Dont be dismayed by goodbyes – a farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again after moments, or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends. (Richard Bach)
I dreamed about Justin Carson last night. He was about to tell me the secret of life, the universe and everything when I woke up. As you do. Isn’t that always the way? 42 was very important to both of us and here he was about to reveal the secret. Mind you, in the dream he was doing it through a psychic. Justin passed to spirit in 1999. I had the privilege of looking after Justin leading up to his death – and had some extraordinary contact with him afterwards. But he’d slipped to the back of my mind until last night. By the time you get to read this it will be round about the anniversary of him ringing to tell me that he was off on his next great adventure and would welcome company as far as was possible when the time came. ‘I’m not afraid of being dead,’ he said, ‘just of the actual process of dying.’ As you’ll see, he needn’t have worried. It was joyous. And it reminded me how to be a psychopomp.
I was first aware of Justin when we were both doing our teacher training back in the mid 70s. He was a couple of years ahead of me and was already established as one of the ‘characters’. It’s funny how people weave in and out of your life like that. My question came when I walked into the student union and there was this guy in a slouchy black hat, long black leather coat and a multi-coloured floor-length stripey Dr Who scarf camping it up for all he was worth.
Which reminds me of one of Justin’s favourite jokes:
We all make mistakes as the Dalek said climbing off the dustbin.
Justin was a lot younger than me and we moved in different circles so I’d see him in passing from time to time but that was it. And once he’d left, I didn’t think of him again for twenty years. There was no indication back then that he would become one of the first Louise Hay teachers in England – or what was to follow for me!
In 1994 my then literary agent suggested we meet up with two of her authors, Justin Carson and David Lawson. She thought we’d have things of mutual interest to discuss. We met at the London Book Fair and there was Justin, sartorial elegance intact, in his school blazer. It was clear from that brief meeting that they were special people. I spent many a happy weekend as their house guest in London having the deep philosophical conversations I love – and laughing uproariously at Justin’s wicked sense of humour. He showed me parts of London – and life – I never knew existed. I asked them to contribute to Hands AcrossTime, which I was writing at the time, because I felt that their story, from the little I knew, would be interesting. However, only quite literally, in the closing hours of updating that book intoThe Soulmate Myth: a dream come true or your worst nightmare? Long after Justin’s passing did I finally learn the entire story and realised just how extraordinary it was. Nor did I know at the time how deeply I would myself eventually become involved in their lives. And how Justin would teach me to once again become a psychopomp, a conductor of souls to the other world. Some of what follows has been extracted from that book, but you’ll need to read it to learn the full story.
Can you imagine going to pre-revolution Egypt in the 1990s with three outrageous gay guys? Justin, David and Bernie ‘I put them on the radio first you know’ Andrews, another dear friend who’s now passed on. There was much more freedom to travel around Egypt than there is now, but homosexuality was taboo. It was a riot, in many respects. I don’t have the photographs any more but I so wish I could show you the three of them stuffed in a caleche (horse drawn carriage) that we’d taken over to ‘the Other Side’ to view the tombs and temples. So much better than the usual taxi. Our driver-friend Khaled and all the Egyptians we met really didn’t know what to make of the trio. It was such fun watching the reactions – and listening to what really lay under the Egyptian veneer of ‘good boys’. One face for the world, quite another beneath.
Prior to that, I’d had pneumonia and spent almost three weeks in hospital stuck in limbo-land. I couldn’t quite die but couldn’t recover either (not surprising now I know what was going on in the background, hindsight is a wonderful thing!). Justin came to visit and brought me all the episodes of ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ on tape to listen to (yes, it was that long ago! And I still have them!). He was a great believer in the power of laughter to heal and we both cracked up at Douglas Adams warped sense of humour. So, as we’ll discover, 42 became a catchword.
Here’s just a little of their story. The possibility of Justin dying was there almost from the first moment as he had full-blown aids when they met. In their philosophy it was something to live with though and it was incredible to watch. It gave me the inspiration to help others on similar journeys.
