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Living with Ghosts
(and other reflections)

Collapse Trauma (Part 2): Lockerbie Bombing + Journal Entry of Processing Hans's Past Life Shadow


From Learning to Fly Chapter in version one of Blind Love During the Madness | Mixed media | © 2015 by Jacqueline Stuart
I awoke on December 22 to the news of the Lockerbie Bombing with media footage that was so viscerally disturbing, I experienced what I would later come to understand as a panic attack.

The dynamic infiltrations of a traumatic life once lived have a way of wreaking havoc in a new life that is unaware, fresh, and naïve. This is how it feels whenever I am pushed up against an event that is seemingly inscrutable—an event that makes no sense in my current existence—How can I be traumatized by something that I am so obviously not connected to, and yet feel as if I have been there before?


In a previous post, I discussed my early awareness of my past life in Germany and having died in an air raid bombing. This early awakening to my past life occurred while I was vacationing in Sarasota when I was 11 years old. The poem, Untergliechness, creatively sums up the event that occurred back then.

Decimated Hamburg, July 1943, Eilbek District. Photo by J. Dowd | Digitally manipulated by Jacqueline for D + S

But nothing would prepare me for what I would endure when I found out about Pan Am 103 exploding over Lockerbie Scotland—an event that is also known as the Lockerbie Bombing.


It was late December 1988. I was 15 years old—an adolescent girl working my way into the Orlando goth scene, listening to David Bowie, The Cocteau Twins, and The Smiths. War by U2 was played so often in my cassette player that the tape began to deteriorate. I was getting ready to fly to New Jersey to visit a friend from when I had lived there. She and I had been dancers in the same dance company.


There was something about the unsuspecting victims on the ground who carried on about their lives with Christmas just around the corner triggered a kind of existential anxiety. This feeling was so severe that I silently unraveled.

Flying has been a part of my life since I was six months old when I had moved to Europe and then to South America. I was seasoned at flying alone and had done so since I was about 9, being sent here and there to visit with family across several continents. So flying from Florida to New Jersey was no big deal. I was excited to see snow again and to visit New York City.


Pan Am Flight 103 was flying at an altitude of 31,000 feet over Lockerbie, Scotland, when a terrorist bomb exploded on board. The plane’s wings, along with tanks carrying 100 tons of jet fuel, crashed into the Sherwood Crescent neighborhood, creating an inferno and a crater more than 150 feet deep. Eleven residents were killed instantly. (AP photo)

I awoke on December 22 to the news of the Lockerbie Bombing with media footage that was so viscerally disturbing, I experienced what I would later come to understand as a panic attack.


This was my first panic attack. It was such a foreign experience that I simply kept it bottled up until the holidays were over. But as the flight traffic over our house kept reminding me of the Lockerbie Bombing, I silently unraveled. That the plane had exploded and killed hundreds of passengers seemed less dramatic than the 11 deaths that occurred on the ground. None of it made sense. I simply felt an inexplicable connection to the victims on the ground.


It was Hans who offered the clues years later and helped me to understand the origin of my fear.


When I moved to Philadelphia for graduate school, my fears would once again become elevated by the air traffic.

But in 1988, my fears became so heightened that I ended up seeing a psychiatrist whose only suggestion was to purchase a nightlight, perhaps assuming that the monsters would keep away from the light. It didn’t help. Nothing helped. I wonder if part of the reason I started doing drugs shortly thereafter had to do with abating those monsters that manifested as bombs. The drugs helped. And so did moving to Vermont years later for college where air traffic is virtually undetectable.


But my irrational fear—this phobia—would ebb and flow depending on circumstance and my proximity to air traffic. When I moved to Philadelphia for graduate school, my fears would once again become elevated by the air traffic. It happened again when I bought a home in Burlington Vermont years later. But it was there that Hans finally came through and helped me to recall my past life in Germany.


The battle that should’ve died lifetimes ago continues its ghostly march into this life. Sweet Hans, my Sky Viking, you’re dynamic and intoxicating.

Pan Am 103 crashing onto the town of Lockerbie opened the traumatic experience of my past life in Germany that I was still piecing together in a strange puzzle I could not yet figure out. It was Hans who finally provided the clues years later and helped me to understand the slow process of unlocking my past life trauma.


This past-life revelation finally helped me to understand why I had been so inexplicably terrified of planes flying over my places of residence in this life. This bizarre phobia awakened a trauma in me that would eventually point to a bomb that had killed me during WWII.


