Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hard Lessons Learned

Well, folks… as it turns out, 1214.05 miles do not, in fact, “fly by” when you are dragging everything you own and love in a caravan of three excessively loaded-down diesel vehicles. The following are some very important lessons I learned in preparing for the trip, traveling the road, and recovering from the experience:

  • If you’ve decided to chase a job to another state, be certain to get the ball rolling RIGHT AWAY for switching over your licenses and certifications for the job (if required). You’ll be glad you did. Let’s say, for instance, that you are a licensed and experienced funeral director and embalmer. You will still be treated like a green intern when you arrive, so get that damn validation up on the wall ASAP!
  • Downsize your crap before you move. Yards sales are a terrific way to get rid of the stuff you don’t want to cram into a moving truck or haul to the dump. You can set up your yard sale stuff out on your lawn the night before it opens, but be sure to throw a tarp over mattresses and other furniture if the weathermen warns of a risk of rain. On the flip side of that coin, you will absolutely shit bricks when you wake up early the next morning, realize you didn’t need the tarps because it didn’t rain after all, but you forgot to shut off the freaking automatic sprinklers and successfully douched the underside of absolutely everything yourself!
  • Create a very, very long playlist for your vehicle to keep you awake when you are traveling solo for 33+ hours with the same dreadful view – the rear door of a huge Penske moving truck operated by your husband whose driving skills have repeatedly reaped the wrath of your all-knowing-wifely criticism. Just be prepared to pause that rockin’ playlist when you try to concentrate on following afore-mentioned husband in afore-mentioned moving truck meandering in and out of skinny lanes in rush-hour traffic in Las Vegas.
  • Be certain to leave enough room to pump the brakes at least three times for your father who’s following right behind you with a trailer-load of your beloved horses and goats. When your husband slams on the breaks just ahead of you for the shallowest of potholes causing you to stop abruptly, your father will be forced to swerve in order to keep from rear-ending your prized 55 Mercury Monterey trailing behind you. (this may happen a grand total of 3-5 times during your 1214.05 mile trek)
  • Feel free to use your horses as your roadtrip nap alarm. That’s right… your horses! It’s easy: when any one of the three caravan drivers starts to get tired, pull over for a nap. The horses in the trailer will let you rest anywhere between 40-55 minutes before they become restless, start kicking the inside of the horse trailer, and waking you up to start driving again.
  • But most of all, MOST OF ALL, be absolutely certain that the property management company helping you with housing at your final destination actually puts you in a house with the horse property rights that were explicitly advertised in the rental property advertisement! Go ahead, just try moving your horses and goats into a neighborhood that explicitly hates livestock. Your life will get profoundly more interesting…

…stay tuned for that terrible tale!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On The Road Again

I revamped and re-started this blog for one main reason – I am relocating again to follow my career dreams and I wanted to document the crazy happenings.

I suppose I should start my story by back-tracking to the start of the trail. It all started in Colorado where I grew through my teenage years and where I had my awful horse training accident. After discovering my macabre calling, I decided to intern at a local funeral home just after I started college studying Agriculture (I was bull-headed and was determined to not let the horse training accident ruin my dreams to stick with the family business). But soon after the start of my funeral home internship, I enrolled in a Mortuary Science college program. In just over 1 year, I had graduated with my A.A.S. in Mortuary Science and the owner of the funeral home promised me a job once I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business. True to my word, I graduated with my B.A. degree the very next year. Reneging on his word, the funeral home owner took the job offer off the table (that’s a story for another time).

So, now what!? There I was, a new college graduate with 2 degrees and nowhere to go. I was able to land a job working in a pathologist’s laboratory at a hospital so I could bide my time and figure out my next move. I knew of the pathologist from some autopsies he’d completed at the funeral home (not particularly great at the task…. he lacked the grace and knowledge of the medical examiner lady from 40 miles away).

As it turned out, the reneged funeral home job offer was a true blessing in disguise. Here’s why…. Colorado does NOT license morticians! That’s right. Anyone and their dog with a high school diploma can be an embalmer there. So, why then had I gone through all of the stress of completing my Mortuary Science degree at the same time as my Bachelors!? Why did I go through all of that work?

That’s when I realized that I needed more for myself. I needed to continue on, obtain a license, and get the respect I deserved as an up-and-coming young woman in this industry. That meant moving out of state… moving to ANY state… to get my Funeral Director’s and Embalmer’s licenses. A very promising lead came from the Northwestern United States. Next thing I knew, I gave my notice at the pathologist’s laboratory, packed my stuff into my dad’s horse trailer, and hit the road for Idaho (the caravan to Idaho is a crazy story for yet another time).