David: … My first conscious impression of Justin was the feeling that I woke up with on a summer’s morning in 1987. That feeling was warmer and more golden than the August sunshine that was squeezing its way through the blind that covered my bedroom window A new light was dawning from within me too and gently filtering into my conscious mind as I opened and then slightly shielded my eyes from the brightness of the day. I knew that I had met him. …
My relationship with Justin has been the most positive, thrilling, growthful, challenging and terrifying relationship of my entire life! I have nursed him through three major illnesses. I have moved through years of believing that, whatever happened, he would always make a miraculous recovery, to a year when I really did think that he was going to die. , and began to prepare myself for that eventuality, searching inside myself for the grace and willingness to let go if Justin needed to leave. Just when I had found those inner resources and was ready to surrender, Justin’s recovery was the most profound and the most miraculous of all.
Justin: … I have heard it said that life is what happens while you are making other plans, and I suspect that the same thing applies when establishing a relationship…
David: … when we first met and talked to each other at that healing seminar, I found him extraordinarily compelling… When the charming, man I had met a short time earlier, offered to give me a lift back to north London I accepted, without a moment’s thought… with a speed that takes my breath away when I think about it, I moved in with him four days later.
Justin: Part of my process of growth has been a serious illness, and we are weathering that together. In my better moments I can see the illness itself as part of my educational process, although I would, frankly, have preferred to have learned my lessons in a different way. However, that has been the way I have learned, and am still learning. It hasn’t always been a lot of fun and it has moved our relationship in a way that I wouldn’t have expected, and one in which l wasn’t prepared for at the beginning, but for which l am truly grateful.
Justin ‘walked his talk’ and put their joint healing philosophy into action with great effect. But faced with a particularly unpleasant manifestation of the hiv virus, he chose not to have more toxic treatment. He set off on his next ‘awfully big adventure’ as he called it. As Justin said in a personal note in one of David’s books:
Not everyone will get well again, but we can all learn to live with honour, dignity and courage whatever the future holds. While self-healing is primarily concerned with extending and celebrating life, for some, the process of dying can produce the greatest healing of all. (Justin Carson)
When Justin came home from the hospital to die, David was his primary carer with my assistance and it was a privilege to be part of this extraordinary man’s passing.
Justin made a leisurely and peaceful decline into death: his loving, courteous and charming self to the last. As he went he held a scarab I had brought him back from Egypt. He’d lost a lot of weight and looked exactly like an ancient pharaoh would have done on his death bed. Or perhaps a mummy would be a better description. He looked ancient. But there was nothing sad about his passing. The atmosphere in his room became steadily more serene until, shortly after his death, it became quite extraordinary with a powerful perfume and a deep sense of stillness and peace. Justin had said goodbye to all his friends and family, helping them come to terms with the idea of his leaving. With David, he planned the thanksgiving service for his life in great detail. He wanted it to be a celebration. His body slowed down, becoming virtually immobile. Only his eyes kept their sparkle and great joy at living. Justin savoured each moment – and the things that had given him pleasure in the past: his favourite ice cream, the finest single malt whiskey, a last cup of the best coffee we could brew even if it had to be from a sippy cup. He was saying his goodbye to earthly life in the most positive way he knew.
His sense of fun and his crackling aliveness were most apparent. And his ability to manifest. He wanted to see snow, it snowed. He wanted to see a rainbow. There was one right opposite his window. We constructed a ‘ladder to heaven’ to reach a ‘passing portal’ to make his journey easier. Scaffolding went up next door and from his window, there was the ladder. The nights, however, were a time when Justin and I journeyed out of our bodies and began the great adventure. For him it was a time of freedom, the restrictions of his paralysed body dropped away. One night I was surprised to find that we had risen up from the house and hitched a lift on a passing angel – and the angel was twelve miles high. It was quite an experience. Especially when we went into a cave high in the Himalayas and what I thought was the statue of a dusty old lama stirred, brushed off the cobwebs and spoke to Justin. Next morning, talking to him about our trip, I said that it had been a surprise because I wasn’t into angels. ‘Well, they are in to you’ he assured me with a grin. I’d forgotten until now that I’d painted some of those adventures we had together. I must look them out and post them. Justin arrived in style for his cremation: white limousine, jazz band playing, everyone in bright colours except his poor mother and father who just couldn’t understand how a good Jewish boy was being cremated in this way. It really was a celebration of a life well lived. At the wake afterwards whenever things got a bit maudlin, up would leap the Master of Ceremonies and shout: ‘All together now, Justin’s favourite words…’ Back would come the roar: ‘Waiter, taxi, airport.’
Not a good scan I know. But it’s the only picture I’ve got. He’s dissolving before my eyes! Justin, looking into the future.
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