LEAVING THE MATERIAL WORLD

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I’ve known Howard and Jennifer for about 15 years. When Howard mentioned that if I want to write about some of my experiences with illness, he’d put them on his site, I quickly accepted. Amongst other things, I’m a writer. That’s how I met Howard and Jennifer. I was in Santa Fe, and writing a weekly column in the “Santa Fe Reporter”. The Beckman’s had a most wonderful transcendental centre in the mountains outside Pecos, about 25 miles, or so from Santa Fe. The Sunday chanting, artik, and vegetarian feasts they offered were literally out of this world. Just remembering those experiences uplifts me, even after the passing of years.

I gave my life to God long ago. I’ve spent much of my life consciously exploring a spiritual path. Howard’s guru, Srila Prabhupada, was a major influence on my life, from the early 1970’s until today. One of Prabhupada’s teachings, which struck me to the core, was that many people spend their lives “eating, mating, and defending”. Even in my unawakened state, I knew I was here for more than satisfying these physical senses. During the 70’s, I had earned a Masters in Divinity, and worked as a counselor, concentrating on spiritual recovery from addictions. I’ll be writing more about that later. For now, let’s move forward to the summer of 2006.

For over 32 years, I have shared this lifetime with the most wonderful person in the world, James Efferson. We’ve been married for almost 3 of those 32 years. In 2006, we sold our home in Santa Fe and moved to Columbus, a small, dusty, desert village in Southwestern New Mexico. We are in the middle of a vast desert, on the Mexico/New Mexico border. It seemed the perfect place for retirement. After all the years of being a householder, I felt ready to spend all my time in spiritual pursuits. God had different plans. I soon filled out an application to work in the Luna County Sheriff’s Department. I was accepted, attending several months of training, and I was deputised and commissioned. It was totally unlike anything I’d ever done. Or, so I thought. Actually, the entire time, I was working “undercover” for God. I worked security, prisoner transports, public relations for the Sheriff, and community patrol.   Most of the patrol was in our village of Columbus, and isolated ranches and farms surrounding the village. I absolutely loved it. But, at the end of December, 2014, I retired, yet again. I was 64, and past the age of wearing a badge and carrying a gun. Now, let’s move forward to March, 2015.

Our village Municipal Judge unexpectedly resigned. The Village Council appointed me to finish the term until the next election, in March, 2016. I attended 3 judicial trainings, and very much enjoyed being Municipal Judge. Now, let’s move on to just 4 months ago, early December, 2015.

It was an early morning. The Hare Krishna mantra was playing in the background, as it usually does. We finished our prayers. It was an ordinary morning. Suddenly, I was taken outside my body. There were Beings of Light around me. The best way I can describe it is as a “life review” reported by some who have had near death experiences. Except, quite importantly, it was not my life being reviewed; it was all my lessons! Every spiritual book I’d read, every class or workshop I’d attended, every meditation, every relationship, every single spiritual experience I’d ever had was flashed before me. It was as if thousands of pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle suddenly fell into place. In that instant, I knew what it was all about. It all made sense. At that moment, I understood it all. One of the Light Beings told me, “This is because you are getting ready to leave.” I didn’t even know that such an experience was possible. But, this I do know, in the depths of my being: It Happened.

What does one do with such an experience? I was in the beginning of my campaign for election as Municipal Judge. I prayed the prayer of the Lord Jesus, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” Now, let’s move forward to January, 2016.

I am not a politician, and am not interested in learning! Yet, I had filed papers, and declared for Municipal Judge. I decided to have a campaign event at the local American Legion building. The afternoon of the event, the Being of Light came back. Perhaps she’s an angel; perhaps she’s my cosmic probation officer. In any case, she’s watching out for me. She said, “Tonight is the most important thing you will do in this lifetime. You are meant to take a stand for God. You are to speak your truth, from your heart.” I replied, “If God wants me to be judge, I will do it.” She responded, and quite firmly, I might add, “This is not about God wanting you to be judge. This is about taking a stand, and speaking from your heart.” And, that is exactly what I did that evening. Beforehand, I wondered how these people who had known me as Lieutenant Odom, and Judge Odom, would ever understand me standing up there and talking about God. But, as Lord Krishna spoke in Bhagavad Gita, leave the results up to Him. Therefore, I did as I was asked. Now, let’s move forward to 1 March, 2016.

I lost the election by 2 votes. But, by this time, my attention was focused on something physical. For a couple of months, I’d had fairly constant abdominal and back pain. My cardiologist ordered a CT scan. The results showed that I had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which had spread to the liver and some bones in the spinal column. Now, let’s make a final move forward to the present.

How can it be that I feel totally at peace, while so many of those who love me are devastated, even panicked? How can I smile at a picture of Krishna, or a statue of St. Michael? How can I explain that I have been given a precious gift of being able to say ‘good-bye’? How can it be that looking around, I find absolutely nothing in this material world to which I would cling? One friend wrote me, “Surely, you must ask, why me, God? Why this cancer for me?” And, in a way, he’s right. I have asked, “Why me?” But, I have asked, “Why all these blessings, Lord, for someone who so often ignored You? Why give me all Your love, when so many times I chose fear instead of love? Why me, Lord? Why did You tell me I was getting ready to come home? What could I have ever done to deserve Your Mercy? Why, Lord, have you given me the peace which passes all understanding?”

Let’s get one thing out in the open. I am not a saint. On my spiritual path, I’ve stumbled more often than not. However, I must risk a little ego detour and tell you this: Despite everything, I never gave up. Through good times and bad, all the ups and downs of living in this material world, somehow, the Hand of God reached out, and touched my soul. And is showing me about l e a v i n g this material world.

Many years ago, a Hindu astrologer told me that this is an auspicious lifetime for me, as I have the OM mantra in my name, twice! Robert Ransom Odom. An OM double whammy. Surely, not an accident.

Perhaps, I shall share more about this stage of my spiritual path. My heartfelt thanks to Howard and Jennifer for allowing me to share this with you.

All is well, and in perfect, divine order. OM Shanti OM Hare Krishna!

Much love, Robert