How On My Road to Heaven Came to Be

Years ago I helped a friend in our spiritual group self-publish her memoirs. She was a good writer, and her daughter was an excellent editor. I designed the book and handled its printing.

I realized that several people involved in the formative years of our spiritual group had already passed away. We lost their stories. Because these folks were real characters, their stories would have been captivating, maybe hilarious.

I mentally scanned our group and asked myself, “Whose stories would we really miss if he or she passed away soon?” The answer was obvious. Ozzie Delgadillo.

After a church meeting, I approached Ozzie. I said something like, “Hey Ozzie, I know you have great stories and I think they would make a good book.”

He replied, “Oh John, I don’t have any money for a book. Zero.”

I came back with, “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll handle all that.”

We both slept on it for several weeks and then mutually agreed. Ozzie was living on greatly reduced means at that time. You’ll read about it in the book. On weekends I visited him in his simple cottage in Rosemead. Ozzie sometimes had notes and often just talked spontaneously. The 24 hours of recorded stories yielded 237,000 words, more than twice the amount in a normal book.

As I transitioned into the phase of transcribing and editing, I was busy … I had a day job and volunteer commitments which filled several weekends a month and sometimes took me far out of town. When I saw an open weekend ahead, I would gear myself up to do nitty-gritty editing. Then, mid-week, I’d often get a phone call from Ozzie. “So, John, when are we going to get together?” Of course, getting together to share more stories, to laugh out loud about our lives, to explore our inner growth—that was more important than working on the book.

Ozzie’s eyesight had degraded. When I printed the edited manuscript in 28 point bold type, he could read it, but it was too much of a strain. So, his review for approval was done by Maravilla, his wife, reading it out loud to him. Thank you, Maravilla! She would read along and all of a sudden he would re-think something, “Oh my God, I said that? Really? I have to check with my cousin Alva.” Or he might say, “Wait a minute. I don’t use big words like that. John put something in there. Check with him.”

In a way, we were both coy with each other during the whole endeavor. I told Ozzie, “Now, Ozzie, I can make you a beautiful book, but I don’t know anything about marketing and selling.” I wanted to be impeccable in my integrity about my capabilities.

Ozzie would reply, “Oh, John, no problem. Make the book and we’ll sell it to our friends and then we’ll just see where the energy goes. Let’s see what spirit has in mind.”

Behind my cautious disclaimer was a very clear appreciation of the vast difference between getting the book ready for print and getting it ready for distribution. Funny, how behind his outer casual expression, he deeply was moved to write a book which would be inspired by spirit—a book which could carry the spiritual message in his heart. I never heard about this until Maravilla was helping me edit the part in the acknowledgments where I talk about approaching Ozzie. The vagueness on both our parts was perfect for me. I could focus on each step of the book, enjoying it thoroughly, gaining the fulfillment in the moment, without being too obsessed with the future. This has been a key attitudinal posture in several of my previous big creative projects. It worked very well. I recommend it.

Ozzie had a book in him. He knew it would be about spirit and inspired by spirit, but he didn’t have a clear idea about the content or format. Would it be a novel? A self-help book? Early in the project I told him that I thought a really great way to transmit spiritual teachings is through stories. And, of course we have a great example for that in our spiritual teacher, John-Roger.

It is a big accomplishment to complete the book. Yet, the far greater fulfillment was getting to know Ozzie intimately as a friend. When he phoned me, asking to hang out, did it delay the book? Sure, a little. But it was the right thing to do. Sharing the love, the belly laughs, the play-acting with each other, the bullshit philosophy, the profound truths, and heartfelt wisdom—that was pure gold. There are few things more fun than hanging out with Ozzie. Ask around.

Leave a Reply