Diario Del Alieno
daevid allen, 10/1998 : part 1
Arrived in N.Y. on my way back to Oz in June feeling super fragile healthwise (skin cancer on hand and broken poisoned wisdom tooth) yet pulled off a great spontaneous gig with Kramer and a classical cello player plus loops & drones at the Knitting Factory which somebody recorded but which I never got to hear & forgot the guy's name so s'pose it'll show up one day.
Found Giorgio Gomelski (theguythatdiscoveredrollingstonesetc) was seriously into world cup so watched England v Columbia in his loft just down the road from the Chelsea Hotel where Sid Viscous topped his elf. Next day woke feeling ultra-vulnerable and strangely worried about my mother. My dear pal & hostess Virginia was soothing & took me for a long slow walk in central park in perfect weather. Walked past the spot where John Lennon was shot & found a neat pair of shades Iying on the very spot. Then to Giorgio's for dinner after which he vid-recorded long interview with me (wearing those cool shades) for his TV show & to go on internet. Next day I was due to fly out & of course it was the England v Argentina game and guess what? The taxi came to take me to the airport literally seconds after Michael Owen scored that magick goal so I had to wait until I got back to ozz to find out that England had lost anyway! Quelle windup!
Back in Oz I rang up my momma but no answer. A few enquiries and I found she'd been taken to hospital on that very Sunday. I called the hospital who said she had a thrombosis infection on her leg that her heart was very wobbly and not able to supply enough blood to her feet or her brain despite the pacemaker and that she was incontinent and suffering from increasing dementia. They felt it was unlikely she would recover enough to be able to go back to living in her flat and that if she survived the infection and its effect on her body that I should start looking into the nursing home scenario. Quelle horreur!!
I subsequently talked to her on the phone. She sounded very weak and her mind was Wandering. Then I went straight to my own local doc who removed the skin cancer on my hand leaving ten stitch wound & my left hand in a boxing glove of bandage.
Next day I flew to Melbourne where it was mid winter. Stayed at Harry Williamson's studio which was literally a five minute walk from the hospital. My first view of momma Helen told me all was not well. She was sort of half on her hands and knees as if trying to get out of the cot and looked totally bewildered & lost. I rushed up to her and kissed her and settled her down and told her I was going to stay nearby. She sort of understood but was obviously very confused, didn't know where she was and was very worried about her incontinence and the pain in her leg. Soon after this a couple of young female doctors came to give her a check up. One of them was very cold eyed and Prussian in the worst sense and disappeared behind the curtain to "do some tests". I was shut out and could hear her interrogating Helen who had difficulty understanding, much less answering. In responding to Helen's obvious bewilderment instead of trying a different tack the butch young doctor raised her voice louder & louder addressing her as if she was deliberately misunderstanding her & simply being "a silly little girl". Then she started doing anal probes and generally causing Helen much anguish. I could hear Helen's trembly little voice pleading "PIease just leave me alone. I've had enough. Just let me die in peace". By now I was about ready to plunge behind the curtain drag the doctor off and strangle her.
Finally it was all over and both doctors came to me as next of kin and told me they felt that Helen should be moved to another more expensive hospital for even more expensive tests - basically to find out why Helen's poor little 90 year old emaciated sparrow body was dying of old age. Fucking mad science! They added that it was up to Helen's doctor to ok it so as soon as they were gone I got on the phone to her doctor and said that as next of kin I wanted my mother to be protected from any further tests & allowed to die in dignity. Fortunately her doctor (a woman) knew that Helen had actually briefly died of a heart attack two years before and been very painfully resuscitated by electric shock against her will. Helen who felt she was at last dying peacefully only to be brutally snatched back, had expressed her anger at this to her doctor on almost every visit since so she was in no doubt about what Helen wanted. Yet apparently she was helpless in the face of professional protocol unless instructed otherwise by the next of kin. "I am the next of kin" I said, "So bring on the morphine and leave her to die in peace!" The doctor mercifully agreed adding that she would do exactly the same if it was her mother. Even so the morphine did not arrive until next day.
Meanwhile, Harry had a large blazing log fire in his house and was in fine compassionate form. We cracked a nice bottle of red and ate warming soup and read poetry about immortality. Thank de lawd I had heeded my gut instinct and urgent inner-tuition to come back to Oz instead of hanging out for the Ireland trip and the Big Green Fest much as I'd have loved to make that trip with Britta to help. If I hadn't come back the mad science gestapo gal would have been running up huge bills to prolong my mama's agony.
