Audrey was the funniest woman on the planet, and sometimes the saddest. Her incredible singing voice and electrifying stage performances left karaoke bar audiences cheering for more. Before she lost them to cancer, she had two of the greatest breasts that ever existed. Penny and Jenny she called them, and their mere presence commanded a room. Men gawked in awestruck amazement, women often hated her on sight. They cost Audrey her job at Denny's when other waitresses, jealous of her tips and attention, and so many customers requesting to sit in her section, conspired to have her fired.
A single mother with two kids to feed, she remembered how much money she made, years ago, as a stripper. She soon found herself onstage with girls who were born in years she could remember, and she rocked the house! Not quite the good ol' days, but not too shabby neither. Then, in the shower one morning, she felt a sharp pain in her right breast. Within four months her breasts were gone to a surgeon's scalpel and her fight for life was just beginning.
She asked me to help her through the surgery. We were ex-fiancés, and hadn’t spoken for a while, but when I heard the fear in her voice, I dropped everything and moved out to the desert to take care of her. Over the next two and a half years, we fought doctors, landlords, parents, the system and sometimes each other in a desperate attempt to survive the cancer that eventually metastasized into her bones.
The day before she died, she took off the oxygen mask to tell me she was scared she wouldn't get into heaven. Once I convinced her that she'd get in, she said she was still worried: what if she gets in, and it sucks? Through tears and laughter, I told her John Lennon will be there, and Thomas Jefferson (her favorite founding father) and her grandmothers. I told her that where she's going will be a wonderful, beautiful place. It broke my heart into a trillion pieces, but I finally switched from imploring her to keep fighting, to telling her it's ok to go. She took her final breath the very next day, while I held her hand.
Later that night, I was startled to hear Audrey's voice clearly speaking to me! It was nearly midnight when I turned off the cellphone, looked up at Audrey's beautiful cockatoo Coconut - and was shocked to see a look in the bird's eye that remarkably resembled Audrey! I heard her voice clearly ask, "Why are you shutting off the phone, what if Victoria needs you?" Startled, I turned the phone back on, staring at Coconut. The bird's eyes twinkled a sly hint of a smile so recognizably Audrey, and I heard her voice say "Much better, thank you." She toyed with me in a similar fashion numerous times, appearing to me in, among other things: trees, cats and cloud formations. Soon I realized the visual medium was for the most part irrelevant, the voice was coming from within.
Once I overcame my shock, we began a daily dialogue, which sparked a soul searching introspection towards the conflicting nature of reality and self. Is it really her, or is my imagination creatively constructing her voice from my deep well of memories, emotions and love for her? Is it somehow a combination of her actual energy and my memories interacting? Or, am I really just smart enough to imagine the whole thing? On the other hand, could I simply be crazy?
The following months in the desert were spent in epic debate between Audrey's voice and my soul, piecing together the puzzle of our unique relationship, shedding light on the true nature of friendship, love and humanity.
I’ve always been a fervent non-believer in the very idea of ghosts and afterlife. It was harrowing introspection for my otherwise logical intellect to determine whether Audrey's aural apparition was real, or a figment of my imagination, a desperate attempt by my psyche to hold on to my best friend in the whole universe.
Frustrated by my reasoning away her afterlife as fiction, Audrey decided to prove it was really her speaking to me. I soon recrossed paths with her daughter Victoria, and Audrey used her spiritual connection with both of us to prove the voice really was her's!
The day of Audrey's final heartbeat was a ridiculous day. I awoke to the first rays of the rising sun, and began the process of waking Audrey's son Alex, to get him ready for school. After driving him to the bus stop, I returned home to find a crew of workmen had arrived to install an evaporative cooler donated by the electric company. A few hours later, I got a speeding ticket while hurriedly rushing home to a clearly deteriorating Audrey after driving Victoria's best friend Kim back to her foster home.
When Alex got home from school, I realized I had to tell the kids that Audrey would probably only live a few more days. I told them to sit with her, hold her hand and talk to her. Even if she doesn't seem to be awake, she’ll know they're there in her dreams. I waited in another room, to give them privacy.
