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Read an Excerpt
DYING TO GET THERE... a true story ... a detailed account of a death journey ...
By Comrie Palmer
Balboa PressCopyright © 2011 Comrie Palmer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIT is mid-morning on a beautiful October day in Canada. I am in slow motion, feeling the need to pamper myself some. Therefore I am having my late breakfast and tea tray on the porch of the old farmhouse.
Slowly, ever so slowly, I eat my applesauce. I can feel it in my mouth. I am most aware of the taste as it slides down my throat. Particularly, I am vividly aware of the feeling of drinking my tea. Yes, it pours into me, into my mouth and my throat, but it feels to me as though it is feeding beyond me into the universe.
I find myself dwelling on thoughts of the universe, on thoughts of the magnitude of it all. That leads me to thinking about my private world. My family. My animals. My home, my land ... my Universe around me.
I sit here quietly holding that thought about this world of mine while I enjoy looking at the autumn leaves. They are changing colour, and I ponder that process of nature, and over the assorted colours that surround me. This property has such a vast assortment of trees, that as I slowly turn my head from one side to the other, it treats my eyes to a plethora of colour.
The apple tree to my right, which stands victorious after giving a great supply of fruit this year - the very applesauce that I am eating - is out in the open in full sunlight. With a mature hardwood forest behind it, and all the way over to the purple leaves on the plum tree on my far left, colour is everywhere.
Years ago this acreage had been a nursery for growing trees for resale. It had more than a hundred and fifty different varieties of trees. Over the past seventy-five years, the saplings that were planted back then and had not been sold, have grow to a full glorious maturity. In that interim from their planting to now, the trees had also grown un-pruned and wild. However, the rows remained. The trees planted in rows, grew in rows. How stately to walk among them. It was an overgrown botanical garden.
As I look up to watch the activity of the birds in the big maple tree near the front step of the porch, the antiquity of the porch moulding where the sun shines through catches my eye. The old porch where I am sitting is the kind that has pillars with fancy connecting moulding around the top. The curved design in those cut-out wood pieces gives a lace-trim look and makes it cozy.
All of the porch feels cozy. It is all wood with flower boxes spilling over with orange fall flowers blooming in them. Up inside the eaves is a swallow's nest. I watched the birds build it there last year and return to raise a new family in it this year. Amazing. The far end of the porch toward the apple tree is open but, overgrown juniper bushes grow around the rest of the porch.
One of the bushes beside the front entrance is so wide and tall that it reaches half way up the opening above the flower boxes, giving a wonderful protection for sitting out on the porch on rainy days. My eyes linger a moment on the rich green of the juniper reaching up past the vibrant orange flowers in the boxes, and I see the crisp white "gingerbread" moulding stretching down between the pillars. All of it frames the pale green-grey of the willow tree that sits off a bit in the distance. The willow is in front of a chorus of colour coming from the forest of assorted trees behind. If I were a painter, I would paint that picture.
The land in front of where I am sitting on the porch slopes gradually down toward the road, almost as if it had been terraced. However, the back of the house is protected from wind, as the land there continues upward. There are no neighbouring houses in sight from anywhere, and many times when I walk the property I revel not only in its beauty but equally enjoy the seclusion. Even down at the road level, I can't see other houses.
Down there, at the entrance to the property, it is marshy and quite wet as there is a stream winding through. It too has become so overgrown through the years that at the height of dry summer you have to follow the rippling sound when searching to find the water flow under the fallen brush. Morel mushrooms grow wild in there. They are a pinecone-shaped delicacy of the mushroom family.
There is wild life throughout that whole lower level of the property. Partridge, quail, pheasant and wild geese. Rabbits, deer, and ducks. They all live in there.
As you begin from the road to follow the long driveway up and into the property, you realize that you are climbing and that the old house is really on top of quite a hill. Because of the foliage, people cannot see that lower level from where I sit, but I know it is there.
On the walk up from the road there are a couple of clearings. One has remained a green meadow, but the other has spread into a field filled with daisies and cosmos. Throughout their season they blanket that field with bright yellow and white blooms.
At the top of the driveway there was once a barn and silo. Only the retaining wall of the barn remains, along with the flat-to-the-ground foundation stones of the entire structure. This retaining wall cuts into the hill and holds the earth firmly on one side, while the other side, the face of the wall, is completely covered with climbing ivy. That ivy wall is what people see when they park at the top of the driveway hill. The stone circle foundation of the silo has become my spring garden plot where all bulb flowers bloom early each year.