For the next three days I wore a path between Harry's place and the hospital. The moon was coming up to full & the wind was straight from the South Pole. On the Friday Harry's lady: Liz came back from India with flu and I simultaneously received the official o.k. to move into Helen's apartment. Sleeping in her bed in her neat little flat I felt as close to her as sitting beside her in the hospital since she was decreasingly physically conscious of my presence there. During that night I awoke after a vivid and ecstatic dream realisation that my glissando guitar is the music of the ocean. Then on that same Saturday morning as I was meditating for the full moon, I had a very clear sense impression of that peculiar atmosphere one finds hanging in a Cemetery.
Shortly after this, the hospital rang to say that I should come down to the hospital a.s.a.p. & my immediate reaction was one of exhilaration & triumph. My heart leapt with relief & I found myself punching the air and shouting "Nearly there Helen darling!".
At the hospital I found cousin Ken (himself a doctor) in tears. I felt for him but not as him. I took in Helen's peacefully sleeping body which had now been moved to this special quiet little room used for people on their way out. I knew to my core that Helen was finally getting what she wanted. For me to feel sad knowing how Helen felt about it all would have seemed simply selfish. The duty sister took me aside and advised me to start considering which undertaker to use. This was a big task. I had no idea where to start. Back at Helen's flat I couldn't even find a yellow pages. Then at the right moment a knock at the door and it was Helen's buddhist friend & neighbour Betty. Before long I had found a simple non-religious but genuinely "'no bullshit or silly frills" and above all compassionate undertaker called Simplicity Funerals. Exactly what Helen would wish for AND half the price of all the others!
Back at the hospital I sat with her in peace until hunger pangs drew me back home late to eat. On my way out I asked them to give me plenty of warning if Helen looked as though she was actually going to die. Just after midnight they rang me and told me to come. I rang Maggie & Gilli and let them know so they could meditate with us. I arrived just after she stopped breathing. The nurse had placed a little red rose on her heart.
I was left alone in the room and the atmosphere there was amazing. There was a mixture of stillness and joy in the air and I felt as though my senses were melted with Helen's. I knew she felt my thoughts and impressions as if they were her own just as I felt I knew how she was feeling to be released from the dulled consciousness of a dying body to be freshly dead. There was an increased aliveness, sensitivity and awareness that was astonishing. The slightest whisper sounded as if it were being amplified by a huge PA. I whispered to her in my softest voice: "Congratulations darling ..you've finally made it at last! Your body is dead!". Her response was the vibe of an excited little girl in a lolly shop.
My limited memory of the Tibetan Book of the Dead together with some promptings from Maggie on the phone told me that the time -from 20 minutes after the moment of death to 50 minutes after- is a very important period in the process of harmonious dying. Firstly: just as my aural experience was demonstrating so vividly: the hearing is still acutely active so the ears of the body should never be touched. The slightest contact is felt by the soul as an extremely unpleasant & deafening impact. (For this reason, the body should not be touched anywhere for at least an hour.) But the important thing is that the Soul or Spirit should be helped to leave the body via the psychic gateway at the top of the head there to hover just above the head and wait for further guidance from within. Remembering what Wendy Purdey had taught me about how to see someone's aura, in that dim light I was startled to find that -altho I was normally not very clairvoyant- at that moment I could see Helen's etheric body very clearly and that there was a cluster of luminous energy above her solar plexus. So very quietly I whisperingly asked her to imagine she was going back up along a passageway towards her head where she would see a source of beautiful light.
I encouraged her to go into that light where she might well find my father Wally waiting for her and even her mother who had died when she was only 6 but was thought to be the spiritual beacon of the family. Simultaneously I creatively visualised the energy cluster at her navel to be shrinking and transferring up above her head. For the next while I repeated this sequence until after about fifteen minutes, the abdominal cluster had visibly flattened and the light above her head was much enlarged. Soon after this, an extraordinary clarity came into the air and I knew by this that she was now out of (and clear of) her body. I now felt clearly that this part of my work was done & after staying another half an hour or so I found I could communicate clearly by simply speaking silently to her in my head. After some further communication it occurred to me that wherever I went I could connect with her and that I didn't need to stay with her body any more. So I expressed my intention to go back to the flat and having paid my respects to the astral guardians of her physical body and thanked the night nurse, I walked back up High St. under a full moon and sparkly clear winters night sky. As I entered her flat the moonlight was coming through the window and before I turned on the light I could clearly see Helen sitting in her favourite chair. "Why have you taken down the paintings darling?" she said. "Its because you've died, I've just come back from the hospital, Helen. It may not feel like it but you're actually dead now!". "Ohh!?" she replied, "'Really? Well that's good isn't it?"
