Nussa Areem and the Angel of Death
Just as in some good old-fashioned fairy stories, this tale takes place in the land of the Arabian nights where it is hot and dry, genies live in bottles, carpets can fly, treasure is found in hillside caverns and shoes have long pointed toes. This kind of unrealistic setting is often used for stories with spiritual implications because somehow they don’t fit so well into modern life, genetic cloning, credit card fraud, 9,11 or other such spirit chilling stuff. Spirituality seems so far away from modern life—spiritual concepts often sound like a fairy story!
So lets get started….
One day Nussa Areem was contemplating just such a pair of pointy-toed shoes as described above which he could see lying in the rocky dust alongside his legs. They were his shoes and somehow, in the scuffle, they had come off his feet. He was not a spiritual man and even if he were, at this critical time, any spiritual thoughts would have been obliterated from his mind. The only thing on Nussa’s mind was the thought of survival.
The Areems had always been successful metal merchants in the village nestling in the valley below the mountain pass where Nussa now lay upon his back contemplating his shoes and clutching his chest with both hands. Near him was his overturned cart that had spewed all its wares out into the dust before the brigands carried most of it off.
Nussa felt very uncomfortable. Something heavy seemed to be sitting on him. His decorative shoes swam in and out of focus and the possibility his attackers had seriously injured him slowly dawned. His fingers explored the gaping hole in his tunic shirt that, he decided, was the entry site of a stab wound to his chest. Surprised, because he felt no pain, he lifted his head to look. Yes, the situation was bad – very bad – he needed urgent help.
Strangely calm, he looked about – and was startled to see a figure sitting quite close to him on a nearby rock.
“Don’t you see I’m injured and in need of help?” he challenged the figure.
“I do – yes. I am here to help,” said the stranger.
“Well, do something!” urged Nussa.
“I AM doing something!” assured the figure. “I’m waiting.”
“This is no time to wait! I need assistance right now – I can’t seem to reach my shoes. But if you helped me put them on, I could lean on you while we walked down to my village.”
The figure smiled and shook his head. “ That is not how I can help you – sorry. But I can take you over to the other side.”
“My village lies in the valley on this side of the pass. My wife would call the physician. She could stem the flow of blood with cloths while we waited for him. Why would I need to go down the other side of these mountains – who could help me there?”
“I mean, I will help you die,” explained the figure.
“Who are you? Another enemy? A brigand? One of my attackers?” asked Nussa impatiently.
“I am the Angel of Death,” announced the stranger.
Nussa Areem focused his eyes intently on the figure. It seemed to be encloaked in a robe that glowed as warmly as the fire in a dark opal. He could not make out the face.
“I am your friend,” the figure said.
“Humph!” exclaimed Nussa and laid his head back on the ground. A sudden weakness overtook him.
“How?” he asked.
“How what?” replied the Angel of death.
“How can you be my friend?” said Nussa.
“I am everyone’s friend. I am the most loving Angel of all the Angels,” elaborated the figure.
“Humph!” snorted Nussa again. “I assume I am dying and that’s why you’re here. But all over the country there are people dying at this minute – why are you not with them?” he asked.
“Oh, there are many of us – “Angel of Death” is a position filled by those Angels with infinite love and empathy for the human condition. I am one of millions.”
“I see,” replied Nussa. “How did you find me?”
“Well, dying isn’t something that just happens without planning and purpose. It is your time. All the paperwork has been done, most permissions granted, things arranged so to speak,” explained the Angel.
“What permissions haven’t been granted – and what do you mean by that?” inquired Nussa.
“As being born is carefully planned by your soul and the details of your new life selected by you and the Keepers of the Records, so your death, is arranged in the same way. Nothing is accidental. However, the Keepers of the Records, having placed over you a cloth of forgetfulness for your lifetime (your cage in truth), they must remove the cover and set you free only at the very precisely correct moment. I am waiting for that moment,” the Angel of Death went on.
“I didn’t know that,” sighed Nussa Areem feeling quite weary at trying to follow the conversation. “But there are a lot of things I haven’t finished yet – and I’d like to explain these things to my wife.”