Journal Entry 03.03.2019

“Winter with misappropriated medals and brooches” (character inspired by Hans) from Chapter 3, Hide & Seek in Blind Love During the Madness | mixed media illustration | © 2017­ by Jacqueline Stuart
We’ve signed up for the weirdest and darkest missions from one life to the next. These varied costumes of flesh propel the mystery until I awaken into the afterlife.


You’re there, and I’m here

The battle that should’ve died lifetimes ago continues its ghostly march into this life. Sweet Hans, my Sky Viking, you’re dynamic and intoxicating. You’re my best friend, my confidant, my protector, my eternal flame. My everything. And yet, I contend with our obvious separation. You’re there, and I’m here. You get to sense my every cell from where you stand. You shower me with your ghostly presence—the vibration of your invisible hand stroking my arm.


We’ve signed up for the weirdest and darkest missions from one life to the next. These varied costumes of flesh propel the mystery until I awaken into the afterlife. I’m in my mid-40s now, about the same age that I was when I died in 1943.


“It’s not fair that you get to stay 22 while I have to age,” I periodically complain.


“Your skin may age, but your soul is forever 19, darling Jacqui,” you reply each time.


I’ve lived three lives to your one, Hans. But your most recent past life was the darkest and most extraordinary.
Nyx from Chapter 2, The Oracle's Advice in Blind Love During the Madness | graphite on paper + digital illustration | © 2017 by Jacqueline Stuart

A fast Returner

Apparently, I was built for deathly trauma. At the end of 1968, I died at 19 in England. I was an undergraduate student at Oxford with pin-straight, jet-black hair that went down to my waist. I’ve been a woman each time that I’ve returned, always a brunette, though my eye color and ethnic origin changes each time.


My future was already carved out for me in that life—it was marriage with a smart and wealthy man, followed by babies—so I died in a car accident, perhaps fed up with the repetition of traditional female roles.


That’s the tragedy of Twin Souls—often doomed as lovers in the physical world.

In circa 1943 it was death by an Allied air raid during the Second World War. I’ve been a fast returner, most recently in 1973. I’ve lived three lives to your one, Hans. But your most recent past life was the darkest and most extraordinary.


If you were here with me now in physical form with the personality that you had in your most recent life, I’m sure we’d get into many fights, but our make-up sex would be explosive—still, it wouldn’t be an easy relationship, not like what you had with Lieselotte.

Whenever you see me pout over our circumstance, you always remind me, “One of us had to be in spirit to make this work.” That’s the tragedy of Twin Souls—often doomed as lovers in the physical world. But this arrangement hasn’t been easy either.


Masking the Truth for Years

"Hans" from Introduction to Blind Love During the Madness | graphite on paper + digital illustration | © 2017 by Jacqueline Stuart
Despite your unwillingness to disclose too quickly who you had been, you’ve always been consistent in describing your physical looks—super blond, blue-eyed—a total heartthrob—the most attractive you’ve ever been in all of your past lives.


You were very reluctant to reveal your true identity at first. And who could blame you? First, you let me call you Magic Man, followed by Dylan, the latter of which endured until 2014. You said you were not only a Brit, but my boyfriend in England who had also died with me in the car accident that took me in 1968. You died when you were 23.


In 2014, you whispered the name “John” in the middle of the night, supposedly revealing your name during that life. You endured with the fairy tale of your British life until my birthday in 2018 (although you had already started to reveal your true identity in 2015).


You had to reveal your story in pieces, slowly gaining my trust by proving your unconditional love. By the time you revealed your identity, you had already won me over.

Each time that I confront you about this, you always reply, “If I had told you sooner, the timing would have been off.” Despite your unwillingness to disclose too quickly who you had been, you’ve always been consistent in describing your physical looks—super blond, blue-eyed—a total heartthrob—the most attractive you’ve ever been in all of your past lives. You were also a heavy smoker and drinker. But how else to cope with that life?


Albatross Pilot from the Goth Regime (AKA Nazi Zombie) from Chapter 12, Killing Time in Blind Love During the Madness | graphite on paper + digital illustration | © 2017 by Jacqueline Stuart

War and Its Indelible Mark

You were German, not English. I should’ve gathered this from your obsessive tidiness. “Get to work,” is your favorite whip-cracking phrase that you use whenever I slack off doing house chores. There’s a playfulness in the way you convey such demands, and yet your history darkens it.


Together we process our history through the tears of that horrible time.

