All Things Human

An anthropologist explores the science of anomalous occurrences, death and dying, grief, and societal beliefs.

The Knowing of Death

...the overpowering presence of death pervaded my entire being.

As I mentioned last time, my book on death, dying and anomalous occurrences is now out.  My son Chris figures in the book as he too lost many of his immediate family, including his sister, Kim, and some years later, his young wife, Kiera.  After reading the printed version he called to say that I had forgotten to add a strange occurrence he experienced on the morning of his sister’s death. 

November 1986.  Chris’ story:

I had been working at Scotty's, a lumber/hardware chain in Florida, for some time.  I was in their management trainee program and was currently the yard manager at the Marathon store.  I knew that my sister Kim was ill but didn’t think she was in any danger of dying.  I admit there was a current of unease concerning her condition, but nothing concrete, just worry over the possibility of her having to live with a persistent ailment. 

On the morning in question, I got to the store early; it was a nice cool morning with a bit of a breeze.  I was the only one in the yard as the store was not yet open.  Working through the yard straightening out lumber, I was at the 1x2's when it got very still.  I froze as an intense feeling entered me.  In a matter of a few seconds I had a strong cognitive realization that death was near, in fact, death was all around me.  Rather than fear I experienced something akin to awe coupled with complete focus as the overpowering presence of death pervaded my entire being.  I’ll never understand but I had the impression that death was a shade of green.  And, for some reason, I wanted to remember this moment so I said, "Death is all around me."  Not something one generally says out loud on a beautiful morning…  even if alone.

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The moment passed and the feeling dissipated.  A short while later the store manager and good friend, Frank, said he needed to talk to me in his office.  I was curious about what he wanted, and then a sense of dread took hold of me.  I did not connect this feeling to the experience that had occurred just a short time before. 

When I entered his office I noticed that he seemed to be under a great deal of stress.  Frank asked me to sit down. I sat. He told me that my sister, Kim, had died and that my mother was too upset to be the one to tell me directly.  I sat in shock for several minutes before realizing that my knowledge of death must have been my sister or some form of notification of her death.  But while the presence of death had filled me to the core, Kim had never entered my mind.

I've never had a similar experience.

 

 

 

Carole Travis-Henikoff is the author of Dinner With A Cannibal: the Complete History of Mankind's Oldest Taboo, and Death, Dying and Unexplained Phenomena (spring 2010).

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