When walking past this and deep into the back of the land, you find several visual treats along the way. In one section there is a pine-tree reforestation area that has a sand based dirt road around it, so you can drive, ride a horse, or walk the perimeter. That old, rough road is a fire route and leads right to the back fence line. As you walk that north boundary line into the depth of the property, one of the treats along the path is the surprising change in the terrain. As you come past an overgrown tree in the fence line ... one of those gnarled and twisted old trees that the wind has blown and shaped for years ... out of nowhere, you are suddenly at the top of a hill. You and the forest and the path flow over the rise and down to another level.
It seems to be mostly shady down this hill, as the property on the other side of the fence line is also deeply wooded, and therefore little light filters through. It is always cool on that part of the walk, and that is refreshing. There are many little secret burrows along there where I stop, sit, and communicate with nature.
Our back fence line abuts the back of our neighbour's land, as his measured acreage comes in from his own road. These properties all go back one half of a concession road, and none of them have a through-road in between.
To come back up the south side of the property is the smart way, because that hill is mostly level between the width of the property, and there is no big uphill climb on this way back. It is rougher for part of the way on the south side, with many fallen trees and burrs and patches of thistles. The fence is broken in places and shows signs of deliberate trespassing, which allows adjoining neighbours to pass through with their snowmobiles or horses. I do not mind the fence rails being tampered with to allow them access, but it bothers me when they use wire cutters on the chain wire portions of the fence. None of this was a real problem, though, until the neighbours on both sides put cattle in their fields. Then the repairs had to be done.
The return walk is just as beautiful as on the way in, and it too is full of surprises. Once you pass all the prickle patches, there is a peaceful area. You can walk along the paths in this peaceful woods between the rows of pine trees and hear the breeze at the top of the trees. If you stand still, or better yet as I always do, if you find a spot and sit, lean against any one of the trees, and listen, you would hear the real life in the forest.
There are birds there too, but this is not what I am mostly aware of when I sit in these woods. It is those other sounds ... you can hear the squirrels and chipmunks scurrying; the plunk of a falling pine cone in the distance. You hear things in the earth, wiggling under the deep bed of pine needles on the ground. There are moles and wild mink; and the rabbits hop across the tree-lined path, stop, look up at you, then disappear. But if you sit still, ever so still, and wait, you can hear them move again. Then a pling-pling echo of another pine cone falling. Sound is alive in this forest. Such a peaceful tune.
From there I pick myself up, zigzag my way through to the boundary fence line, and continue to walk back toward the house. Then comes the piece de resistance! Out of the peaceful forest and only steps away, gently rolling down the slight incline of a hill, winds an open path that divides the next section in two.
You really do not know which side of the path to look at first. To the right is a magnificent three-acre spread of lilacs. They flow down the slope. Walking among them is sheer joy. They have grown to a towering height and seasoned age that demands respect, so I call them THE LILAC FOREST, with capitals! In their blossom season, the perfume, the aroma that wafts through the air to your nostrils from the purple, mauve, and white blooms, is intoxicating. They are a symphony in nature's silent amphitheatre that takes your sight and smell senses to an explosive peak. Many times I have sat there and climaxed my senses.
Then, if you look to your left across the path, there is a direct contrast to the solid ground cover that the lilacs provide. Here, there is an equal, open expanse of sumac trees, with their fist-sized, deep red, velvet blooms that defy gravity. Each branch ends with a huge velvet cluster that points skyward ... like hands on the many arms of Shiva. These trees appear dwarfed by their gnarled and twisted branches, but they too are aged and call out for our reverence. They have less foliage on them than most other types of trees, and therefore appear slightly barren in their beauty. The sumacs stay colourful most of the year, and I have always wanted to take a picture of them when the sunlight, late in the day, shows their dark brown bark, deep red and green colour contrast to the fullest, and to put that simple picture on a Christmas card.
As you pass along through here, beyond the lilacs and the sumacs, there is a section of thorn trees. They have soft, slim, pale, yellow-green leaves and long, ultra sharp thorns. I stop and watch the birds fly in and out through those trees and marvel at their manoeuvring to miss those pencil-long, piercing spikes. Off to the side of the thorn trees are a couple of rows of fat, full, fir trees. I learned that these were put there back in the years when this was an active tree nursery to be a wind block for the saplings that were planted and sold at a young transplanting age.
Beginning just beyond this wind block are rows of picturesque trees that. If by now your senses are not pulsating in tune with plant nature, then this next sight will do it for sure! These are the unsold saplings, planted in rows, that have been left to grow some seventy-five years past their transplanting stage.
I wish I knew the name of this first row of trees, as I just refer to them as the "storybook" trees. They are of the pine family, so tall, so stately; but they look like lace. It seems that each one of the trees in this row has taken ballet lessons to hold its form with such upward grace. These branches go down at the elbows and up at the tips, in Swan Lake ballet positions, with their needles hanging there like a deep green fringe.
