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THE BEGINNING Saturday, November 6, 1999. I sit at my computer. Place my fingers on the keyboard. And the words, �What were you thinking right before you killed yourself?� come across the screen. What follows is 11 days of typing 135 words a minute, whereupon I ask questions and receive answers from 17 souls who have committed suicide. Everything that is written was written in a stream of higher consciousness or whatever the particular term best describes the awesome events that colored my life since I first began writing about the subject of suicide and sanity in the fall of 1998. First let me backtrack to where this all began�. ....At the beginning. March 15, 1995 I am standing at the intersection of Montana Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, California. I am trying to decide whether to study my French literature in translation at The Coffee Bean or Starbucks. I choose Coffee Bean. The reason is immediately apparent. Soft brown eyes, plump juicy lips, a face like an Adonis. I am in love. In a few moments, I will come to know him as Charley. Right now, he is God. �Would you like some Pepto-Bismol?� the Adonis asks as he peers at the book I am reading Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre. He slides past me and disappears into the men's room. A man much too old to be working as a coffee clerk leans over to my table and whispers, �He likes you. I watched his face as he spoke to you. It was red with passion. You and him will be together.� �That's impossible,� I reply. �I'm married.� �My grandfather was a Shaman,� he continues. �He passed along his psychic abilities to me. You and Charley will be together. I'm telling you this because I want you to know that thereare no accidents. Everything that is meant to happen - does. You two will be together.� Charley comes out of the men's room and stares at me� through me. I am going to throw up. We are so connected. It is strong. Intense. You will be together� My grandfather was a shaman� There are no accidents. Later that evening, I telephone the Coffee Bean and ask Charley for a date. �Tonight,� he says. �Let's go out tonight.� How can I go out tonight? What will I tell my husband David? I can't do this! I cannot risk ruining my marriage over a John Stamos look-a-like. �Okay, � I blurt out. �What time?� 7:00 p.m. Charley enters my car. I want to kick him out. He smells too good. He looks too good. He's acting much too happy to see me. He's dangerous. I have more to lose than he does. �This looks like a good movie,� he says pointing to the newspaper. �Hideaway,� it's called. How Perfect. The next day, Charley and I are sitting outside Starbucks on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica and we see the Shaman guy. I run over to him, thinking he'll be excited that his prophecy came true. But he just looks at me, with glazed over eyes and a crooked smile. Later I find out he got fired from Coffee Bean. No one knows where he went, where he came from, or even� if he exists. So Charley and I spend the next six months sharing our dreams, revealing our souls, watching the moonlight from his balcony, and pondering the meaning of life and death. I file for divorce. Charley takes me away to Santa Barbara on a romantic getaway. To lighten up my mood he covers his head with a white sheet and informs tourists that he is a very rich oil sheik and owns the beach on which they walk. At night, he plays piano for me at the hotel bar then serenades me to sleep playing his Gordalin. As my eyes close, he whispers I love you and in that moment, I am transported to another realm of existence; one in which I had never visited before. I will not go into the details of why I finally broke up with Charley. I will just say that he did not take it lightly. You see, Charley was a tortured soul. Self-tortured. He was brilliant, relentless, passionate, introspective, and mad. One night, he left the number of a funeral home on my pager. I guess it was his twisted way of telling me he needed help. Charley lived by his impulses. I lived by my heart. He wanted to run from his feelings. I wanted to understand mine. So we parted ways and my life went on. I met and married my current husband, Satori, and my life became about integrity and honesty, inspiration and dedication. It became about reaching, arriving, celebrating, wondering, asking, searching, and understanding that ultimately, we don't know. Ultimately, we must trust. Why am I here? What is it I was born to do? To be? To contribute? To learn? The answers came in the quiet moments between the dawn of a new day and the darkening of the sky. The moments when I stopped and noticed what was going on around me, inside me, inside of someone else. My relationship with Charley took me to places I had not visited for a long time. It took me to gut-wrenching pain and indescribable ecstasy, infectious laughter, goofiness, energy, exhilaration, introspection, self-destruction, and love... so much love, and pain... so much pain� and happiness. The kind of happiness that lifted me out of bed in the morning with only a few hours sleep and gave me the motivation and desire to go beyond where I'd ever gone before; to live at a level of intensity most would find uncomfortable. September 1998 I am walking along Montana Avenue in Santa Monica and a familiar voice shouts out my name. I see Jonathan, Charley's father, sitting at a café. He asks me to join him. �I only have a moment,� I tell him. He looks uncomfortable in my presence. I ask him how things are going. He says they're going well. �I drove by your apartment two months ago. Charley was sitting outside smoking a cigarette. I was going to stop by and say hello, but I knew Satori, my husband, would not have liked it. You know how Charley is. He's not one to keep his hands off a married woman,� I laugh. �You couldn't have seen Charley two months ago,� Jonathan says. �Well, maybe it was three. But I saw him, sitting on that chaise lounge outside the house.