Victoria later told me what happened.
Audrey regained consciousness for a minute, saw her kids were with her. She told them she loves them. They told her they love her. Then she looked towards the end of her bed and said "not yet." She soon closed her eyes and slipped out of consciousness. The kids left her room, and I went back in.
A little while later, as I was changing her catheter bag, Audrey pulled off the oxygen mask, breathing with great strain. I realized this might be the end and quickly closed the door. I held her hand, told her I love her and that it's ok to go, tears cascading down my cheeks. She took a last breath, and lie still. After a few seconds, I found the remote control and lowered the head of the bed, which caused Audrey to take another breath. I quickly stopped and apologized. After she lay still awhile, I shut off the oxygen machine, bringing the room to a sudden, deafening silence.
Now I had to tell her kids. They came into her room. Victoria said “Fuck, her eyes are open,” making a hesitant motion towards shutting Audrey’s eyelids. I told her it was ok, and she gently closed her mom's eyes. I called the hospice nurse on Audrey's cellphone. Suddenly, while holding the cellphone, my hands involuntarily vibrated wildly for a few seconds, then were still. I later realized this was quite possibly when Audrey's spirit leapt into my body.
About eight months later, I took a small vacation from my new job as a cook/houseboy/slave for a Hollywood producer, and went down to visit Victoria on the houseboat she and her boyfriend shared in the San Diego bay. I told her that I’ve been talking with her mother ever since Audrey left her body. She believed me. She said she hasn't actually heard her mother's voice, but at times has felt her presence. One of those times was a few weeks earlier, when she was in a bookstore reading a comic book. Victoria said she felt her mom's presence very strongly, like Audrey was over her shoulder reading the comic book with her (Audrey loves comic books). This coincides neatly with the fact that Audrey would sometimes tell me she couldn’t talk with me because she was busy with one of her kids.
I took Victoria to Hot Topic, her favorite store in the mall. I still had Audrey's Hot Topic gift card in my wallet, and I let Vicky use it to buy some clothes... allowing Audrey to buy her one last present.
While Victoria was trying on clothes in the changing room, Audrey's voice very clearly told me to buy a pin. When I found the pin rack, Audrey very specifically picked out a particular pin. I bought it, and put it in my pocket. Once we were outside, Audrey insisted I tell Vicky that Audrey had picked out the pin. When I did, Victoria’s eyes grew wide, and she told me why. The pin Audrey picked out is the main character of the comic book Victoria was reading when she so strongly felt her mom's presence!!! We both agreed this was clearly Audrey's spirit at work, it's too big of a coincidence, the presence we felt was just too strong.
Harry Houdini failed in his final quest - to prove life after death by communicating with his beloved wife after he died - because he only had her to reach out to. Or, perhaps he did reach her, and she decided the voices in her head claiming to be him were unprovable (and would therefore be considered crazy). They had no children, only each other... but Audrey left three soulmates behind: Alexander, Victoria and me. She always said that if she died, she'd reach out to us. Victoria and I realized in awe that she kept her word!
A few months later, Audrey told me she was going to be reborn. I was upset, because I knew she’d be leaving me. She told me it was ok, she would always be with me, forever and ever. A few weeks later, her voice was gone. I tried to recreate it the best I could, but I was fooling myself. It was clearly not her. I still see her sometimes in my dreams, but it’s not the same.
I was reading a book by a Buddhist monk named Lama Yeshe. It’s very dense and hard to digest in large doses, so I thumbed to the end, and read the “afterward” of the book, which explained that Lama Yeshe died in 1984. About 11 months later, a child was born to a couple he had known when he was alive. When young Osel was old enough to speak, he gave unmistakable indications that he was the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe, including recognizing people and places from his former life, astounding even extreme skeptics of the idea of rebirth. He was officially recognized, by the Dali Lama himself, as the authentic reincarnation of Lama Yeshe.
The last time Audrey spoke to me was 11 months after she left her body. She told me she was going to be reborn, and I believe her.
Click here to see a trailer
for the film "Walk Through Fire"
about Audrey's battle with breast cancer