Transmigration of the Soul

Vernon - Ada, Ohio
Entered on March 10, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: afterlife
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe in the transmigration of the soul.

It was an early spring morning in 1992 that a very compassionate Hospice nurse called asking if I would baptize a dying patient. I quickly agreed, got the address and before I hung up, she reluctantly suggested I wear gloves.

I met John and his partner that afternoon. John had the look of impending death, his bones all visible beneath a pallor of gray skin. I shared with John my understanding of baptism, repentance, grace, death and eternal life. I offered him three baptismal options: sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. To my surprise, with the help of his partner, John painfully made his way into the kitchen where I poured water on his boney head, touching it all the while against medical advice. Somehow rubber gloves and poured water didn’t belong with the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

It took John with his partner’s help a good 10 minutes to make the excruciating 20-step journey back to bed. I prayed for John and his partner, said goodbye and headed for the door. John lay motionless. His eyes were smiling along with his lips as he attempted a wave and ever so softly whispered, “See ya.”

That night I had one of those weird dreams where you’re being followed by something. It seemed behind and above me as I drove my car through a heavy snow. I came to an intersection, and against my better judgment, I stopped. I could not get the car to move and whatever was following was closing in. In a panic, I tried to escape on foot, but was unable to run. I fell to the ground and began to crawl through the snow-filled intersection. Out of the black silence a smiling face descended and appeared.

I screamed myself awake, startling my sleeping wife in the process. She held me in her arms and asked if I was okay. A comforting peace penetrated my being as I said, “Just a weird dream.” We checked the time: 2:00 a.m. The next morning Hospice called with the news, John died at 2:30 a.m. The 30 minute margin gave me the comfort of coincidence, but still I wondered.

I accepted the family’s invitation to do the funeral and going against my theological training, decided to share my dream at the service. As I mentioned the 2:00 a.m. wake up, a collective sigh from family and close friends raised the hair on my arms. The instant the service ended I was surrounded by an animated sea of faces all with hope in their eyes as they told me John died at 2:00 a.m. The nurse signed the death certificate when she arrived at 2:30. Coincidence? Perhaps. Transmigration of the soul?

See ya, John.