Idaho law said I had to serve yet another internship to get my licenses, but it was well worth it because within a year, I was a LEGITIMATE professional and I felt proud and honored for all of my hard work and risky decisions. The parchment paper framed on the wall called me a Mortician – it’s a dual-license in Idaho State for a Funeral Director and Embalmer. YES! I DID IT!!

But in another 3 years, I would be searching for the next step in my career (as well as my husband’s career advancement). That brings us to our current position…

We are packing up the house, horses, and goats and hitting the road again. We’re going back to the Southwestern United States. I’m taking a job as “Managing Funeral Director and Embalmer” for two mortuaries. But better than that, my husband is going to continue his work as an Apprentice Brewer – working for a growing, well-established beer brewery in the very same town.

It couldn’t have worked out any better for the two of us. Now comes the part of actually getting there! 1214.05 miles should just fly by, right? Ugh.

Moving Truck

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From Horses to Corpses

As you remember from my previous blog post, I’d split my backstory into 2 parts – telling you about my journey from horses to corpses with a blood infection, coma, and near-death experience along the way. Now that we are all caught up, I’ll search my brain for the right words to describe how truly amazing it was for me.

I recall nothing o the accident, ambulance, ER, helicopter flight, or ICU and that doesn’t surprise me. As I see it, memories are objects created from the electrical impulses within the brain – a fleshy organ that was broken, swollen and poisoned within my body’s shattered skull. Rendered useless, my brain was unable to create those memories for me.

But I know now that I am not defined by my body alone. That broken mass of corporeality lying in the hospital bed tangled in a web of tubes and whispered prayers was no longer me. It was the vessel used by my spirit to function on an earthly plane – to fit in with the rest of our humanity.

I’m doing my best to describe my out-of-body experience in terms that are understandable and seemingly sane. But I can tell you that once your soul departs from your body, you know – with every “fiber” of your spectral being – that  your flesh, bone and blood were meant to be given up. And you’ll be happy to do it!

As it’s often described by others (trust me, I’ve researched other people’s experiences after having my own… probably for validation and a sense of fellowship), my spirit levitated from my body and I suddenly found myself above my hospital room looking down on the goings-on as if I was watching an animated diorama of the ICU. I saw relatives in my room beside my bed. I saw medical professionals bustling about the hallways. As I continued to soar higher and higher, I even saw my concerned friends and family navigating the hospital corridors to find my room.

Then it went to black.

Everything vanished. No bright light greeted me. No tunnel beckoned. I found myself in a deep dark nothingness. If the afterlife has a waiting room, I was in it. But instead of the awkward chair spacing you’d find in a doctor’s office, I was comfortably alone. And instead of corny Enya-esque background music, I was met with a beautiful silence.

Then it was my turn. It was like my name was called. but without sound. I became immediately aware of another presence with me in the darkness. It was higher and bigger and more important than me, but instead of feeling intimidated, I felt overwhelmingly loved and accepted.

Still in the glorious darkness of death’s foyer, the presence asked me a simple question. Using telepathic communication rather than a voice with sound waves, it gave me a choice.

Would you like to continue on, or go back?

Within an instant, I felt as though I was being buried alive in the most miserable emotional pain I’ve ever known. I recognized it as the emotions of those I loved. I experienced my mother’s growing deep, dark depression as she watched her child die right before her eyes. I felt my father’s dreams crumble just out of his grasp. His horse training livelihood had all but killed his youngest daughter. The pain and guilt was too heavy to bear. Then I heard the prayers of those I loved as they hoped against hope that I would pull through.

That’s when the physicians and neurologists descended upon my parents. “We’ve done everything we can do,” they started to explain. “If you believe in a higher power, now is the time to pray for a miracle.”

Coma 2001

Then it was decision time for my soul. Do I embrace the awaiting love and comfort of the afterlife? Or do I return to my mangled corpse, take my chances with recovery, and hopefully end the furious emotional battles wages by my family and friends?

I did what I thought was right even though I was warned that it would not be easy. I figured that the afterlife will be waiting for me no matter what I chose. If I went back and took my chances returning to a broken body, I could try my best to make the most of a very unique earthly experience. Besides that, I could potentially restore my mother’s faith and my father’s dreams!

