There are three things I know for sure, we all poop, we all die, and nobody likes talking about either one. If you’re lucky enough you poop every day, so I doubt I can provide much enlightenment by sharing my daily business. I did sit down one time on the toilet only to slide off and slam into the floor hard enough to shake the house. My head banging against the tile floor sent my wife running upstairs to find me dead with poop spewing onto the shower rug. I guess I’m also sure of something else, returning from the dead to share my story is somewhat unusual, but here I am.
I’m not one who likes to dwell on death—if I’m truthful I would have preferred not to die, but I did, and it made an impression. Not to let a learning opportunity pass I have been thinking a lot about the death of me and then today things came a little clearer. I understand that my event is more a case of luck than misfortune and is not even significant compared to many who suffer in the face of extraordinary circumstances. I also believe most people are emotionally healthy enough to imagine how it was for me the first time I sat down to take a shit following my death and how something like that might grab a person’s attention. Now that a substantial amount of time has passed and I poo more peacefully I have what I think is a healthy perspective. The perspective is what I want to share with you because this is what I do, I write.
Anyone who knows me knows how lucky I am in who I married. Not only beautiful, but my wife is composed of an impressively strong spirit. If you doubt me then imagine a woman, who can run into a bathroom, find her husband lying dead on the floor and scream his ass back to life. The story I share today is that scream and what it reminded me of when I was a kid.
I used this story in a talk I did last year as a way to explain the feeling of dying. Today I was thinking about the story and how it was only a symbol of the experience. You see the story was my way to connect consciousness to the experience of my death, which was an alternate consciousness. I wasn’t able to accurately describe the feeling of death other than using a story as a reflection of its soul. The reason why I’m writing now is that today I realized why I choose that story and how I can now articulate the experience with more clarity.
Right before I slammed into the floor, I felt as if I was fainting and tried to catch myself as I went down. Apparently, I didn’t do well because when I left the hospital, I had a scab and significant bump on my forehead as a result of hitting the floor. I remember lying there, conscious while unconscious that I was shitting everywhere and feeling an overwhelming sense of releasing tension as if I was learning to let go for the first time. I use the word overwhelming because it wasn’t only tension in my body it was my entire being as if the stress of a lifetime weighed so significantly only after years I was finally able to fall asleep and let go of all of my shit. The exhaustion was crushing and the contrast so desirously welcomed.
I grew up in Idaho on a bench of hills overlooking the town of Pocatello that spread across the Portneuf Valley below. The Portneuf Valley was once a route of drainage for the Great Bonneville Lake that poured onto the Snake River Plains of Idaho some 15,000 years ago and is now long dried and gone. If you stood there now, looking across the valley from the hills of my childhood home, you would see how ice once chiseled the gorge out of volcanic rock, a path where the Portneuf River flows into the Snake River and winds its way across the plains towards the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.
As a kid looking over the valley that flowed onto the high desert plains, I felt a connection with the sun falling to nest behind the western horizon. The sun and rivers directional flow was my compass and provided a sense of my place, the distant ocean and the rest of the world. In summer, on scorching days, as the sphere of bright red, orange and yellow colors descended toward night a shadow cast over radiating clouds of neon vapors dancing and rising from the surface of the desert floor. Never mind that the daily summer light show was a direct result of high concentrations of particulate matter in the atmosphere bellowing from the chimney stacks of JR Simplot Companies fertilizer production facility on the west end of town. Pocatello’s unique location is kin to the prehistoric Bonneville Lake and provides an abundance of ancient lake bed phosphate materials for plant nutrition and farming. As a kid, I was oblivious to the cause of the wondrous orbs glow. My only concern was the perfect light the sun provided for the daily evening Baseball Tournament of Legends before darkness when my mom, from our porch, would call my name to come home for bed.
We repeatedly debated the rules until we hastily settled because darkness was slowly pulling its blanket over the park. Collectively we agreed and arrived at the top of the ninth with two outs, bases loaded and the crowd on its feet. Following a heated debate the Pittsburgh Pirates are at bat with a tied game against the Baltimore Orioles. As I wind up to pitch a fastball over the plate, with piercing blue eyes, Robert Clemente was staring me down. Suddenly far from a distance cutting through the air and only a voice a son could hear my mom’s scream struck me directly on the chest, and with the weight of a game-ending declaration I say, “I gotta go, my mom is calling.”
That’s exactly how it felt when my wife screamed my name while I was lying dead on the bathroom floor. It was the feeling I had on those summer nights some forty odd years ago, but there was something else, besides how far away the voice traveled and how I knew I was the only one who could hear it. That something else was that I understood going home wasn’t bad because the next night following dinner we would all gather again at the park for baseball. The same group of friends would debate the rules and quarrel over who got to play as Babe Ruth. Those discussions were all part of the game, and the purpose had nothing to do with who won or lost, only that it was summer and growing dark while we played baseball barefooted in the park wearing nothing but cut off Levi shorts with a slit on each side for swagger. That was the feeling, how in knowing all my friends would be there again when the next night’s shadow cast over radiating clouds of neon like vapors that dance and rise from the surface of the desert floor.