� �No,� he continues...his face turning white. �CHARLEY IS DEAD.� �Excuse me?� I ask, understanding precisely what he said. �He committed suicide a year ago.� I am speechless. There is a split second where the lines between what you now know and what you're about to learn, exist. Once you cross that line, your life is never the same again. You forever refer to it in terms of, �before you found out� and �after you found out.� I was about to cross that line. �How did he die?� �He jumped off the Lincoln Boulevard overpass onto the Santa Monica freeway. He landed onto a Vintage Porsche. Just like Charley, to choose the most expensive car,� he jokes, trying to fend off the pain. We laugh. A moment of remembrance in Charley's honor allowed us the freedom to laugh. And then, we cry. �I tried to get a hold of you when Charley died, but you weren't listed.� �When did it happen?� I ask. �On November 1, 1996. All Soul's Day. His memorial service was November 10th.� �My birthday,� I reply. I could not comprehend that Charley was gone. Later that day I return home to find an envelope on my desk. �I received these photos in the mail today. I don't know who they're of, but he sure is good-looking,� says a note from my mom. I open the envelope and gasp when I see the face it is Charley. Two years prior, I had taken a roll of film that contained photos of Charley to the drug store to be developed. For some reason, I never picked them up. My mother knew Charley. My mother had spent time with Charley during the six months we were virtually inseparable. Yet in these photos, she did not recognize his face. They were modeling photos and he looked quite different I felt spooked and curious about what this meant. Photos arrive the same day I find out Charley is dead. �What do you want me to know?� I ask the photos. A few days later� �the answer comes. �Write,� a voice tells me. �Write what?� I ask. �Just write.� So, for the next eight months, for 10-12 hours a day, I wrote, cried, laughed and explored untapped dimensions of my soul, pockets of who I was� pieces of who I was going to be. It was an incredible, exhilarating, enlightening, painful, and challenging experience, the result of which became my film, Journey From Within. During the writing of this film, I had many �mystical� experiences. One night, a transparent image wearing something blue, ran across my mirror. I felt a spirit beside me. I called my dog over, but she wouldn't come. Her hair stood up and she growled fiercely. The next moment, the lights went out. I got them back on and they went out again. The next evening, I was feeling the presence of Charley and asked him to send me a sign. I asked aloud so my husband could bare witness to anything that occurred. At the time I was reading a book I had never read before and when I turned the page, the first word on top was Charlie. Then, on Saturday, November 6, 1999, the words �What were you thinking right before you killed yourself,� spread across the screen. This is the story of 17 souls who have something to say. I am just the vehicle through which they chose to speak. In reading this, you are listening�and allowing them to finally be heard. WHO THEY ARE Except for Charley, I had no prior knowledge of any of the people who spoke through me. Full names, dates, causes of death were verified through researching the information received in the writing. I have left out the last names to protect the privacy of the families. Some just revealed themselves, but did not offer words. 1. CHARLEY: 1/15/7311/1/96jumped off Lincoln Boulevard/Santa Monica Freeway Overpass. Age: 22 2. ANGELA: died November 11hung herself. Age: 16 3. ALEXY: 11/7/756/24/96� hung himself. Age: 20 4. JOSEPH: died 11/20/97shot himself. Age: 35 5. JOHN: 11/14/629/28/98. Age: 35 6. BEAU: died in 1998 - Shot himself. Age: 12 7. NANCY: died in 1999-Shot herself. Age: 35 8. SEAN: died 1996Shot himself. Age: 29 9. JAY: 11/14/64-died in 1999Hung himself. Age: 35 10. BRETT: Died in 1984. Age: 15 11. JOSHUA: Carbon monoxide poisoning. Age: 15 12. MICHAEL: Shot himself. Age: 35 13. GARY: Age: 27 14. ARTHUR: No information 15. JESS: 11/27/696/13/97. Drove off freeway. Age: 27 16. KIMBERLY: 11/5/7412/31/95. Overdosed. Age: 20 17. JEFFREY: died in 1992. Overdosed. Age: 51 THE CONVERSATION What were you thinking right before you killed yourself? KIMBERLY (age 20): I was feeling despondent and afraid. Actually, it took a long time to muster up the courage to go ahead with my plan. I was looking for someone to talk me out of it. I was begging someone to see the pain I was in. I cannot blame them, but I do think the signs were there; signs that most people aren't attuned to looking for. What would have made a difference for you? If someone had spoken to me, really took the time and spoke to me, not like a victim or a defective piece of machinery, but as a person going through pain. I think then I would have chosen to live. When did you first feel life wasn't worth living? When I was five. I used to play with my sister and her friends. They teased me. The girls were really mean. They pulled my hair and called me names. I came home crying, bawling actually. My mother did nothing. She looked at me with a sympathetic �poor dear' attitude and just turned away. I remember feeling my life had no point; that I was insignificant and people were mean just to be mean and adults, the ones who were supposed to know it all, really didn't know anything at all. Yeah, they knew information and stuff, but they didn't really know. You know what I mean? They really didn't know me� who I was, how much I loved people and animals, especially my cats. They didn't know how much I cared and they didn't care to ask. My mother refused to acknowledge the signs, the ones that yelled to her late at night or cried like a newborn baby under the covers in my bed. I was in so much pain, but what I didn't know then, that I do know now, was that I, and only I, was the creator of all that