Biff America: Who do the Voodoo (column)
Sometimes it can take a friend of the devil to restore your faith in heaven.
My pal Brian recently wrote me in regards to a recent column asking if the story I told was totally factual. When I told him it was, he apologized for doubting me. I wrote back saying it was a fair question as I’ll sometimes change names, locations and merge characters for brevity, privacy and humor purposes. For instance, my mate never stole the batteries from my avalanche transceiver for her nose hair clippers nor did she demand that I buy her a riding vacuum cleaner.
So that said, the story I’m about to tell is as true as I can remember it.
About 25 years ago I had a period where I could not bring myself to be funny. This was before I was pecking out columns since computers had yet to reach a place where even monkeys could type. I was making a living hosting TV and radio shows in the mountains and Denver.
As a host I had little to bring to the table in terms of insight, diction, or the use of vowels while speaking. My efforts were supposed to be amusing (though many would argue that mostly was not the case.)
I closed out the winter season and took a couple of months off. About a month into my vacation I returned home to Boston because my mother was sick. I flew home just before Mother’s Day, my Mum died the last day in May.
For a month I watched her suffer from lung cancer. I was holding her hand when she died.
When it came time to go back to work I couldn’t do it. For six months I took odd jobs that were both brainless and poor paying. I was devastated by my Mum’s passing and suffering but what also hurt was the fact that after a lifetime of church, communion, confession and prayer, her faith seemed to abandon her at a time when it was needed most. No mention was made of God, heaven or of a world beyond. Her doubt rubbed off on me.
After about 6 months I needed both cash and mental stimulation so I went back to work. I was doing my usual sophomoric humor, ill thought rants and interviews on electric media.
One day I was told I would interview a real Guatemala Shaman (kind of a witch doctor). He was doing some sort of workshop in Boulder. Optimally I like to sit down with someone like that before the show, to find out what they wanted to discuss and get to know them a little. But the witch doctor’s flight was late and he got stuck in traffic.
The show was halfway over when the Shaman was whisked into the studio. He was striking — rugged, intense eyes, prominent nose, long hair — he scared me a little. We had only a couple of minutes before the microphones were hot.
Despite my lack of preparation there was a definite connection and chemistry. The interview flew by and I was sad to see it over. Before he left the room he leaned over and said, “Stop missing your mother, she is now pain free.” There was no way he could have learned my situation from anyone.
It wasn’t long after that, after I had shared this story with friends, when a local community leader, who saw that show, asked to meet. This man was a bank president, very successful and well known; he was also a big time Christian.
He asked about my encounter and then warned me that the man I spoke to very likely was a false prophet or perhaps a ‘friend of the devil.’ He urged caution suggesting that I could be led down a dangerous spiritual path.
I thanked him, left his office and went home to handle some poisonous snakes and sacrifice a goat (just kidding).
That banker could not have been any more wrong. What that encounter did was to suggest that there is much in this life and the next that we have yet to learn. If that shaman could know what I was going through without knowing anything about me, then perhaps my mother and those we’ve loved and lost could in fact be in a better place. Is it the exact same place the Pope and pastors talk about? Maybe not, but a better place none the less.
That encounter with that mysterious man did much to move me in the path towards healing and humor. Though I’m here to say, goat’s blood leaves a serious stain on your carpet (just kidding)…..
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at email@example.com. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores and at BackcountryMagazine.com/Store
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