Celebrating Día de Muertos
The Alex and Ronni Show Plus Fear of Phone Conversations


By Ann Burack-Weiss

It is 1946 and I am 10 years old. The first night home after my tonsils come out, I begin to cough. Scabs and blood fill the yellow enamel pail with the green rim. Doctor and ambulance follow.

My nose is packed with cotton. Sirens scream. Outside the hospital are bright lights; nurses wearing big white hats hold out their arms to me.

I am flat on a table, more bright lights. I want to sleep but they keep slapping me awake, calling my name.

The next thing I remember must have been a day or two later. I am in bed and two young nurses enter. They carry scissors and speak in a soft Irish brogue. My hair is matted with dried blood. They must cut it all off.

I am a tall, skinny girl with a curved back. “What beautiful hair! ” is the only compliment on my looks I have ever received. My hair is long, thick, dark and carries a miraculous wave. With it you can shape corkscrew curls that rival those of Shirley Temple.

You cannot cut my hair! I cry and shout. Perhaps they take pity on me or fear that I will begin to cough again, but they soon agree.

They leave and return with a bottle of oil and thick-toothed combs. It is long, rough going. The oil needs time to soak in, it hurts as the comb is dragged through, the washing reveals missed areas, back to the oil, the combs, the washing. Finally, they are done.

I am handed a mirror. It is hard to take in who I am looking at. This chalk white face cannot be me. But, of course, it is. And when they leave, I go to sit by the window.

I am in the Floating Hospital for Children in Boston – recently re-established on land – and the window faces a deserted block by the harbor.

I look out at the dilapidated buildings (as clear in my mind’s eye today as the view I see each day from my bedroom window). And I say to myself in an adult voice that I don’t recognize, “You were going to die. Now you are going to live.“

* * *

I am seated in a small room, conducting an intake interview. I face a young, black woman who is telling me about her descent into crack addiction and the day she decided she had to quit. It is a harrowing story. I am listening hard. She has just said that she looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognize herself. I am there with her.

Then - we are rising, rising, swept up and swirling in a vortex. I am no longer the social worker with the degrees. She is no longer the client with the problem. Our identities have been stripped away. We are pure spirits – disembodied beings passing each other in the same swirling pattern, tiny molecules up there in outer space.

Then - we are back in the office, returned to ourselves. She is talking, I am listening. She is still speaking of the mirror. How much time could have passed – not as long as a minute. Seconds, perhaps?

* * *

One transcendent experience in a long life does not a mystic make. And it is totally possible that the image of an unfamiliar face in a mirror performed some neurological voodoo.

Yet, whenever I think of the hereafter, I picture myself and my beloved dead as spirits whirling around in the vortex.

The vortex contains all the souls who ever lived – those blessed with the riches of life, those who had the hardest of fates, those who died at birth, those who lived on to a ripe old age – all now equal parts of the same whole: together awhirling, atwirling, aswirling in the vortex.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Riveting. I stopped breathing for a minute. Thank you, Ann Burack-Weiss, for writing that and Ronni for getting it (and everything else) out here.

Wow, just wow! someone who has had the same experience as me, and expressed it so eloquently. Thank you.

I liked your posts and what you described, but frankly I was not sure I completely understood it. Even after years of speaking English there are words I am not sure of, vortex is one. So went to Google France and found out a vortex is a “tourbillon” or whirlwind. It said it is a hollow whirlwind starting in liquids, like in spiraling clouds (in tornadoes.) But in spirituality it said that there are vortexes in sacred places (like in the Strasbourg cathedral) where they can be felt by humans. In human spirituality it stated that a vortex allows a source of energy to transfer its energy from one source to another. From one world to another. Physical or non-physical.

Now your story made complete sense and I fully enjoyed it. Words are so important. Most people are too busy to take the time to study words, meanings, etc. Your words in your story are powerful..

So glad you survived that experience to write about it!

Thank you vagabonde. I truly had no idea - just chose the word that seemed to fit. After reading your post, I did my own google search. Quite a revelation, to find that people go out of their way to experience something that came to me out of the blue. Being a practical person who discounts most stories of spiritual enlightenment as wishful thinking, it did give me pause. So very much in life that we don;t understand.

I love stories and writing like this! Something that makes you think - something you can go back to on nights when you're lying awake and afraid. Thank you!

This is beautiful writing. Poetic indeed.

Thank you for sharing your heart warming experience, and your interpretation of it. It certainly makes me pause in my busy life and remember times when I've had contacts with other spirits...but haven't had a vortex experience. I'm sure that you did, and described it as it happened to you. And for me, I've had different things happen which were just as meaningful.

I don't have words, really. Except for thank you. Thank you, Ann. Thank you, Ronni. I will save this to read again and again.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)