Without a word, my decisions had been made. Then *WHOOSH*… I fell backward, falling into my flesh and back into a brand new life. Waking from the coma was easy. I was, however, completely unprepared for the challenges that lay ahead of me. My essence was trapped within an invalid body, but my new roots of faith kept me grounded and inspired.

I struggled through my recovery, relearning to be human again – to think, to speak, to walk. I used a walker because the right side of my body lagged behind me as though I’d suffered a stroke. Between my bouts with physical therapy in town, a speech therapist would come out to the ranch to work with me one-on-one. It was a vigorous team effort trying to get me back into school to start my senior year and hopefully finish high school.

One particular memory from that time is less fuzzy than the rest. I can recall sitting in a recliner with my walker beside me one morning. My grandmother was sitting in her wheelchair in the livingroom with me and she was calling the high school superintendent on the telephone. When he answered, my grandmother gasped and reached for the remote control to turn on the television.

The date was September 11th, 2001.

My healing brain was in no position to grasp the severity and reality of the television images. But whose brain was really, truly up to the task that day anyway? The nonstop video relays of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The cameras already trained on the smoldering New York City skyline for the attack on the South Tower by a second airplane jus a few minutes later. I thought I was watching a video game. This couldn’t be real. Nothing felt real! In fact, it wouldn’t feel real for me until 4 years later when I would take a break from a modeling gig in Manhattan to visit the massive expanse of nothingness at Ground Zero during the rebuilding process.

Watching it all unfold, my head felt heavy and my heart bottomed out. My spirit raged within my reanimated corpse. Why God!? WHY!? Why did I come back to see such ugliness!?

I was upset. We all were. There was nothing anyone could do. There was nothing God could do. Humans make their own decisions, after all, and there are some incredibly evil souls out there.

Over the course of my body’s recovery, I would come to understand my soul’s true calling. I would use my own deeply personal near-death experience to help others through the rigors of death. I am in a unique position. I am a mortician who does not fear death because I know for an absolute fact that it’s not something to be scared of or hide from. My restored faith gives me the strength I need to help people as they trudge through feelings of grief and loss. That is why my career dreams made the dramatic leap from horses to corpses.

Friday, July 22, 2011

We Have To Start Somewhere, You and I…

For the sake of normalcy, let’s pretend that you are getting to know me in person rather than via this organized-chaos of hypertext. How about pretending that we are in a bar? No, let’s do a microbrewery instead because that’s where you’d likely find me if I’m not at work.

We are sitting next to one another and I’ve just pointed out my husband who’s busy behind the bar brewing craft beer. After exchanging first names I compliment your chic leopard print heels. (Don’t own a pair of leopard print heels? Doesn’t matter. I’m the one penning this fictitious meeting and I want some leopard print somewhere!). After sipping a cold amber ale, the silence between us makes you a bit uncomfortable and you ask about my profession. It takes me no more than 5 syllables to make you raise your eyebrows in skepticism…

“I’m a mortician.”

You spy my blonde hair, scan my tattoos, and examine my youthful femininity. In no way do I fit the mortician mold and you try to piece the puzzle together but it makes no sense. I give you a moment to mentally digest it all because I’m used to it and I know what’s coming next.

“What made you get into that!?” you ask.

To be completely honest, I fell into it. Literally. A serious tumble at work training a horse and death changed my life forever!

We both fell, the horse and I. It tripped and I was just along for the ride. The dreadful whiplash effect smashed my cranium against the hard-packed ground and cracked my skull in three places. That’s where my memory goes black. The rest is pieced together by those who consciously experienced the event:

I’m told that my bloodcurdling screams echoed through the ranch outbuildings and a mixture of blood and cerebrospinal fluid leached from my ears. Somewhere between the field IV sticks, the ambulance ride, and being loaded into a helicopter, I was restrained in a hospital Emergency Room because my body thrashed with the strength of a wild animal fighting for its life.

As horrible as all of that may sound, the battle my body waged against my broken head wasn’t the final nail in my coffin. Instead, my healthy heart was fighting against me by pumping a fiery infection throughout my entire fleshy being. As fate would have it, one of the field IVs had been overlooked and gone unchanged. It festered in the crook of my arm for days as I lay comatose in a hospital bed. Sepsis was bound and determined to force me to give up the ghost. Invalid and comatose with a swollen brain and poisoned blood, there was absolutely nothing I could physically do to save my own life. Other than monitoring my worsening state, modern medicine had nothing to offer either.

Then a very awe inspiring and undeniably real spiritual experience stepped in and changed my world forever. My next blog post will unravel the mysteries of my lucid experience approaching death without my broken body in tow.