In the Beginning…
As an adolescent, whenever something was bothering me or causing me anxiety, and as a teenager what didn’t, I would turn on the radio and keep it on all night, falling asleep to the music that the late night and overnight dee-jays played. It’s a coping mechanism I use to this day, although now I have a playlist on my iPhone. One particular late night or rather early morning I had suddenly woken up, restless. I did not know the source of my restlessness that spring night. Maybe it was school. As I laid in my bed, tilting my head a little toward the window, looking up at the starry sky, a frightening thought cracked open the darkness and illuminated the reason for my restlessness. I wondered: what happens to us when we die?
I tossed and turned all night, grateful for the radio as company. WNEW-FM in New York City was then a progressive rock radio station, adopting that format in the late 1960’s (The format changed again in the late 1990’s.) They were playing album sides of their featured record of the week, Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, which was destined to become a classic; it was an album that had spawned a few great songs already in regular rotation on the iconic radio station. I had come to love radio because of my dad. He almost always had the radio tuned to the New York City radio station. I loved rock and roll music and listening to the deejays. They were intelligent, articulate and knew so much about the music they played. Listening to the radio became the inspiration for me to want to pursue a broadcasting career and a lifelong interest in rock and roll history. But I digress…
I kept looking out of the window from my bed into darkness that seemed to go on forever. Night time does that when I cannot get back to sleep. The night becomes elongated adding to the worrisome thoughts moving around in my head. The reassuring voice of the overnight deejay and the music playing on the radio redirected my thoughts on death and dying which should have been the least of my worries at such a young age. What is curious is that it should wake me up from a brief slumber and haunt me for much of that night. How did that happen?
What if the soul of every human being was crammed up into the atmosphere. Where else would they go? The bodies went to heaven or hell depending on if they were good Christian people or not. Or so my grandmother Evangeline said. My sister Angela and I learned from a very young age that if we didn’t accept Jesus we would go to hell, although we did not understand what hell was. All of that was too abstract for small children, not to mention frightening. We both now believe that this is not what happens. It would never have occurred to me to ask anyone else what happens when someone dies. I didn’t think my mom and dad would have had better answers to my questions about death. But I never asked them.
My teenage logic told me that souls somehow left the body and went up into the sky. So there must be infinite sky to accommodate the same number of souls. All the humans who have ever lived – for thousands or hundreds of thousands of years – would have a soul up in the sky or heaven beyond the sky: cave people, Druids, Egyptians and people throughout the centuries to that night in the late 1970’s.
With the music still playing on the radio, I thought more about deep space. This first inkling about the universe generated so many questions. What else is out there besides souls floating around in the congested sky? How far up is heaven and can it be seen with the naked eye? Why do we die and not live forever? It would be about a decade before I would learn that each soul lives on after its incarnation on earth and can have more than one life here. Other life experiences as a teenager and as a young adult would take place before I would come to believe that. Eventually, my restlessness and endless thoughts surrendered to relaxation and I fell asleep, the stars lighting up the still night sky.
And so began my spiritual awakening.