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CHAPTER FROM THE NEW BOOK
A Ghost of a Chance
By
Prema Baba Swamiji (Dr. Donald Schnell)
and
Swamy Leelananda (Marilyn Diamond)

 “Is she going to make it?” I asked, throwing my arms around my grandfather’s stooped shoulders, enfolding him in a tight embrace. My grandmother was dying of cancer. What does one ask in such a dismal situation?

“The doctors are sayin’ she hasn’t a ghost of chance,” my grandfather’s voice was breaking into a sob. “She can go at any moment now. I wish I could be in her place and take this awful pain for her, Don.” My heart sank at his words and his terrible grief.  I loved these two old people with all my heart. They were German immigrants, who had lived and loved together for over twenty-five years. I’d known them all my life as my beloved Opa and Oma.

I followed my grandfather up three rickety steps into the tiny, cramped mobile home he’d purchased a few weeks earlier in Tucson, so his dear Lyla could be near the hospital where she was being treated. An oppressive wall of heat hit me as I stepped through the open door. A noisy air conditioner attached under an open window was working at full speed to no avail. Tucson was the big city for my grandparents. Most of their latter years had been spent in a bright and tidy little home, surrounded by Opa’s well-tended garden in the tiny copper mining community of Ajo, Arizona.  Like fish out of water in dry and dreadful surroundings, they were in a state of shock, fear, and pain.

“Please Oma, don’t die,” I sobbed, as I knelt at my grandmother’s bedside. My 19-year old body was wracked with heartache. Why was God punishing my sweet grandmother? What had she done do deserve this? Hadn’t she suffered enough with the loss of her sight in one eye, and her lifelong struggle with the aftermath of polio from her teens? I looked down at her 87 pound emaciated body, which the doctors said was now riddled with cancer.

  A few weeks earlier, Oma had received massive chemotherapy and surgery in the heroic attempt to save her life. Now, she was sicker than ever, drained of her life’s savings, and the doctors had proclaimed there was nothing further they could do.

 “Don, please ask them…can’t they do something to take away this awful pain?” The voice was sweet as always, but terribly weak. Her hand groped mine, and she squeezed it tightly. The morphine the doctor’s prescribed wasn’t working. The unbearable pain of the cancer was compounded by the trauma to her body from the surgery. Oma was 81. She never would have consented to such surgery or chemotherapy, if she’d had a choice. She’d been admitted to the hospital for exploratory treatment, and awakened from anesthesia only to be informed that she had already been given massive amounts of chemotherapy. The surgeons had also removed most of her intestines, and as much of the cancer as they could.

 Opa sobbed audibly. This strong, proud man who had endured years of hardship in the brutal, Arizona desert was now sadly beaten. The tiny room was overcome with the unbearable heat of the summer, and my grandmother’s unbearable suffering.

 “You are suffering because of your sins,” the words intruded on my sorrow, as the voice boomed behind me. They shock me as much today when I think about them, as they shocked me then. A young Baptist minister, who we all knew as the “Reverend” had entered the mobile home. My grandmother’s sister, who arranged his arrival was following behind him, and several of my aunts and uncles followed her. I turned and sized up the Reverend as if he were an intruder, and I noticed the sweat on his face dripping onto his Sunday clothes, the ubiquitous white dress shirt with a slender black tie. His black trousers were wrinkled and too short over his black dress shoes.

 “Your sins have found you out!” the Reverend repeated louder.

 In that split second, the word “sins” triggered a flood of memories. I recalled only the love my grandmother had showered upon me, raising me, feeding me, singing to me when I was young, while my father slept during the day and worked the night shift in the copper mines. I remembered Easter Egg hunts, Christmas gifts, birthdays, Halloweens, and Fourth of July laughter with her. Sins? Oma had given me only love. She was far from a sinner. She was well loved in the community for the way she fed the poor, took care of animals and visited the sick children in the hospital. I remained kneeling with my back to the voice, as an uncontrollable rage slowly moved up my spine.

