Daniella was dead. She’d been on stage accepting an award when her heart seized with a brief but intense pain, and she fell to the floor. The audience gasped and then held their breath as two stagehands carried the famous actress away. Some thought she’d fainted, and several people even applauded before music began to play and confusion set in, the crowd passing questions amongst themselves. At last, an official-looking man stepped forward to the microphone to make an apology and offer assurances. While he announced the next category of awards, Daniella’s body lay in the back of an ambulance. A doctor recorded her time of death and then draped a sheet over her face. Her last act would be the follow morning’s headline news.
But Daniella was not actually dead. Certainly, her body was broken and beyond any possibility of repair, but then she had always been much more than her body, a fact she hadn’t appreciated until she’d been released from it. Indeed, much to her surprise, even though her body was now inanimate and cold, she was wide-awake, vibrant and free, alert and full of energy, without pain or any concern for all the admirers she’d left behind. In one swift movement, she had been lifted up into a plane of Spirit, full of love and wondrous light. And then panic struck.
She retraced her steps in an attempt to understand what had happened. The auditorium pulled rapidly into focus, its atmosphere charged with excitement and grand expectation by row upon row of tuxedoed men and glamorous, bejeweled women. Cameras flashed and sparkled like diamonds as Daniella watched herself walk across the stage and stop midway, curtsying to riotous applause. She accepted her award and was about to speak when the spotlight seared her eyes. Reaching for her chest, she heard her trophy crack as it hit the floor, then shatter as her body collapsed in pain. So, so much pain. As the host rushed to her side to hold her hand, she began to rise out of her body. There had been a slight jolt as the crowd froze in suspense, and then suddenly she was free, looking at her old self, motionless on the floor, as friends, acquaintances and colleagues watched on. She drifted above them as easily as a feather riding upon the wind. She could hear their thoughts. She could sense their feelings. She could tell, without effort or translation, how each person had painted the canvas of his or her life. Their passions had been laid bare before her, all of them palpable, undeniable—scorn, delight, charity, envy, ambition, patience and pride, each appetite, each desire, each little fear and turbulent amalgam of love and loss wrapped around the individual in an array of shifting color. And all this as her body was being carried away on a stretcher.
As Daniella lifted higher into light, not only did she watch the closing moments of her last scene, but also all the days that preceded it, each hour and minute clamoring for attention. The whole play of her life then reeled out before her in a linear progression of acts, panoramas and landscapes, with each fresh morning bound to each close of day, and every thought and feeling reproduced in exact and minute detail. As she looked on in amazement, she caught a glimpse of how they were all interconnected, and what’s more, how they continued to ripple out into the hearts and minds of everyone she had ever met, and even those she had not. She was immersed in a meticulous portrait of her last life, a catalog of her entire human existence played out in currents of love and desire.
Daniella reached out to trace a thread of thought with her fingertip, magnifying the cord and making it easier to read. She tried to steady her mind and understand. It was as if one minute she’d been rowing along a river, riding the current of time, and the next she was being lifted high up into the sky where she was suddenly able to see the intricate network of tributaries and streams that had carried her through life. For a moment she saw herself as she truly was: a small leaf dependent on the swell of a tide that beckoned it toward a beautiful, oceanic love.
But it was too much for Daniella. She turned to Garen, her spirit guide, the man who had helped her rise into the light like a bubble in water. She looked into his calm green eyes and suddenly realized that he had been with her all along, through every day, hour and minute. She became deeply embarrassed at the thought, but he put her at ease by placing his hand on hers and smiling kindly.
“Don’t be nervous,” he explained. “Be patient. There will be time to review everything. I promise. Besides,” he continued, “the life you just left is far too valuable to browse without purpose. When the time is right, we will examine it together and gather our wisdom from it.” He paused to let the thought settle. “But first you must recover.”
Garen helped Daniella to her room, much like the one she had left on Earth, and laid her down to rest. Before she closed her eyes, she asked, “Did he forgive me?”
“Sleep,” said Garen. “Sleep.”
Daniella slept but she did not dream. Instead she floated high above her thoughts and concerns of the life she had just left, though the heaviness of Earth still pulled at her.
Garen stayed at Daniella’s side as she slept. It was now his task to help restore and heal his friend, to help separate out the fine grain from the coarse and help her acclimate to home. To this end, he arranged for a cocoon of light to envelop her, and there under its care she remained until her essence was ready to again flourish and thrive on that higher plane.
As Garen sat at her side, he meditated upon his role as her guide and invisible confidante. His love for Daniella, his true and eternal friend, was so warm, and so fierce, that it could shift the axis of the world had it the desire to do so. Perhaps it was his turn next, he thought, to return to the opaque, muddy layers of Earth and begin another round of lessons. The idea made his heart turn and tremble—the stakes were always so high and the responsibilities so great.
After a time, Daniella stirred and opened her eyes. Garen helped her to sit up.
“See, you are home,” he said. She looked around the room. She was still weak and appeared at first to be unsure of where she was, but then it slowly came back to her.
“My heart,” said Daniella, remembering that last flash of pain. She held her hand to her chest, but instead of feeling the steady drum of a heartbeat she saw the willow and flutter of a light. She laughed. “It feels so strange.”
“It will take some time,” Garen assured her. “Try to be still.”
“But it’s as if I’ve only been away for a minute or two.” Amazed, Daniella looked around the room and then back at her guide. The years on Earth seemed to her to have melted into mere moments. “Was it real?” she asked.
“Yes. Yes, it was all real,” replied Garen.
As Daniella rested her head back on her pillow, memories started to roll in like clouds gathering from afar. She began to recall the Spirit life she’d left in order to live on Earth and begin the struggle to grow again. She remembered the great Light, and her spiritual family, and the sacred purpose that had always been and was still hers. She remembered the promise she’d made to herself, to her tutors and to her many friends, and she remembered the nervous goodbyes before she wrapped herself in a blanket of flesh. Suddenly, her hand went to her face. Anxiety filled her eyes and the bubble of light withdrew.
“Garen, did he forgive me?” asked Daniella.
“Let us look,” he replied. Taking her arm, he helped her out of bed and led her outside to where the sky thrilled with color. They sat on a bench under a tree that shimmered with ten thousand leaves of dancing green light and wisps of blue and gold. Time did not pass, but rather Daniella felt her energy begin to adapt and solidify. She felt at home, at peace, free to be authentic and whole after a lifetime of pretending to be someone else. She inhaled and closed her eyes. There it was, the Presence, the ultimate source of strength and peace that she had all but forgotten while on Earth. It dawned on her that, like Garen, the Presence had stayed with her through all of her endeavors—a great stability that had never left her side. Both souls stilled themselves and breathed as one in its love.