“Well I don’t know what’s holding up the Keeper of the Records, I would have expected him here sooner than this.” grumbled the Angel.
“I have things to do – I do not want to die right now. The marriage of my daughter and the birth of my son’s baby await me in my life. My business partner will miss me and so will my wife. I haven’t told my wife recently that I love her and I need to apologise to my neighbour for not lending him the money he wanted to borrow from me ten years ago. I should have lent it to him. I have things to do.” Nussa’s shoes flowed into focus. “And I still owe the shoemaker the last payment on my shoes. I can tell the Keeper of the Records all about the things I still have not done!”
“Your daughter is marrying a good man, your son will have a healthy baby boy who will give him great pleasure, your business partner will find a new partner, your wife knows you love her already, your neighbour found better work because you did not lend him the money and the shoemaker overcharged you for your shoes.” said the Angel of Death.
“The important things have all been done – it is your time,” he pronounced.
Nussa Areem sighed deeply. He was in no pain. Whatever had been sitting heavily on his chest seemed to have moved. Sleep seemed to be overtaking him. Suddenly he became aware of the Angel of Death bending over him. It was speaking.
“While we wait, come with me. I’ll show you around.”
“Where will you take me?” Nussa questioned him.
“Well, I could take you to the place called heaven where the dead live, or I could take you to the place where all experiences are stored, or I could take you to the place where every sound ever uttered is archived, or I could take you into the land of all books, or I could take you to the cone of knowledge, or you could surf on a wave of light – or – “ the Angel paused, thinking.
Nussa was too tired to argue – and besides, he felt as if he was lightly floating up into the mountains. The Angel of Death took him by the hand.
They moved with great speed through time and space. Nussa became aware of vast washes of light and colour, which seemed both within and outside of him. He saw himself as a small boy, himself growing up, his wedding, his family, and his whole story. It came to him as one episode of experience re-lived. Furthermore, the histories of his family, all his relatives, his friends, his partner, his neighbour and even the shoemaker seemed woven in perfectly, making his own life so meaningful that Nussa began to feel he WAS all these people too. He was flooded with feelings of omniscience.
Not only was he them, but he was also the robbers sorting through his wares that they had stolen from him not long ago. He was the mountains, the wind, the sea and the sky. He was everything and everything was he. And still he seemed to be exploding outwards.
He lost all idea of personal identity. He forgot everything about himself. He was great happiness – timeless, boundless joy.
Joy was all there was.
Excruciating pain stabbed into Nussa’s chest. Hands roughly jolted his head from side to side.
“Wake up! Wake up! Nussa, my love, wake now for heaven’s sake! You can’t die on us – we need you!” cried his wife. “Here is our neighbour to help you – and our son is also here!
“Oh, my God, this is terrible! I knew something had happened to you when the old donkey came home alone. We have come to help you – open your eyes! Are you alive?”
“Yes, woman, I AM alive – you’re hurting me!” Nussa squinted through his lashes and groaned loudly.
“Oh thank God!” He’s alive!” his wife showered kisses all over his forehead and cheeks. “Our neighbour has brought his cart and donkey. We will lift you into it. Hold my shawl to your chest. Come son; lift your father gently now. Oh, I hope he doesn’t die!”
Mrs. Areem was almost demented with worry and shock. She fussed and dithered, making Nussa comfortable in the little wagon. “You’re not going to die on me, are you?” she muttered.
Nussa looked around for the Angel of Death. The figure was nowhere to be seen.
“Are you going to die?” demanded his wife.
“No, woman! Of course I’m not – not yet. I have lots to do! Get in the cart with me – I need you by my side for I dearly love you.” Nussa grasped his neighbour’s arm as he went to the front of the little caravan. “Thank you my friend for helping me. If there’s anything I can do for you – please ask.”
And to his son he called, “You’ve been a good son the best a father could have had. But remember to bring my shoes please. I’ll have need of them and anyway I’ve paid what they are worth.”