Third Charm

Alex Shapiro

© Copyright 2003 by Alex Shapiro



Photo of Alex Shapiro

I spent most of my life adulating death. I thought, planned, researched, and wrote about it. I even prayed for its instant arrival.

As a strong believer in the Afterlife, I’ve always seen Death not as the end of our existence, but as a passing into the world to come. I’ve always believed that actions we take during our present life may influence our path into the eternal Afterlife.

But my prayers seemed to take shape too slow, too late for me. In time, visions of a shadowy, disfigured Afterlife started to twist the reality of my existence, blurred my already distracted mind and blended in with my ideals. It didn’t take long for my Afterlife illusions took control over my dreams.

I have been touched by death twice, maybe three times in this life, so far. Each experience made me realize I had, yet, a lot to learn…

First time I decided to put an end to my life, my way, I was blessed with a beloved friend, who stayed with me through my darkest hours, and listened with his arms around me. That particular night, he refused to let me go home to my carefully planned death. I owe him my life.

Second time around … it happened a few years ago. I like to think of it as a ‘medical inconclusive’ event - a so-called glitch. My gut feeling signaled the sickness infesting my blood, devouring my cells and later on, my being as a whole - mind and body. Just to put my fears to rest, I decided to go for a long-overdue physical. At the end of a five-minute examination, I pulled together what bravery I had left and asked for a blood test. HIV test.

I remember the doctor called me at work, two weeks later. It was just before lunch break. She asked if I was standing and advised me to find a seat. The mild, cautious modulations of her voice told me what I’ve been suspected all along. I did sit and listened. Tried to hold it all inside.

As it turned out, my gut feeling didn’t lie. The test came back positive, indeed.

A few days later I went to see another doctor, a specialist working with AIDS and HIV patients. She sent me to the lab. I was to get tested again… and again… and, several times later, the results came back inconclusive.

‘Inconclusive’… the term didn’t have any particular significance to me. But what about my doctor? It meant suspicion and raised more questions and uncertainties. ‘Inconclusive’ placed me somewhere in an uncertain, fuzzy zone.

Uncertainty … to me, it felt worse than knowing for sure. It also left my mind with only one choice - to prepare for death, yet again, and in record time, too. Only this was not a drill, but the real thing.

… Or so I thought.

All of a sudden, time became precious. I had to get ready for my passing. No spare moments for farewell letters.

A bizarre, strange, a funny phenomenon. Death was, finally, welcoming me into its arms and what was I doing?

Freaking out.

My dreams finally turned true, my prayers answered and, instead of feeling joy and peace, I was overwhelmed with panic, with shame and unanswered questions.

I sometimes ask myself if we should have the power to decide our death, our passing, the when, the where, and how... what about the why? Is AIDS a shameful way to die? Is suicide?

Isn’t being dead bad enough?

As it turns out, even in these days, death is not enough for most people. Shouldn’t this be a sin in itself…?

Although I couldn’t understand the reasons behind the blood test results, I felt at fault and emanated guilt. This was not supposed to happen to me, though it was. Its reality added to my fears, like extra effects to a horror movie. Fear and worry took control over my mind and body, not because of the perspective of an imminent death sentence, but because AIDS wasn’t the way I wanted to say farewell to this world.

Days, then weeks passed me by, tests and visits to the lab and to the doctor’s office, too. A few months later the conclusion was final - the test result was a blurb, an error. It turned out there was no virus infesting my body and killing my immune system one T-cell at a time.

“It happens many times,” I heard from doctors and medical personnel.

I was fine. But was I happy to be considered healthy again?

The experience changed my views about life in general and about my existence in particular. I started to look at life with brand new understanding and savor its gift.

But not for long...

Sooner than later I found myself gliding downward the wave some call life. Only this time I became overwhelmed with the legal and sentimental preparations, too exhausted to deal, yet again, with my own death.

Instead, I started to jot down my thoughts. And became a writer.

The written words saved my life and flushed my system of haunting ghosts and shadows, of inner demons. They crippled the suicide mission still lingering over my soul and presented it with a fresh, lively perspective.

That’s about when I met the person who open my eyes to life’s beauty and helped me see its purpose.

Each day he faces his own mortality, though refuses to embrace death and give up two decades of battling and defeating AIDS.

His philosophy?

Concentrate on the seed of goodness hidden inside each moment and live in its positive instance.

His own life is a made of “droplets” of healing, of peace and hope. A “droplet” at a time, they shape a life of achievements and healing - his life.

Indeed, he is a healer of mind and soul, a survivor of a fatal disease, one without survivors. He is also a storyteller. His stories comfort, touch the hearts of his devoted fans and readers.

His first book, “Signals,” made me a fan. His second book, “Hope,” brought me a step closer to Heaven and opened the door to a new perspective in my life. It helped me rediscover hope and learn about healing my soul and silencing my inner demons.

It happened when I least expected, when the Fates decided to turn to my advantage and my prayers finally started to come true, one at a time - writing wishes and also dreams of death. My old gut feeling also came to life, this time for the best.

An email turned into a phone call and, further on, into a meeting in person. I first contacted him while on the hunt for a new place, over a terrible and embarrassing - on my part - wireless connection. I was grateful to tune in to the deep, warm inflexions of his voice that put my fears to rest and my spirit to ease. I also followed his advice and read “Hope” on the plane, from East to West Coast, during a six-hour flight across the country.

His “Story of Triumph” over AIDS unfolded in front of my eyes. Its learn-by-example lesson in positive living touched my heart and changed my life’s path. Throughout the read, I cried with him and cheered for his successes, I felt and cared for his friends and met the author himself as a real person. My soul followed his into the “house of light” and learned how to avoid the darkness. My self tuned in to his and discovered how to reach out for its best and find “true optimism.” His “Story of Triumph” helped me overcome my life’s challenges and rediscover its purpose.

And so it started, the adventure of my new life …

But I got ahead of myself…

So, with Hope in hand I went to meet its author. From the very beginning I sensed the serenity of the place and recognized the love and friendship, honesty and reality of life, peace and hope the book talks about.

The story is real, a reflection of the peacefulness that glows around its teller; the experience, unique.

It was like magic. No. It WAS magic and I was, indeed, living my dream.

I often go back to the healing read, a moment of peace at the end of a stressful day, a retreat for my mind and soul.

I mentioned earlier a third meeting with death. Knowing what I know now, I sure hope that this third one is not a charm.

Ole prayers seem to be catching up with me, yet, again. Why now? It’s definitely not the right time! Not when I finally figured out my purpose in life, with inspiration and ideals waiting for my reach.

Prayers don’t always come true at our command, but much later, taking us by surprise, kind of a ‘remember-me’ effect.

Do I wish this third to be a charm? No! Death is not on my list, not anymore.

If the third time does happen to be what’s meant, at least its charm caught up with me while at my best - with a peaceful mind, a healed soul and, most of all, a rediscovered purpose in my own life.

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