Ghost Story: Coma Gives Injured Biker New Insight

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Storyteller Kevin Kling tells us of ghosts, but not the scary kind. After a motorcycle accident almost took his life six years ago, Kling recalls, his coma kept him in what he thinks of as two worlds.


Well, by now you're calendar should be showing October 31st, because it's All Hallows Eve. Perhaps there are spirits of some sort on your mind. We often think about ghost as scary, other-worldly beings. Storyteller Kevin Kling thinks there are ghosts in this world, too.

KEVIN KLING: It all started because I wanted to fly. I remember watching the barn swallows on my grandparent's farm, fork-tailed acrobats of the sky, darting in and out of rafters, following roads only they could see, living life just ahead of their bodies. God, I wanted to feel that - a foot in two worlds.

So I got a motorcycle. I love riding in the early morning before the Earth stirs to life. I'm going to the store to get ice. Take the car, she would have said if I would have woke her up, and I'm off riding in the cool morning, catching insects like a swallow, each gear takes me further from myself ahead of obligations and administrations, clocks and committees, so alive.

And then I see the car in the intersection. I hit the breaks. And from my body, I flew. Six years ago, I'm at a hospital following my motorcycle accident. I went in to the room you generally don't come out of. And while in this coma, I distinctly remember choosing to come back to this world, knowing there would be consequences. I met a guy in the trauma ward, and he told me when he was in coma, there were two light sources on either side of him. One illuminated his body, the other the soul. And he is between them. And his job is to make his way toward one of the lights.

They both cast shadows and reflections, and he's supposed to choose one. The light from the soul promises peace, but to reach it, he must walk a path lined with desires and torments on one side, and the other side of the path, there are choices made in life, scenes we create that we fear will follow us beyond the grave. He doesn't know why he came back, but he knows there's a reason. But he's not sure which side of the calamity, the reason sits. Is he here to learn something or to atone for something already done? I know there's a reason I came back, but I don't know which side of the calamity my reason sits either. I know I haven't completely returned. I can't. I know I'm part ghost, always a foot in two worlds.

I know when we think of ghost, we think of these poor souls that can't find a way home, lost on the other side. But I believe there's people in this world that have a foot in the beyond also. I think that we visit it in our dreams. I know that there are many who believe that our dream world informs this world by revealing bits of our hidden psyche. Somehow the dream world is a means to prepare for this world. But what if we were in this world to prepare for the dream world?

I remember visiting my dad in the hospital. He was a salesman his whole life. Always on the move. And it was rare to see him in bed, so still. All of a sudden, he stood up. Now, he hadn't been out of bed in weeks, and I was afraid he was going to hurt himself or pull the IV from his arm, so I got up and he gently said, sit down. Then my father took out a suitcase, a suitcase only he could see. And he began to pack it like he'd done so many times before. Then he sat the case down under the bed and laid down. Later that night, my father passed away or departed, as the doctor said.

Now, what happens in the other world? As Shakespeare says, per chance to dream, aye there's the rub. But that might be so bad. Sometimes a rub feels good. I think of my friend Marty, and his mom was this great cook. One day, Marty's mom began one of her famous praises, a cup of love, it was a recipe for marriage. A teaspoon of kindness - a teaspoon, a teaspoon of - how did that go? How did that go? His mom began forgetting appointments, directions and finally, real recipes, then she would slam down a pot and enlisted a string of curses that made my grandpa's field slang look like a primer.

Then she went out in the snow one day without a coat and started calling telephone poles majestic palm trees and snow drifts majestic dunes. Then she began to walk away from the house one winter just for a quick dip in the Gulf. They moved her to a care facility in town. And everyday during lunch, Marty would visit her, and some days she would remember him and some days not. When she asked who he was and what he was doing there, Marty said he was there visiting his mom. Oh, how nice, she said. She wished her son would visit her. And in time, Marty's mom was convinced she was on a cruise in the Caribbean.

The nurse enters and asked if she's going to shore that day. No, she'll spend the day with her son in her cabin, maybe later go to the buffet. Very good, ma'am, says the nurse. Oh, the captain sends his regard. I've met the captain, she whispers to Marty, but I have to be careful. I think he's taken a shining to me. The memory of ever having cooked a meal is long gone, and Marty's mom spends the rest of her days happily at sea on the Caribbean.

So here we are, ghosts. A foot in two worlds. The lake is visible. The wind is unseen. And we ride the waves.

BLOCK: Storyteller Kevin Kling. His latest books is called "The Dogs Says How"

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