sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Last Story from CH

My friend, identified as "CH", has since passed away and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He rose to the rank of Colonel in the US Army. He was also an area expert in East Asia and more particularly in China.  He was home based in East Asia Division but he also worked in the Near East At one point in time he was a body double of the Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi (Shah of Iran) when there had been a plot against the Shah's life. (Imagine a country boy from Arkansas as the Shah's double...let that sink in.)

He was a devoted father, a good husband, whose wife worked for CIA as did he and she is still employed there to this day.

Interpol General Secretariat, Lyon, France
If you're at CIA and they want you to retire and you're reluctant to go, it's was not uncommon during the time he worked there to show up and find your desk missing and it's contents archived, with a small box containing your personal effects where the desk once was. The number to your personal safe, changed. Some take the obvious hint, and others take a few weeks to let it sink in. They prowl the halls of the HQ building(s) holding a coffee cup or look for friends to pass time with and then succumb, and turn in their papers. 

CH was not a church going man and though he had definite opinions about Mohammedans that were in line with my own, religion did not play a large role in his life. I want to mention that here before we move forward. This is in no way a polemic or sermonette and I think that CH would be offended if I made it one. It's simply his account. Take it at face value, if you will.

CH had a significant heart attack circa 2006 and because he was living in Maryland, they hauled him down the street to Bethesda Naval Hospital. As a vivid critic of the US Navy, he claimed that somebody wanted him killed and that if they'd wanted him to survive, he would have been taken a longer distance to Walter Reid Army Hospital. However, survive he did.  


Parc de la Tête d'Or
A couple of years later we were both in Lyon, France at the Interpol General Secretariat. We had rooms at the Hilton Hotel, just down the Rhone River from Interpol. One afternoon was free, so we decided to go across Parc de la Tête d'Or (the large park near the General Secretariat) to a market and buy the components of a lunch, sit by the lake and eat said lunch. Mrs. CH had him on a strict heart-healthy diet, which he ignored while on the road. As we walked he said the following. 
"You know I had a heart attack and died there on the table. I was dead for quite a long time - a few minutes. I watched the doctors and nurses work on me and understood that I had passed on and had a complete feeling of peace. I also knew that I had a decision to make. I could go back into my body and live a bit longer or I could move on. It was not an easy decision because mortal life is hard and living is always a challenge and brings the pain of mortal clay. Moving on was happier, but I wouldn't have the opportunity to spend the time with my grandchildren that I wanted to and see my youngest son marry. I knew that my wife would do fine without me, but I would miss her. 
"As I hovered in the room, I made the decision to return for a season and no sooner did I do that then I was back in my body, alive, and looking into the operating table lights and the masked faces of Navy Doctors. naturally trying to hide their identities. 
"My point is this: I want you to know that I am living on borrowed time. I made a decision and I think that it was the right one, but every fear or misgiving about dying vanished with that experience. Today it's something that I'm not running toward, but I'm not running away from either. It will happen and I'll pass. Don't worry or fret when that happens because I'm not going to be unhappy about it at all. In fact, I'm looking forward to it." 
We found a market, bought bottles of carbonated lemonade, a fresh baguette to split, ham, cheese, some remoulade to spread,  and potato chips (crisps to my British readers) -- assembled sandwiches had a nice lunch and I don't remember what else we discussed. As with most private meals, we shared opinions and 'solved all the world's problems, if only the world would listen.'

RIP


19 comments:

  1. He seems like a hell of a man and someone with some mighty interesting stories. I can only imagine through the books I read what it would be like to live a life like his and yours, LL. You should incorporate CH into one of your books. Sounds like you miss him a lot. Soooo HUGS Big Guy.

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    1. Truth be told, I moved in the company of giants. They all helped me to be better than I was and I never left a friend behind, never stabbed one in the back and tried to keep the faith. As with you, John, and others on this blog - we have empty seats at the table, occupied by the ghosts of absent friends.

      CH, himself, was larger than life in a lot of ways. The key to CH was that he was honest with himself... to thine own self be true. Once you master that, the rest falls into place.

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    2. I was just curious if LL had incorporated him.

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    3. The book, "White Powder" is essentially non-fiction (same with Exiles from Eden). One of the characters in the book used to read this blog, and while I speak to him on the phone every Sunday, he's not doing much on the Internet these days. CH wasn't in that story, or anything that I've done to date. Maybe in the future?

      The new book that I'm working is historical fiction about pirates who were ancestors of mine. Because information is scarce, I'm doing some intense background work but it's still fiction.

