Jim Macartney, my sweetheart of 35 years, died on August 1, 2020. Recently, I’m emotionally in a fairly stable place, and thus able to participate in life and work without major grief attacks putting a halt to just about anything. Wait—you don’t know about “grief attacks?” Yea, it’s a thing, and as suggested by the word, "attack", it comes un-bidden, and often with no forewarning. Sometimes there is a trigger event leading up to the attack—a dream, a memory, a piece of mail in his name, an anniversary, or cleaning out a closet with his items in it…. But I never know what might set off the storm of tears and deep grief until I’m in the middle of it.
As mentioned, though, I’ve been feeling stable lately: I’m getting used to Zoom sessions with clients. I even felt ready to teach Zumba Gold from my kitchen again—kind of a big deal for someone who didn’t think she could muster the joyful attitude it requires. Life was—and is—good.
A few days ago, a small flood of messages, texts and emails appeared in my inbox. The content of the messages was either an inquiry: “Was that Jim on Netflix?” Or a statement: “I saw Jim on Netflix!” Or, this message of the day: “What a shock to see Jim in the first episode of the show!” The show she was referring to is a Netflix documentary, Surviving Death, and it’s currently in the top 10 viewed shows on Netflix. It’s well done—especially the first episode on Near Death Experiences.
In September of 2019, I drove Jim to a meeting of the Seattle Chapter of IANDS: International Association for Near Death Studies. An incredible organization that supports the study of Near Death experiences—NDEs—and is also a great source of support for ND Experiencers, their loved ones, people in grief, or folks curious about the phenomena.
Jim is an NDEr: In 1997, I witnessed his death in bed from a Grand Mal seizure/cardiac arrest. I also resuscitated him, and lived to tell the tale--and hear him tell the tale of his profound experiences on the other side of this reality.
Jim was asked to be interviewed for a documentary “on consciousness”—or so we were told at the time. Well, if you knew my honey, the word “consciousness” was huge in his world, and he was all for talking about it. After the meeting, our life became increasingly chaotic with a major move, his failing health, and hospice care, so I didn’t think about it.
Fast forward to his September memorial service on Zoom: One of the friends in attendance is the director of Seattle IANDS. We’ve known Kimberly Sharp for many years-- both Jim and I have attended and presented at meetings and conferences. She announced that Jim was interviewed for what she could state is an upcoming Netflix documentary. That said, she wasn't aware of what would make the final cut, but shared how pleased she was that this was up and coming.
I forgot all about that announcement too, until I read an announcement on the homepage of IANDS, followed by the flurry of messages in my inboxes.
So I made time to tune in. Sure enough, in two very brief segments, there was Jim. During the second Jim-sighting, he spoke on his experience of becoming a drop of water dissolving into the ocean. I hit the pause button. I caught my breath. I rewound to his brief appearances before I watched the rest of the show in a daze.
The next day was a work day, so I did my best to pull myself together, but when I fell into my easy chair that evening, I did one of the many crazy things one does when one is in grief: I went back to the Netflix show, fast forwarded to his appearance and paused the frame. I felt myself go into shock. Staring through tears, it was like seeing a ghost. Plus, I relived his 1997 death all over again—the shock of hearing him scream, finding out that his heart and breath had stopped, the frantic resuscitation attempt , the screaming at his spirit/soul—seen on the ceiling of our bedroom, “Get back in here! You’re not done with life yet!”, and the start of the rest of my life with a brain and heart-injured man.
Let the grief storm begin.
I didn’t stop crying til 8:00 PM the next day. I powered through a Zumba Gold class. I walked a sad, slow walk in the rain. I sought support from my bereavement counselor, and attended a grief support group—thank goodness for these resources! I made it through.
As mentioned, I’m in a good place now. I’ve discovered that every time I dive into a grief attack this deep, I always emerge on the other side clearer and more able to be in life. I can be present for clients and friends and family.
I continue to emerge into my new self.
I watched the entire first episode of Surviving Death last night. I hit the pause button briefly, and said to Jim’s image: “Honey, I’m proud of you.” And I am proud because he, Mr. Consciousness, made his contribution to the study thereof. We are but a drop in the ocean that is consciousness, and though we experience a pretty full life as that drop, the eventual return to the Source is in all of our futures.
After posting this, I’ll walk to a seaside view spot to acknowledge Jim and his place the greater Universe. I’ll send some love your way, ok?
With love from this side of the veil, Elke