“It is only Jesus who can save you now!” the Reverend now stood at the head of the bed in front of me. His screaming face reddened, his spittle falling on Oma, as if he were angry. He slammed his Bible upon the bed to emphasize his words.  My aunts and uncles, who had gathered around us, looked down at the floor and squirmed. I knew they were uncomfortable with the loud rhetoric, but not sure how to respond. After all, the Reverend was a “man of God” doing the Lord’s work.

 Oma moaned in pain from the pounding of the Bible on her bed rail. The pontificating preacher looked momentarily apologetic and then resumed his rhetoric.
 “The hour is near. The time for sal-va-tion is now. Do you acknowledge your sins, woman? Are you prepared for Jesus?”

 “I accepted Jesus as a child.” My grandmother said softly.

 “Don’t lie to me woman! It’s the devil that’s got your tongue. Satan has entered your body. Those who are saved are spared Satan’s torment. Only Jesus can save you in this dark hour!” Again the Reverend’s words were angry and loud. Only the air conditioner argued with him at that moment.

 “Woman, you are a…sinner!” he emphasized. Again he raised his hand and was about to bring the Good Book down upon the bed, when my hand flew up to intercept his. At the same moment, I was on my feet. I swiftly pushed him hard, directly in the center of his chest. As his body flew backward, the Reverend let out a loud gasp, “Sweet Jesus!” His arms flailing, his eyes and mouth widened in alarm. Completely off balance, he toppled out the open door, and landed on his back at the bottom of the stairs in the dry dirt. The Bible flew out of his hand and was lying dusty under my uncle Don’s old Ford pick-up truck parked in the driveway.

 He lay there for a moment, as I stood in the doorway watching him. Slowly, he began to pick himself up.

“This is God-awful, son! You are interfering here with God’s work, keepin’ that woman from salvation,” he muttered, while attempting to dust himself off.  He limped over to the truck and bent down to recover the Bible, picked it up, brushed it off and then kissed it.
 “Looks like I’m interfering then,” I said softly, stepping down onto the dirt. I didn’t want this Reverend around my grandmother.

 “I’ll be back, boy. We’ll be prayin’ for your soul’s salvation at Church.” I watched his back as he limped off toward his light green Cadillac.

My great-aunt gave me a disapproving look as I re-entered the mobile home.  I stood behind Oma’s bed and instinctively began to massage the back of her neck, as the rest of my family began to visibly let go of the tension that had filled the space.

“It’s quieter now,” Oma remarked weakly, relaxing to the gentle touch. I knew if I could help her body to relax, she could tolerate the pain more easily.

 “Why don’t those doctor’s use massage?” she wondered softly, her words barely audible. Then, she looked deep into my eyes. “I’m going to die soon,” she said. “I’m not afraid, but I’m afraid for Opa; he will be so lonely without me.”

 “Your spirit will be with him,” I said, quietly.

 “We will always be together,” she spoke these words as a fact.

 Oma and I had often talked about spiritual ideas. She firmly believed we all have souls, and she was always praying to God for the needs of her family. At this moment, I needed to speak to her – soul to soul – as I had as a boy.

 “Oma, I have a question,” I kneeled at her side, whispering, so no one else could hear. “We both believe in the soul. When you cross over to the other side, will you please return to me and let me know you are over there? I mean, if it is possible and not against the rules over there, or any kind of hardship for you?”

 “Yes, I will, honey.” This was the beloved Oma of my childhood, squeezing my hand with affection, looking into tenderly into my eyes.

She crossed over to the other side a short while later. My mother, who was holding her hand the moment she departed, said that she could actually feel and sense Oma leave her physical body. Oma squeezed my mother’s hand one last time before she left.

 Several months later, back at Arizona State University, I awakened in the middle of the night to get some water. As I walked from my bedroom into the kitchen, I stopped dead in my tracks. Cold panic coursed through my body. I could hear soft whispering. I had no doubt that there was an intruder in my living room. Someone had broken into my home. Was I to be robbed, murdered? My pulse quickened as my martial arts training took over. I was not about to become someone’s victim! I was going to directly confront whoever was there.

 I leapt from the kitchen into the darkened living room. Sure enough, I could make out someone standing only a few feet in front of me in the center of the room. I was heading straight into them, unable to stop my forward momentum.

