Once, I owned a very exotic bird. I can’t say for sure what type of bird, let alone the name by which I referred to it by. I only recall that it’s finely gilded cage hung next to the florally patterned armchair where I often sat. The very same chair that saw me take my last breath.
Many young children report having memories of past lives. In the majority of cases, the remembrance of prominent details such as places, events, and names tend to fade with age. My own experience began much later on in life. At the time, my wife and I had only two children.
There was indeed nothing that foreshadowed my first past life recollection. On the contrary, it couldn’t have happened in a more benign of locations.
As every parent knows there are stages in your children’s lives that act as markers. A child’s first haircut is just such an occasion. So as the four of us sat quietly awaiting our turn, I could not have predicted what was to occur next.
As barber shops are wanton to do, portraits of various people ringed the room, each featuring a different style and cut. One, in particular, drew my attention. It was that of a young girl no more than four or five years of age. Her curly blond locks fell softly from beneath a beige straw hat, ringed with a powder blue silk ribbon.
Instantly, a childhood memory began to play out in my mind’s eye. I envisioned my mother and I strolling side by side as we made our way to church. Beaming with excitement, so proud was I of my brand new hat, it’s soft blue ribbon a spot on match for my lace trimmed dress. I skipped joyfully alongside her, eager to show off my new Sunday Best to the whole congregation.
Since that day at the barber shop, I have learned to distinguish between memories of my current life and ones of the past. Both begin in the same manner. You recall an event as it occurred accompanied by whatever thoughts and emotions you were feeling at that moment. It’s when your mind attempts to categorize and place the memory into some sort of context that the divide occurs and it finally dawns on you, “That never happened to me.”
Over the span of a decade, triggers such as old red brick walls, black iron rod fencing, and strangely enough apples would spontaneously generate past life recall. In retrospect, I have been able to place these individual recounts into sequential order enabling me to shed additional light on the who, what and where of my previous existence.
A young girl, born into wealth sometime in mid 18th century France, attending church was the only recollection wherein my mother was present. As to why I cannot say but my intuition leads me to believe that she fell victim to an untimely death.
My father was a stout jovial man with a barrel-shaped body and a laugh to match. A successful businessman actively involved in manufacturing, he had made his mark during the period of innovation and prosperity brought about by the Industrial Revolution.
The most revolutionary of these new innovations was the automobile. I recall peering down at a barn located a hundred or so yards from where I stood. My father and several of his colleagues were inside enthusiastically fawning over this latest invention. The machine’s financial potential was not lost on these well-heeled industrialists. It was going to be a game changer.
Suddenly, what had been gleeful exuberance erupted into panic and mayhem. Something terrible had gone wrong. The men began to shout back up toward the house urgently pleading for assistance. Someone quickly rushed over to where I stood and promptly shuffled me away from the scene. Soon after, I was to discover what all the commotion had been about. My father had had a heart attack. He died that very same day.
Happily, I remember some wonderful times spent with my father before that fateful day. On one such occasion, we attended a formal party together hosted in a lovely Victorian era Mansard styled home. Elegance and grace were the order of the day with many of Paris’ finest citizenry in attendance.
At some point in the evening, my father introduced me to a very distinguished naval officer. He appeared to be ten or so years my senior. Though I was painfully shy, he somehow managed to have me up and waltzing in no time at all. Eventually, we made our way out to the wide veranda that encircled the stately home. We sat and talked for what seemed like hours.
Over the next several years, we remained quite close, often speaking of marriage. He would soon prove to be the third tragic loss in my life.
Being that I was still quite young at the time of my father’s passing, I was soon sent off to live in Belgium. As to whether my new guardians were immediate family or just close friends I cannot say. I do although recall certain details of their lovely chateau.
A row of tall glazed sash windows ran the length of the buildings front facade, openly welcoming those who rounded the looping stone driveway. Toward the back, a small lake set like a sapphire crowned the expansive gardens and grounds.
The fact that I so fondly recall this lake leads me to believe that I visited often. Being so calm, peaceful and serene it would have been the perfect place for a lost soul trying to make sense of her life.
While there, the young naval officer and I continued to correspond. When news of his death in battle finally reached me, I was utterly devasted. I felt cheated, infuriated that God had stolen him away from me in such a cruel and callous manner.
Everyone close to me, all those I’d cared so dearly about He had snatched away. What wretched circumstance had brought this calamity about? What had I done to deserve this? Why was I being subjected to this unwarranted retribution? It hurt to breathe.
In time, I made my way up to the northern coast of France. Tears streamed down my face, as I stared blankly out over the grey English Channel. My stomach, in knots, convulsed uncontrollably as I fought for every breath. I thought by nearing the sea, I’d feel closer to him, maybe even some sense of closure. I was hoping against hope.
There was a certain finality that day along the water’s edge. I no longer felt the desire nor the strength to soldier on. Something inside me had died. There was to be no resurrection.
The affluence with which my father had left me proved to be my final undoing. Given that I had no need to work, I never did. I spent my remaining days locked up in my estate, bitter and resentful, having never come to terms with the grievous events of my life.
On my last day, I sat as I ofttimes did in my favorite Marquise chair. The gilded birdcage, as always, on my left. I took one final shallow breath, exhaled slowly, then slumped to one side. It was finally over, or so I thought.
Suddenly, I found myself slowly rising out of and then above my chair. I sensed a definite upward motion. Accelerating ever faster my immediate surroundings became less and less defined.
Higher and higher I rose. The foreground, having faded to a blur of white and grey, rushed past me at incredible speed. Finally, as is with the dark curtain that draws an end to the actor’s final performance, the scene went black. I recall nothing more.
Given time, effort and use of the internet, I suppose I could locate these places and people and in doing so discover just exactly who I was. I’ve just never felt the need or inclination.
The real tragedy of my past life was not the death of those around me but rather my own lack of understanding that “life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”
I had abundance and wealth with which I could have done tremendous and generous works, but I chose instead to allow grief and sorrow to swallow me whole. And though I have faced emotional adversity and troubling circumstance in my current life, it is this past lesson learned that enables me to keep moving forward, forever envisioning a brighter future and a better day.