The funeral was two days later and it was a beautiful event in a cute little South Melbourne chapel facilitated by a warm hearted & open minded agnostic woman. What was impressive was the wide range of ages and types of people that had been Helen's friends and loved her enough to pay their last respects. We had been encouraged to choose the music, texts and basically construct the service how we felt Helen and her friends wanted it. Respectful, moving & not too long. I read a sort of poem acknowledgement of my love and respect for Helen as a teacher, friend and playmate. A couple of her younger friends also spoke. The last piece of music played was from the Gong CD Shapeshifter: 'Give my Mother a Soul Call' …and everybody loved it, even my eccentric cousin Joy who, being a connoisseur of classical music & fifties jazz it has to be said is one of my most ferocious critics. It seemed to me that none of my blood family ever liked or really understood Gong or particularly approved of me or what I did with my life, but in some curious way this track shifted their views sideways a wee bit. Or maybe it was just the fact that I hired an expensive suit & shoes for the occasion prompting the much repeated comment: "Oh daevid, you look wonderful, so so much like your father!".
Still, I couldn't help thinking that it was not exactly the way we like to do it up north in Byron Bay with fires, drumming, chanting, hand-painted coffins, womens choir, giant circles with lots of heartfelt sharing and then after the cremation-sunset ceremonies & ashes in the sea with mandatory appearance by dolphins and a rainbow. In contrast, in Melbourne it runs short & sweet with lots of flowers and then whisk the body off to the crematorium & go and get pissed. Get it over, basically. And that I s'pose is more or less (in a graceful & elegant way) what we did.
But Cousin Joy, apart from giving me a musical run for my money, seemingly likes nothing better than to scandalise the rest of the family. She had arrived half sloshed and broadcasting whisky fumes powerful enough to ignite a fire eater. Yet feeling somewhat protective of the only other real radical in the tribe I elected to convey her to the wake. This was programmed to occur at a rather posh apartment in the 'top of the social scalers' suburb of Toorak. It belonged to a couple who were long time friends of my mum & dad & somewhat snobbish till you got a couple of drinks in em. Then they landed on their silver plates & revealed their hearts of gold. So my mother's buddhist neighbour Betty & I hijacked Joy & arrived at Pat & Rusty Rayson's posh pad with wine, Guiness, flowers for Pat and a large bottle of Scotch for the patron. Joy wasted no time hitting the scotch while I slipped out the back for a smoke with my muso mates Rob Calvert & John Howley & old pal Heather who were also friends of my mother. Back inside I came. somewhat the wiser (?) for a pipe of herbs to find Joy terrorising the assembly in semaphore tones.
Heather & Rob & I shepherded her to a quiet corner where she zoned in on me afresh. "DAEVID YOU LITTLE SHIT! HAH HAH HAH YOU ALWAYS WERE A LITTLE SHIT! HEH HEH HEH" (cough spasm) etc. After a bit she sank on to the central couch with a triple whisky wherefrom she was apparently loath to rise. Everybody but one adjacent victim split to other vantage points, I to the kitchen for asparagus sticks & champagne & to catch up on some social history with our hosts . Not much time passed before buddhist Betty approached, agitating for a strategic departure WITH Joy. Right! All hands on deck! But it was easier said than done. Elephantine might describe the weight of her presence on the couch but by now she was ALSO drunk as a waterlogged buffalo. The three of us tried to help her to her feet but she collapsed whale like and ululating on the luxury carpet. Scandal! We all tried to raise her up but she rolled & wallowed in crazed laughter & it wasn't till we threatened her with an ambulance that she concentrated what was left of her intentional mind and wobbled to her feet long enough to get her into Betty's wee car. Ah yes but somehow in getting the car from the other side of the garden I had managed to step in a large pile of dog shit & in my haste to help had unwittingly left a trail of orange smelly footprints the length of the tasteful dove grey hallway carpet. Then to add insult to injustice, once Joy was in the car, still bellowing outrageous invective at the posh right wing neighbours enjoying the drama from the balconies above, a perfectly timed bird turd landed squarely on our hosts bald head. Shplap! Then absolutely everybody cracked up in collapsible laughter themselves. We left to the sound of outrageous mirth rising through the trees amongst which I might add I was sure I could hear Helen's unforgettable open hearted laughter. A truly Irish Australian wake!
A week later I had packed up & cleaned Helen's little pad, sold some items, gifted others and freighted a pile of stuff up north. In the process I had come across many little gems of family history and when it finally arrived at my place, my son Tali & I spent an afternoon absorbed in our tribal herstory. Maybe he will be the carrier of history & one day pass it all on to future generations. Next day I had that poisoned tooth out phew finally!! What a relief! Also with some general dental cleanup work to restore my pepsodent white smile I actually began to feel vaguely kissable as well. I also started learning Qi-gong & Tai Chi, training with a nearby instructor from Glasgow named Fiona. Once the liberated born again Christian lady moved out, there followed a few weeks at my house of compensatory elation where my old friends and musicians Evan Zun and Nearly Neal, the bassist & drummer of Invisible Opera of Oz to be exact, moved in. Thank de lawd! Sharing with them, life was fun & wildlife spacey jams happened daily.
Originally published in GAS Magazine