 Several things happened at once. First, the realization struck me hard that this wasn’t a flesh and blood person. It was an apparition, a ghost! Simultaneously, adrenaline flooded my body, no doubt brought on by Hollywood and literary depictions of dangerous ghosts. Then, I found myself frozen in the middle of a body of blue and yellow light. I saw her instantly. It was Oma. Her soul had returned to me, and was communicating in an almost wordless whisper. I realized at that heightened moment that she was fulfilling her deathbed promise to return to see me after she died. Six months had passed. I hadn’t thought of that promise in a long time.

The shock of adrenaline slowly wore off, replaced by joy, gladness, feelings of respect and awe for the confirmation of the continuation of life after so-called death. As I remained unmoving in that spot, the ethereal body fragmented into delicate sparks of light I could almost feel, dissipating like fireworks, until I stood again alone in the darkened living room. Her light was gone.

I was completely elated. Death became for me a fiction at that moment. I realized there were ghosts. More than anything, I was overjoyed to have been with my Oma once again for that brief visit.

 Twenty years later, in April 1998 I awakened from a dream. My Oma had reappeared to me once again to give me a message. I had only a few months earlier been initiated in India into the Ancient Order of Swamis. One of my siddhis, or mystical powers, was manifesting more and more. This was the power to witness and  communicate with the other side.

 “My Oma appeared to me early this morning.” I said to my wife Marilyn as we sat over our morning breakfast. We were eating fresh fruit and oatmeal, coincidentally, the same breakfast Oma had given me as a child. She would add a dab of butter to the oatmeal, to make it “stick to the ribs” of a hungry, skinny little boy on his way to school.
 Marilyn’s kind eyes were suddenly riveted on my face, awaiting an explanation. She was fully aware of the love I held in my heart for Oma. I had no doubt the incredible love Marilyn and I shared was only possible because my grandmother had awakened me to love. Marilyn and I had this childhood love for a grandmother in common. Her Grandma Ida had added butter to her oatmeal so it would also “stick to her ribs.”

 I sensed impending news as I described the dream to Marilyn. Oma brought me Linda McCartney. I saw the famous wife of Paul McCartney clearly standing with my grandmother.

“Oma let me know in my dream that she was with Linda McCartney last night in Tucson, and she had helped her to cross over to the other side.”

Marilyn and I looked at each other, wondering for a moment what it all meant. “Let’s check the news on CNN,” she suggested.

 The lead story on Headline News confirmed my dream, but not until April 19, two days after the visit from Oma. The April 19th newspapers carried the headline, “Linda McCartney Dies of Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara, California.”

 In my dream, Oma clearly told me that Linda crossed over to the other side in Tucson, Arizona, and she clearly told me that on April 17th, a full two days before the public announcement on April 19th. Marilyn and I knew something was not right with the public news report, but there was no other commentary.

 Until one week later. On April 26th, a new announcement came in the press. “Linda McCartney Died in Tucson.” Only then was it revealed that Paul’s press agents had leaked the misleading Santa Barbara location to afford the McCartney family privacy. Without public attention, scrutiny and publicity, they were able to have the cremation done and return to England in private with their grief and Linda’s ashes. Oma had provided me with the news of Linda’s departure before anyone other than the McCartney family knew.

 The likelihood of this being a random event? A ghost of a chance.
 

Prema Baba Swamiji (as Dr. Donald Schnell) is the author of The Initiation, a spiritual adventure story about his initiation into the Ancient Order of Swamys by the eternal Babaji in India.  He is a widely respected expert in the fields of metaphysics, occult phenomenon, Eastern spirituality, medical hypnosis, nutrition, exercise, and yoga.

Swami Leelananda (as Marilyn Diamond) is an internationally known health and fitness celebrity. She first made her mark during the Fit for Life revolution, and pioneered the emerging Vegan lifestyle with her American Vegetarian Cookbook.  She teaches meditation, sacred chanting, and Eastern philosophy in partnership with her husband, Prema Baba Swamiji.

To learn more about Prema Baba Swamiji and Swami Leelananda, the spiritual workshops they conduct, and to order The Initiation, visit:

www.TheInitiation.com

 
"Ghost of a Chance" Copyright 2000 Prema Publishing
 

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