Beside them are rows of tamarack trees, the only pine tree I know of that totally sheds its soft needles annually. The tamaracks appear to be dead for such a long portion of their cycle that they seem to portray a fear through their fragility. To look at them, even with their beauty, makes me feel sad for them, so I always give them a comforting word and caress as I pass by, hoping to assuage their projected visual sorrow.
Next there are rows of stately black walnut trees, blue spruce, birch, maples and oak, all soaring to the sky. These giants automatically make you look up ... but then when you look down again, you see that all of this majesty sits on a bed of moss that flowers.
Once I sat down on the pathway there and stared into the moss. The longer I looked, the more I could see. Inside each green moss piece were shades of green, and out of it grew dainty, tiny, red flowers with yellow specks way inside their centres. The flower itself is smaller than the head of a pin, and the mighty stem that holds this flower is like a single strand of hair. When I look up and see the massive storybook trees towering over my head, then look back down and see the miniature perfection of those little toy flowers in the moss, I revel in the opposites. It is a fairy fantasyland way down there inside the moss fairy forest. I feel that I should whisper, step gently, as it is all too sacred to walk on, those precious proud flowers underfoot. Nevertheless, it all seems to be beckoning me to enjoy. Can you appreciate that I walk barefoot?
When approaching the back of the farmhouse this way, after tiptoeing through the moss woods, there is a slight hill of grass. Walking down it takes me past a green-grape arbour, the most sour grapes I have ever tasted; past my special holly bush, the only one on the property; alongside Ebenezer, the scarecrow guardian of the vegetable patch on the side of the hill; and around the back corner of the house to the purple plum tree. Near the plum tree is a well with a red hand-pump on it, and that pump is just off this end of the porch. The apple tree is at the other end.
My walk has come full circle.
Chapter TwoON this particular morning, my four sons are in school, and my husband is at work. The animals are lazing about, and I am alone on the porch in the stillness of the moment. Still, but not calm.
Lately I have been obsessed with getting everything in its place, to sort and sort, tidy and tidy, and do and do! I am even feeling a slight guilt in taking this leisure time over my toast and applesauce. The teacup I knew I could carry with me as I worked; however, I sit here instead in my flowing white negligee drinking in the nature around me.
To appreciate nature like this is not so unusual for me, as nature and animals have always been my source of reenergizing. When the children were little and would run out of energy early in the day, I would say, "Go hug a tree," and they would laugh. I doubt that they would remember that now, however, their subconscious will. I have discovered that the subconscious remembers everything.
My four teenage boys are stepbrothers. These two families have been growing together over the past seven years. They are my treasures, and I love them all dearly. They are each quite different, but they all have one thing in common ... that is their thirst for sport activity. As an athlete myself, (I am a past champion Figure Skater and Olympic Team Member), I am thrilled with their sports interests. They are good boys, and the family is working well together. We are a large family, four boys, four house-pets, and a horse. Originally, there were seven house-pets, everyone had one ... plus the bonus cat!
FLUFFY: She was the bonus cat that started it all, started this menagerie. A girl who did house work for me gave her to me as a stray. Fluffy is a large, beautiful, grey Persian with long, thick fur. Actually, her name suits her, even though that is what I call every cat anyway; it goes back to my childhood when we had a Persian named Fluffy. This Fluffy, though, has a little white on her stomach and on her front paws. She rules the roost of our household of pets, but when we first moved here, she sure took some time learning to enjoy being out at night, as there is a huge hoot owl out there that scared her to bits! It does not bother her anymore.
When I first got Fluffy, everyone wanted to hug her at the same time. When the boys would come home from school, they all wanted to pat her, so I got the great idea of giving each of the boys their own pet when their birthday or Christmas rolled around.
But first, the adults! I bought a pair of dogs for us.
LITTLE MISS MUFFITT: is a purebred Maltese terrier. She is little and white and saucy and looks like a mop. Maybe that was why I chose to spell her name wrong. She hates being professionally groomed and having bows put in her hair, she pulls them off before I can get her home. However, she loved mating season and her two long weekends with her stud Thaddeus.
Excerpted from DYING TO GET THERE by Comrie Palmer Copyright © 2011 by Comrie Palmer. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Letter to Life from Death....................6
Part One The Day Of My Death....................7
Part Two My Death Journey....................37
Part Three Alive Again....................139
Part Four Thirty Five Years After my Death Experience....................149
Letters by: Dr Brent MacMillan M.D....................177
Iridologist, Dimitrios Develecos....................179
Rev. Dr. Vernon F. Gunckel BSc., M.A., M.Div., Ph.D....................181