike held me back. We approached with more caution. The front door was also open…and all of the windows. We were terrified but for some reason instead of going back to my friends’ house we kept going towards mine. Mike pushed the front door open and we slowly went in – I was hanging on to Mike for dear life! Everything was super bright with every single light turned on, the guest toilet lights, the reading lamps beside the beds and the main lights…what the hell was going on? What was really weird is that the dogs were bailed into a corner in the kitchen. Not even where their beds were but squashed under the breakfast table. Now we had a Great Dane (Cleo), a Labrador (Lottie) and a Bouvier des Flanders crossed with an English Sheepdog, (Charlie). These were not little dogs or scaredy-cat dogs for that matter, yet they were cowering and terrified of coming out when Mike and I went in. Usually they were delighted to see us and went crazy even if we had only been gone for twenty minutes. The cat, Fluffy-bum, was nowhere to be seen either.

Mike and I scoured the house and turned off the lights and closed the windows – man, we were creeped out. Mike had to go so I reluctantly saw him off and kept the dogs close. I made sure I locked the front door behind me and checked the downstairs windows with a trail of pets behind me. While I wandered around the house trying to feel safe, yet believing I may be locking something in with me rather than keeping something out.

Suddenly I could smell something burning. I poked my nose outside to find out if there was a bush fire somewhere but I could only smell the delicately cloying Wisteria and Jasmine that threaded the hedge. I hurriedly retraced my steps, the dogs got in the way of course and I stumbled over them several times in my hurry. I couldn’t find anything that was turned on now – I had turned it all off! I checked the power outlets all around and unplugged anything that wasn’t being used but nothing was melted or smelt as if it was burning. I checked the oven, the laundry where the iron was – nothing, not a heated thing. I went into the den and turned on the TV. Lottie, Cleo and Charlie followed me in and clambered onto the sofa with me. Fluffy-bum had turned up and wiggled her way in amongst all of the dogginess. I wondered when Mum and Dad would be home, I hoped soon…

Next to the sofa was an old cane rocking chair and foot stool that would now and again crack due to the change in temperature so that was nothing new. But y’know how cats suddenly stop doing what they are doing and just stare at something you know is not human and may be a ghost or something like that. But you don’t want to believe it when it’s in your own lounge. So Fluffy-bum is washing herself, and the dogs’ faces in between their fluttering lip snores and does this petrified statue thing, looking at the old cane rocking chair. It cracks and I think nothing of it. Something has changed, the snoring has stopped and all three dogs are awake, lying there with their eyes open but they had not picked up their heads. That was really strange – they leapt up at anything in a race to meet it, greet it or eat it.

The cane chair cracked some more and then became regular as the chair started tipping back and forth, rocking… I shot straight off the sofa – cat and dogs flying. Something had changed in me – I was fed up with this torturous unknowing. I stormed over to the lounge door – ripped it open and yelled over my shoulder, “GET OUT! YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE – GET OUT!” and carried on like a tornado to the front door – ripped that one open, after I fumbled around unlocking it and yelled the same thing behind me. I stopped in my tracks as I felt something move and shift in the atmosphere.

“I’m sorry…” I whispered, “I’m scared of you, I don’t know who you are but I don’t want you here. You need to go to the light, just go…” and I closed the front door. I walked back into the lounge, I felt shattered but hugely relieved. I looked towards the welcoming sofa where Lottie, Charlie, Cleo and Fluffy-bum sat waiting. They looked relaxed and content. I plonked myself down and Fluffy-bum came over, she looked up at me and closed her beautiful green eyes in a smile of thanks and curled up on my lap after a couple of raspy kisses on my hand. Somebody released some of their dogginess and we were almost back to normal. I heard Mum and Dad’s purring car and saw the headlights sweep over the windows in a comforting light – wondering if whomever I had chased out of our house felt as comforted as I did right now, I really hoped so.

Carrying Souls

Collecting souls

I had to do six months of research on suicide once.  I’m not going to get into statistical mumbo-jumbo in this piece, this is about my experience during this time and what I felt and understood from that experience.

Sitting at my desk for at least eight hours a day, reading about how people had chosen to end this lifetime, was alright for the first 2 or 3 weeks, I think.  I looked at it as a job and that I needed to provide the most comprehensive, yet detailed report on what was happening to our community in our district.  I wanted to find answers and resolutions.  I wanted to give it my very best for those who had left and for those who had been left behind.

Now part of being able to do this type of work is being able to distance yourself, compartmentalize and focus on giving your full attention to the job at hand. That job was to look at the past 5 years of coroners’ reports on suicide.  This ranged from a ten year old hanging themselves from a washing line, to a couple in their 80’s who decided to leave together.  Naturally, the older the individual and especially there being two of them, that was almost comforting, darkly romantic, but that was as good as it gets.  The child and everyone in between were just tragically sad and seemingly so unnecessary.  The information in the reports contained everything and I gathered something like 900 suicides and the individual information on a spreadsheet I designed.

It was a very in depth piece of work and very tolling.  After those first few weeks, I found I was taking some of these individuals I had been digging around in, with me.  Back home with me.  It started with me feeling like someone was looking over my shoulder while I was working.  No one was, but it became very awkward.  It wasn’t a comfortable feeling.  This went on for weeks.  I felt like someone was not happy with me digging around in their past.  Some people had been from a criminal background, a few had been child molesters, they had been related to their victims.  Not nice people but I was not doing this to judge, I wanted information to help. Many had just been overwhelmed with financial stress, a too demanding life, a hopeless situation.

Then one day, after spending my working day feeling like I had a bunch of suicide victims hanging around me, that feeling then started following me.  I had a little two door car.  As I drove home, I felt the car become more and more crowded.  I turned the music up, opened windows.  Nothing changed.  I couldn’t wait to get home and get out of the car. Pulling up into the driveway I saw my flatmate outside mowing the lawn.  I got out and felt better, we chatted and I went inside.  I felt a little better when I was around others but I didn’t want to tell anyone what was going on. When I climbed into bed that night I asked those lost spirits to leave me alone.  I had thought about it and figured that these people’s spirits may be trapped here for some reason.  I didn’t know why and I didn’t understand how I knew this was the case, I just knew.

I felt that being so personally involved in each individuals’ death had brought these spirits close to me, not all of them – but somehow these guys had become trapped or lost on an earthly plane. I made a decision to do something crazy – or what may be thought of as crazy by others.  I was at home alone one weekend and I could feel the heaviness of these souls around me. Something compelled me to go outside and look up at the sky.  It was a cloudy, drizzly day with a bit of gusty wind.  The trees rustled around us and I felt the need to speak out loud to these souls.  I said to them that I understood that not all of them had done the right thing here on earth and had left so much heart break and devastation behind.  But there was a light they needed to find over there.  I said I forgive you – I didn’t know who or how many there were but I told them they were all forgiven for everything and needed to go towards the light.  I kept repeating this, looking up at the iron grey sky.  Then all of a sudden I felt a sudden lightness.  The sky didn’t open up, no lightning, torrential rain or blasting wind – they just seemed to move away from me.

I kept using this solution to help those souls move forward each time I felt someone around me.  I had to wait to get home so that I could be alone and in the quiet – oh and keep it a secret, until now…

A Survivor