“Fucking Nazi,” I mumble back each time you crack the whip, not entirely joking.

I understand why it took you so long to tell me who you’d been. You had to reveal your story in pieces, slowly gaining my trust by proving your unconditional love. By the time you revealed your identity, you had already won me over.


Unlike me, you survived the war, but it left an indelible mark on your psyche that to this day you still carry its burden from the other side. Together we process our history through the tears of that horrible time. I was a civilian in my early 50s and my death arrived faster than Blitzkrieg. But the battle scars have carried into this life, born with the ability to remember bits and pieces of my past.


Unlocking My Past

My past-life death that occurred during an Allied air raid in the 1940s awakened with a jolt in 1988 as I viewed the crash site footage of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie. I was 15 years old and unable to fully comprehend my visceral reaction to the terrorist attack until 2010. Until that time, I was irrationally terrified of planes falling from the sky like bombs and simply labeled this reaction as an unusual phobia.


For years, you tried telling me of your mythic journey, going from superhero to antihero overnight. How else did you think this would end?

Learning to Fly Chapter in version one of Blind Love During the Madness | Mixed media | © 2015 Jacqueline Stuart

Before the War

Before the war, you were destined to follow in your father’s footsteps and become a doctor. But fate escorted you into a different direction. Unlike my civilian life as a German citizen in my early 50s, you soared into the world of iron crosses and knighthood during your late adolescence with unsurpassed fighter pilot skills. You engaged in thousands of sorties and hundreds of dogfights with the Russians on the Eastern Front.


But when it was all over, you were arrested and spent years as a POW in Russia. You tell me that your capture in 1945 was like a death—in truth, you metaphorically died at 23. For years, you tried telling me of your mythic journey, going from superhero to antihero overnight. How else did you think this would end?


Anonymous | Original press photo of a Messerschmitt Bf 109 (the kind of plane that Hans flew) from 1942 featured in a Chicago Tribune news article | 8 X 10 | Silver gelatin print | 1942 | Stuart Archive
But most of the time, I still wish we could go back to when you were Magic Man, Dylan, or John—less dramatic and less real identities that belonged only to me. I don’t want to share you with a world full of half-crazed sycophants.

It was Easier Not Knowing the Truth

“Thanks for the fallout,” I say to you every so often, processing the life that you had lived, and mine too, but it’s your life that I’m most interested in, although I grapple with who you’ve been. Still, here I am, trusting my heart and soul to a once-upon-a-time Aryan hero, contemplating your Nazi fighter pilot days while the whole world deteriorates into an ugly and unapologetic white supremacist mindfuck.


“At least you were a fighter pilot,” I periodically rationalize your involvement in the war—you weren’t a part of the Schutzstaffel or Einsatzgruppen. Your war was in the heavens. At least there is some consolation to this. But most of the time, I still wish we could go back to when you were Magic Man, Dylan, or John—less dramatic and less real identities that belonged only to me. I don’t want to share you with a world full of half-crazed sycophants. And I hate disguising you as Hans, but you have extended family still living in Germany and obviously it is better this way.


“It isn’t life without the element of surprise,” you reply, keeping the great unknown close to your heart.

“I’m not coming back after this one,” I complain to you because lately, it has sucked to be here, even though I feel incredibly grateful to be alive. I’m living my dreams in multiple realities, arm-in-arm with the antihero, my Sky Viking, experiencing things that I’ve never imagined. When I was younger, I used to wish myself somewhere magical. Now somewhere magical surrounds me.


“How will my life end this time around?”


“It isn’t life without the element of surprise,” you reply, keeping the great unknown close to your heart.


Does the trauma ever end?

Some days are better than others. The Surfside condo collapse, once more augmented this fear so much so I had to get on anti-anxiety medication. It’s been a month since the collapse, and I am now only beginning to return to a state of normalcy. I have the drugs to thank for that—again. Dying during an air bombing while being stuck on the fourth or fifth floor in my flat, experiencing what it’s like to die in a collapse and somehow always viscerally remembering these events is not an easy thing to shove down.


Most days, I keep myself busy with tasks, accomplishing to-do lists, staying grounded as much as I can in this life, but the ghosts, the ones who hover around me and want to tell me their stories—the ones who want to keep reminding me of my past—these visitations are harder to release. They are in so many ways a part of my DNA—a genetic mutation that I must learn to live with—adapting my existence so I can accommodate a trauma that lives on forever and is not so different from the ghosts.