What Did You Do When You Were Dead?

I saw an appalling movie last night — the 2004 film Birth with Nicole Kidman.

The premise is a perennially interesting one: a reincarnated soul remembers who he’d been and tries to reconnect with his old life. In this case, though, the premise is the only thing that was interesting. The movie tried to be a thriller (I think), and to the extent that it was a perfect example of a folie a deux (where two people share a delusion, and in the end they make each other crazier), it succeeded. It also tried to be uber mysterious and only managed to be annoying, especially with the long, long, long close-ups of alternately Kidman and the kid. The movie might have been fun if the kid had been charming, but he came across as an incipient serial killer. Which, I’m sure, was intended.

But none of that is important to this blog except as an introduction to the question the movie poses: what would happen if a ten-year-old boy showed up at your door and claimed to be your dead husband?

What struck me is that the kid, even if he were the husband reincarnated, would not still be the husband. Do the words, “To death do us part” ring a bell? And he’s a ten-year old kid. He might have memories of being someone else, but in the end, he’s only ten, and still needs his mommy.

If this kid came to my door claiming to be Jeff, I’d probably be interested, but in no way would we be able to continue the relationship we once had. He’d be ten years old, for cripes sake. He might have the memories of being Jeff, but he wouldn’t be the man I loved — wouldn’t have the same mind, the same smile, the same thoughts and inclinations. He wouldn’t be the mature, even-tempered man I knew. He wouldn’t be an adult, and by the time he was, I’d probably know first hand what it was like to be dead.

For sure, he wouldn’t be someone I could be the old “me” with. He might be resurrected, but the part of me that died with him would still be dead.

If he truly was Jeff, we would sit down and reminisce a bit, maybe catch up on what we’ve been doing the past ten years. “Hey, Jeff. What did you do when you were dead? How did death treat you? How did it feel? Did you have fun? Did you learn anything? Did my grief bother you?” But, wait — he’s ten years old, which means he’d have been immediately reincarnated. He wouldn’t have had a whole lot of experience being dead, which wouldn’t leave us much to talk about since I wouldn’t particularly care about his experiences in the womb or being a small child, or his problems as a young boy (except to hope that this childhood was more pleasant than his previous one).

If he were Jeff, he’d be glad to know I was doing okay, but he wouldn’t put me in the position of being responsible for him. He wouldn’t stalk me. Or make me crazy. There’d be no thriller, no chiller, no folie a deux in our reunion. Definitely there’d be no creepy bathtub scene. I don’t have a bathtub, and even if I did, it wouldn’t matter. Taking off his clothes and getting in the tub with me would be the last thing on his mind.

We’d just talk, and when we finished our chat, he’d wish me well, tell me he loved me, and then he’d let me go.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Hypnotism and Hocus-Pocus

I must be getting old.

I just got back from what was supposed to be a comedic show — it was billed as hilarious hypnotism and hilarious hocus-pocus. I appreciated the invitation and the treat. I liked having an excuse to get out of the house, and I especially enjoyed being with my friends, but the show was not particularly to my taste. The magician was okay, though a bit childish. But the hypnotist . . .

The hypnotist himself was not funny at all, though the audience seemed to find the antics he put his subjects through humorous. I found the whole thing more appalling than amusing. I realize the subjects were eager to be hypnotizestaged — they ran up the stage steps to make sure they were chosen, and avidly did everything they were asked. (I also closed my eyes and tried to follow along with his hypnotic instructions, but I have to admit my nodding off was more boredom than relaxation.) Still, watching people being played with like puppets wasn’t thrilling for me, especially when they had to act if they’d smelled people passing gas, felt as if they were afflicted with hemorrhoids, or were made to think they saw something obscene or terrifying.

I am way past the age where body humor or sadism holds any fascination. (To be honest, it never did — I’ve never been able to understand the attraction of the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and most comic books.) Even the innocuous things the hypnotist did like leaning his subjects against or on top of each other didn’t sit well with me. All I could think of was the danger of such propinquity among strangers and the diseases they could be catching.

Yep, too old.

One of the women I went with is a hypnotherapist, so if I ever want to know what it’s like to be hypnotized, or if I want to explore my past lives, I could do so. Since I don’t believe in reincarnation, it might be interesting to see what, if anything, my mind could conjure as a past. On the other hand, I’m not sure I care. I’m having a hard enough time with this life, learning whatever lessons come my way. In fact, I will be truly disappointed if I find out that reincarnation is real and I have to keep coming back — I’d just as soon be done with it all. (Which is probably why I don’t believe it reincarnation or any sort of consciousness after life — I don’t want it to be so. Oblivion sounds fine to me because obviously I wouldn’t be around to know that I’m oblivious. But I digress . . .)

Still, I’m glad I went. It was a unique experience for me since I’d never gone to a show like that before. And I do feel relaxed.

Very relaxed.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.