pain. What do you mean by that? I did it to myself. Sure, other people did things to me, but I was responsible for how I interpreted and held onto their actions. I was responsible for the things I told myself after they and their actions were long gone. What did dying teach you? JESS (age 27): Dying taught me that there is no death. Yeah, my body is gone. But I feel more connected to the earth plane now than I ever have. I still walk with souls who live in a body. I still connect with the people whom I connected with before. The only difference is they cannot see me, and well, according to them, this makes all the difference in the world. The pain I feel at not being able to let them know I am thereor rather, not being able to break through their veil of certainty which says I cannot be there because I am dead, torments my soul even more now than when I was alive. When I was alive, I wanted to be invisible. Now that I am dead, I feel more visible than ever and just when I want people to see me They cannot. What would have saved your life? BEAU (age 12): Being listened to, or rather, listening to myself and otherslistening to what they were doing to help me instead of what I thought they were doing to hurt me. I was so critical when I was alive; critical of myself and my parents and everyone who dared to walk in my path. I pushed so many people away when I was alive. I hate saying that word alive because I feel more alive now than I felt before I died. This is not because I died. It is because I learned how I should have lived when I was alive, when I had the chance to really make a difference. Oh how I would do anything to be given another chance at life. You see, from where I am, I cannot affect people or impact them in the same way I could have done when I lived inside a body. I am forced to restrain myself as a spirit because beings in bodies do not delight in seeing spirits walk in the night. What is your advice for those in pain? CHARLEY (age 22): Snap out of it! Just kidding, but not really. What I learned the moment my body was transported off the highway and into the morgue was � I am not my body. Now most of you are probably thinking I am quite slow to have just discovered this so late in the game, but really, I thought I was my body. Whilst on earth I spent a hell of a lot of time adorning it, buying it things. Oh how so very important things were to my life. I lived for thingsthe buying of things, the giving of them, yet you know what's so funny? I looked forward to dying so I could give up my things. They became the burden of my life instead of the pleasure. I felt burdened by having to play along with believing that things were the answer. I don't know how else to explain it except that I truly thought that things were going to make me happy. It's true that anything can seemingly fill you up for a short time. But in the long run, what you don't take with you to heaven, you don't need to spend all of your time focusing on down there. The same things you need on earth are the same things you need in heaven love, connection, compassion, passion, you know, whatever. That word whatever is looked upon so distastefully up here. The higher spirits actually detest it, so of course I started saying �whatever' a lot. You say �whatever' when you don't really want to say what's going on. Whatever is an excuse for not fully expressing whatever is behind whatever. Whatever is meant to mean �I DON'T CARE,� but that's the big joke because we always care. Always. And the more we attempt to make it like we don't, the more we do. It's the big game of pretend that's going on right now in your world. It's cool to act like nothing matters, when in reality it does. I still like to relate to myself as being part of the human race. I forget, or choose to give up remembering, that I gave up that right a long time ago. I gave up the privilege to call myself a human being long before I died. I actually died long before I died, if you know what I mean. I gave up living fully when all of those doctors told me that I was a sick human being in need of constant medication and help. I gave up being who I am and became someone I am not. I became someone who did not resemble ME. I became everything they told me to be. I was smart when they said to be smart and funny when they demanded I be funny. Sometimes, just to piss them off, I would be funny when they demanded smart and smart when they demanded funny or I would be none of the above and just sit like a vegetable. I would just sit and watch them scurry about looking for ways to make me talk, searching for the remedy that would bring me back to my senses. What they didn't know was that I was at my senses the entire time. I knew exactly how to get myself into different states, yet I didn't let them know that I knew how to do this. Why not? Then they would win and take the credit for my spontaneous recovery. They would give credit to the pill they prescribed or their therapeutic techniques. They would take all the credit away from me. Fuck that! I deserve some credit for all the shit I have put myself through during my lifetime. I take credit for the shit. I deserve credit for the good times as well. But nooo, doctors love to take the credit when you do something that has nothing to do with what they did. I'm sorry. I apologize. I was just informed by my higher spirit that I am rambling on like an asshole. He, my higher spirit, didn't say the word asshole. He said, muttering idiot or babbling idiot, something like that. I put in the word asshole. I think it rather describes my behavior much better. I am questioning whether I am writing this or you are writing it through me. How will I know for sure? Are your hands sweaty? Yes. Are they cold and clammy? Yes. Are you feeling like the words can't come out fast enough, like your fingers long to hit the typewriter keys at an ever faster pace and if you timed yourself, you would surely be hitting the keys at over 100 words per minute? Yes. Case closed.