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How Do You Make Sense of a Voice That Speaks to You from an Afterlife You Don’t Believe In?

–Mona’s Message From the Other Side

The Crossroads Between Friendship and Romance
After a while, our interactions had gotten so precious that the deep connection between us reached the border of something else. We had each started dating someone, and I had foolishly accepted Mona’s invitation to join her for a drink at her place early one evening when I was supposed to meet up with my girlfriend later. As my visit with Mona progressed and the hour grew later than I’d planned, I came to the crucial decision of whether to cross that border or not. I declined.

Mona, the road not taken – not taken to romance and marriage, anyway – got more and more serious with her boyfriend, a psychiatrist, and I with my girlfriend. I got dumped. Mona and her fiancé, Harold, got married, and I attended their wedding as a depressed and unattached friend of the bride. To my surprise and great relief, matrimony did little to dampen Mona’s and my feelings for one another as platonic but powerfully bonded soul mates. In fact, when the devastating breakup with my girlfriend got the better of me, she referred me to her shrink husband, who became my therapist for many years to come.

By the time of her marriage, Mona and I had both dropped out of the company charter bus pool because it left the plant too early in the afternoon. As the demands and hours of our work began to increase, we were rarely able to leave on time anymore. Instead, we had to wait on the highway for a regular bus and flag it down, since the campus was not an official stop on the route. That could mean grueling battles with wind and rain on inclement nights, waits in the frigid cold in the winter, and the danger of multiple lanes of traffic whizzing by. I had pleaded with the company repeatedly to put up a shelter or lobby the transit authority for an authorized stop, but to no avail.

Eventually, I decided to buy a car, and I drove Mona home from work whenever I could. I hated to see her go through that evening ordeal after a long day’s work. But on one particular night, I had to attend a business event in New Jersey and couldn’t drive Mona. I remember that night well. The Mets were playing the Astros in the 1986 NLCS and everyone at the event was watching it. The Mets won, 5-1, and the celebratory drinks poured. The Mets would go on to beat the Red Sox in the World Series.

The Horror
A while after I’d gotten home and still had a bit of a buzz on, the phone rang and I was taken aback to hear the voice of the company’s head of Corporate Environmental & Safety Affairs on the line. “Hey Ted, what a surprise!” I beamed, as the gears of my mind began clicking into place and warning signals started flashing in my head.

“There’s been an accident at the plant,” Ted said, somberly.

And then, “There’s been a loss of life.”

Ok, calm down, I braced myself. This is part of your job. You’re the corporate media spokesperson and Ted’s calling so you’ll be prepared to respond to media inquiries. I’m good, I told myself.

“And it’s someone you know.” Ted continued.

Again, I tried to shield myself from the worst. This was horrible, but who did I know who worked in the areas where fatal injuries were a risk?  – heavy construction projects or warehouses where high volumes of flammable or toxic chemicals were stored.

“It’s your friend, Mona.”

I felt like someone had poured ice water over my head. Phrases from the 23rd Psalm, which I may not have heard since it was recited in elementary school, came into my mind from out of the ether: “thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

Ted proceeded to relay the details. A Camaro, which it turned out was driven by the son of the local major, was changing lanes on the highway, from a middle lane to the lane closest to the curb where Mona was waiting for the bus. In a freakish malfunction, the car’s right rear wheel flew off and hit Mona head-on. Ted said she probably died instantly. The security guard on duty contacted Ted, who quickly arrived on the spot, where company emergency personnel had tried unsuccessfully to revive Mona. “I called her husband and he came to the plant to identify her. He wept over her body,” Ted told me. Her husband, who was now my shrink.

The call ended and I was left alone with the horrible shock and anguish of this incredible loss. It was getting late, so I tried to lose myself in sleep. But my body was shivering uncontrollably no matter how deeply I buried myself in my blanket. In time I fell into sleep, sunk into the depths of unconsciousness, or traveled to a dimension I’d never experienced.

There, I found myself with a telephone in my hand, knowing that Mona was on the other end. “Mona! Tell me, HOW are you? WHERE are you?” I implored.

And then came just 10 words, punctuated by three powerful pauses, delivered in Mona’s inimitable and unmistakable cadence, but perhaps in a somewhat deeper voice that reminded me of the time my mom spoke to me on the phone when she was just coming out of surgery at the hospital.

She said:

“It’s like (pause)

I’m sort of (pause)

A part of (pause)

It ALL.”

There was the distinctive roll of the “r” in “sort.” The way she said “a” (aye as in hay). The sharp way she annunciated the “t” in “It.” And the long “aw” sound in “ALL.” It was Mona.

And in those 10 words she told me everything – that she’d become “a part of It ALL,” a part of the whole of life and death and the natural forces of the universe that make EVERYTHING “a part of… It ALL.”

That was it, and in the morning I awoke to the normal world. Except that I was convinced I had experienced something paranormal, that I had glimpsed something exceptional that held the secrets of existence and nonexistence.

So profoundly was Mona’s husband, Harold, my shrink, affected by my story of what I’d experienced that he made me write it down, and read it to him as closely as I could to Mona’s voice.

What did he, a medical doctor and staunch believer in science, think of my brush with this signal from the afterlife?

He didn’t know what it meant or how to explain it. All he could do was quote  Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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Martin D. Hirsch
Martin D. Hirsch
Martin Hirsch started building his own communications consulting practice in 2017 after a career spanning almost 35 years with one of the world’s leading international healthcare groups. He’s led internal and external corporate communications, brand and reputation management, and crisis and issue management. Working in both the United States and Europe, he has advised multiple CEOs and collaborated with colleagues all over the world. Martin’s strengths include executive consulting, strategic message development, content marketing, storytelling, communications training, public speaking, mentoring talent, and inspiring organizations to advance beyond their limitations.Lately he’s been helping clients by writing keynote speeches for top executives, developing strategies for pitching new business and explaining complex issues, ranging from how to apply new digital health tools in the pharmaceuticals industry to making sense of the rapid and complex changes challenging employees to maintain their equilibrium at major corporations. Martin also works as a faculty adviser at the New York University School of Professional Studies, helping graduate students with their Capstone Papers. His speaking engagements have included presentations at the IABC World Conference, the European Association of Communications Directors Summit, the Corporate Communications International Leaders Forum, the European Commission Communications Directorate and the Rotterdam School of Business Reputation Forum Netherlands. More recently, he was a panelist at the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association conference on expat issues held at Pfizer headquarters in New York. Martin’s writing, including essays, letters and poems, has appeared in newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Europe. You can read his blog on MUSE-WORTHY, here on BIZCATALYST 360°. He received the American Association of Journalists and Authors 2018 Writing Award for Best Personal Story Blog.

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