Finding Unexpected, Inexplicable Grace

  • “Paul, I’m on the way out.” Grandpa’s words hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d called him after hearing of his hospitalization.

    In my childhood, whenever Grandpa visited, it was thrilling as Christmas morning. Whenever he would leave to return to his Chicago home, it felt like something was being torn out of me as my sobbing grief erupted into a searing migraine followed by nausea.

    And now, here I was, a young man in my early twenties, talking to this beloved figure as he stood at death’s door. I was awestruck, for it seemed he was taking me by the hand to the very edge of life while he peered wide-eyed beyond the curtain.

    Yet he was so matter-of–fact about it: “I’m on the way out.” There was no fear, no desperation, only an update of his progress in moving from one world to the next.

    It would be my final conversation with him. He died minutes after we hung up.

    I sat on the edge of my bed for the longest time trying to make sense of what had just happened.  It felt like I’d stumbled into territory that was off limits to mortals. The ticket taker of the universe had somehow gotten confused and I was mistakenly granted admittance to the theater of the sacred. I half expected someone to yell, “Hey! Who let that kid in here?”

    Ever since, I’ve been sneaking into shows where I‘ve had no business, to witness episodes of inexplicable grace.

    One time I hitchhiked across the USA and found myself standing amidst the redwoods of Big Sur, California. In a moment of extreme vulnerability, the scene suddenly shifted into a radiance that revealed the spiritual underpinnings of the material world.

    Another time I fell off the roof of a home we were building and fractured my left hip. Caught in a downward spiral of pain and anxiety, I abruptly broke into another dimension of utter peace, freedom, and joy. In that wondrous realm I stood in front of a being of light as we conversed telepathically about my life.

    There were encounters with my deceased father as he introduced me to his evolution beyond death. This man, with whom I’d had so many struggles while he was alive, became increasingly angelic, to the point where I didn’t want to leave his presence.

    There was Gwendolyn, who emerged out of a dream with such impact that, apart from my family, I knew this was the most important relationship of my life. She has become an impeccable guide in the integration of the dream state with waking life.

    There were my experiences at The Monroe Institute where I was introduced to the City of Light – a landscape so vibrant that the buildings themselves glowed with luminescent, aching beauty.

    But most of all, there have been times of intense, heart-felt connection to others, when our spirits intertwined to reveal our ineffable essence hiding beneath this masquerade of flesh.

    I know that such experiences are madness in a society that acknowledges only our physical nature. For much of my early life I declined to talk openly about such things.

    But there comes a time when you have to be true to your innermost being and passion. And so this strange, looping path at the edge of transcendence has become my life’s work, for I am convinced that it is the key to humanity’s next evolutionary step.  The theater of the sacred awaits us all.

    Paul Rademacher

    Paul Rademacher is Editor of Inner Story Magazine and CEO of Lucid Greening – a crowdfunding platform for projects based in spirituality and consciousness development. He is a former Executive Director of The Monroe Institute, known for its pioneering work in the exploration of human consciousness. He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity Degree in 1985 and served as a Presbyterian pastor from 1985 to 2000. He is a former building contractor, designer, and journeyman carpenter. Paul is an acclaimed public speaker, seminar leader, artist, closet musician, husband, and father of three. His book, A Spiritual Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe: Travel Tips for the Spiritually Perplexed, was published in 2009. Paul’s blog can be found at

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    1. Kathy
      Kathy says:

      Just this past October, I received sudden notice that my dear uncle was nearing his end. I rushed to the hospital in Philadelphia, praying that he wouldn’t pass before I got there. When I arrived, he was still breathing but barely. I held his hand and even though he wasn’t conscious I told him that if he wanted to go, it was o.k., that he didn’t have to wait until I left. It’s been my experience that loved ones who are about to transition often wait until they are alone to pass. My uncle died within a few minutes after that, his hand still in mine. I’ve never felt so honored and so loved, to know that he not only waited for me to get there before he passed, but also that he allowed me to be a part of his passing. Being present at a person’s final second in the physical world is something that has denied all of my attempts to put into words. It was very special and I like to believe it was his final “I love you” to me. When I came home from there, weary and drained, I turned on my computer and out of over 2,000 photos on my screensaver it was his that came up in front of me first. It’s a wonderful photo of him smiling broadly, dressed in a tuxedo, his arms open wide. To me it was his way of telling me that he was o.k., that he was happy, and that it was glorious!

      • Paul Rademacher
        Paul Rademacher says:


        Thanks so much for your comment. I agree there is something truly wonderful about both the entry and exit points of life. Birth and death both seem to bring us to an edge that feels very much like a point of crossing. And you are right about it being very difficult to express in our present language. The mystery is far deeper and more wonderful than words.



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