written by my dad:
When you were 5 years old you fell off the bannister in the stairwell of our home on Bland Street in Halifax. You fell right on your elbow shattering your upper arm. Berkley took you to the IWK emergency room. When I met you at the hospital, bones were sticking out of the skin, and I passed out. The doctor said “If you cant do any better than that you cant stay.” In any case, I rallied, the good doctors at the IWK Children’s Hospital, set your upper arm, and sent you to 21 days of traction for your arm to heal correctly. Berkley and I alternated nights, staying in your hospital room, keeping you company.
One night well into the 21 days, you woke in the middle of the night and started talking to me. “Dad, did I tell you how I died the last time?” Needless to say, that woke me up! Calmly I said “no, you never did tell me about that.” So then you proceeded to tell me, in as normal a voice as if you were telling me about how your day at school went. It went like this:
“I was living in Boston, I think I was 23 or so, I didn’t know what I was doing there, I just had to go somewhere after the hard times in the Other Place (life before your life in Boston?) and I ended up in Boston. It was sort of a wasted life. I just didn’t know where to go after the Trouble. I was driving along the highway. It was night and it was raining hard. Then I saw the lights of a big truck coming right at my side of the car. And Dad i knew it was going to really hurt, and Dad it really did hurt. I remember the sound of the crash and the metal and glass breaking, and the feeling of the metal and the glass as it cut into me. It really hurt. Then I must have been dead, because I was up in the air, above looking down. It was dark and rainy. I saw my body on the grass by the side of the highway and an ambulance and police cars and flashing lights. It smelled like gasoline and tires.
I must have been really really small because i remember being on a sidewalk and seeing someone walking towards me with big heavy boots on, and i was so small I hid in a crack in the sidewalk and when the boot came down over me I wasn’t hurt.
Then I was high up in the sky, above Boston. I could see all the lights of the city below me. Then I started moving really really fast and the lights became all blurry I was going so fast it was like a rainbow, Dad I was going even faster than Ben Johnson! (a Canadian sprinter who had recently won the 100 metre dash at the Seoul Olympics)
And then I was above Boulder, and I saw Mom’s face, and I came to live with you.
The second part of the story had to do with the difficulties you had committing to this life altogether. When you were little, you had chronic ear infections. You were very small, something like 10th percentile for weight and height. The doctors said you would likely be only about 5 foot 2 or 3 inches. The doctor said you had what was ominously called “failure to thrive syndrome.” You played an imaginary game for hours a day, which seemed to be some kind of all absorbing battle. When we moved to Halifax when you were 3 your health did not improve.
A short time after you broke your arm and told us the story above, Thrangu Rinpoche was visiting Halifax. As a vajra brother to Trungpa Rinpoche, he always felt very close to us and 1000% trustworthy. Berkley and I went to see him, about you. We brought you to see him too. We went in first and told him your death and bardo story, and about your failure to thrive syndrome and about your imaginary war game. He said he wanted to talk with you.
You joined us in the room, and Thrangu Rinpoche, one of the kindest men I have ever known, smiled at you and said that your parents had told him “everything.” You glared at us and defiantly said “You weren’t supposed to tell.” Thrangu Rinpoche, with his big toothy smile, beamed down at you and asked, “You don’t want to be here , do you?” The way he said it it as clear he was not talking about being in the audience with him that day, but being in this life at all. With tears running down your cheeks you shook your head, and said “No.”
Rinpoche asked, “You want to go back, to the time and place before, don’t you?”
Tears running, you said “Yes.”
Rinpoche said, “But you have a good life now. Look at your parents. They love you. And you have the sangha. Try and live here now, can you?”
Defiantly, stubbornly you shook your head, “No.”
Rinpoche got even closer to you and smiled even more warmly, and then he used Tibetan logic on you. With so much love, I remember he looked at you and said, “You cant go back.”
You asked “Why?”
He answered: “Even if you could go back, other people live there now. It wont work.”
This stopped your mind, and you considered his words.
Then he asked again, “can you be here now?”
And you looked up at Rinpoche and said “Yes.”
After this, your ear infections disappeared. Your health improved. You gained height and weight. And about your imaginary game, refighting the battle of the past? You still played it, but only for about 15-30 minutes a day, and you would come up to Berkley or me before you started, to touch base, and say, “I’m going to play my game now, for a little while.” And when you were done you would check back in and tell us, “I’m done now.” And you are now certainly taller than 5’3”.