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  2. Replies
    1. I was moved by his account and comforted by his assurances, and he intended to be comforting. However, he was also being honest. He told the nurses his account and they said that others reported the same thing, but that they disbelieved the truth of it.

      He wasn't trying to convince me or anyone else, just reporting the way a good CIA case officer would - what he'd seen, heard and experienced.

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    2. There are many things we don't understand. My son, the medic, says when he treated grievous wounds, it wasn't his hands that were working. He never questioned it, and his "save" record was way above average.

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    3. Yes, there are a lot things beyond my ken. I'm not a denier.

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  3. Rest easy CH. You were one of the good ones.

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  4. Thank you for the CH stories. I've been on the road and not really able to comment, but I appreciated them very much. As to CH's "post-death" account, I am reminded of a young woman whom we coded (as in "code blue") during my internship year.

    So there was this woman in her mid 20's in the cardiac ICU (CCU). She had previously been very healthy and even fairly athletic, but after a seemingly unimpressive viral illness became easily short of breath. Long story short, turned out she had developed a viral dilated cardiomyopathy, and her heart function did not recover with standard treatment. Things got worse and she was placed on the heart transplant list. Her heart had stopped previously outside hospital, and she had been brought back by CPR. I was in the CCU the night she coded again, and a swarm of doctors and nurses descended on her. Another medical resident was doing chest compressions while I readied a triple-lumen central venous catheter (her prior one had been removed only a few days ago, as she seemed to have stabilized). So while I prepping the CVC I was watching the code with one eye.

    As you know, it's difficult to interpret the ECG trace while someone is doing chest compressions, so every so often the person leading the code team would call "Stop compressions!" so that they could see if she had a spontaneous (i.e. on her own) heart rhythm. What I observed was that while the team were doing compressions the patient would flail her arms wildly, as if swinging at the guy waling away on her chest, and had to be restrained by people at the bedside. (CPR is not a kind and gentle thing. People occasionally get broken ribs from it.) When they ceased compressions she would go still.

    Well, we got the IJ line in, hit her with the appropriate drugs, shocked her a few times, and she reverted to normal sinus rhythm. At this point she'd also been intubated. She continued to be intubated/sedated the rest of my rotation in the CCU, so I didn't get to talk to her. A few days after I rotated off the CCU service I heard she'd been extubated, so I went to say hello. I asked if she remembered anything from the night of the code. She replied, hoarsely (having been only recently extubated), that she recalled "everything" in detail. I asked why she had been flailing her arms: "Were you fighting off the guy doing chest compressions?"

    She looked me for a moment then laughed, which set her to coughing. "Not at all. I was trying to stay in my body."
    MC: I don't understand what you mean.
    Patient: Look, my heart stopped. I was dead. When you guys were doing CPR I was on my back, looking up at you. When you stopped, I was above the table looking down at all of you. And at my body.
    MC: So you were literally trying to hold yourself in your body?"
    Patient: Yeah, and they kept knocking my arms out of the way. Assholes [laughs]. I went "out" three times. I know it sounds crazy, "holding myself in", but what did I have to lose by trying?
    ---
    And who knows, maybe "holding herself in" worked and that's what brought her back. I'm agnostic on this, but I am convinced that what she experienced was absolutely real to her.

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    1. I think that I would have been saying, "beam me up, Scotty, this planet sucks - I don't want to go back"...but this has been a common theme with people I've known who have died and then come back. It hasn't happened to me, but I take what people like CH say seriously because they're earnest and conscientious people.

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  5. Thanks. Very interesting.

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  6. This is a fascinating post and comments.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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  7. Thanks for the stories about your friend, CH.

    He had an interesting life!

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  8. Interesting stories all, thanks for sharing them. He's not the only person I've heard say the same thing.

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    1. Thank you for the royalty check!! Yes, there is a common thread and you and I are not the witnesses. Others are. It's prudent to listen but the only way we'll know for sure is when the Grim Reaper comes knocking (ask not for whom the bell tolls).

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  9. Your friend who you would trust the lives of you children to has attained a level where he is without doubt aware of massive amounts of misconduct and criminality in the bureau. And has with the same level of certainty done nothing. As the saying goes 'There are no good cops. Only the bad cop who break the law and abuse their power and the bad cops who turn a blind eye to these crimes'. The saying fits the FBI every bit as much as every LEO agency in America.

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    1. He retired from the FBI some years ago.

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  10. Thanks for sharing that interesting account of CH's other-worldly
    experience. I, too, would've told the mother ship to come back for me later. Life has its downs, for sure, but they only serve to make the ups all the better.

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