. . . or how everything I know about life I learned from my death
Monday, August 26, 2013
Who turned out the lights?
The cardiologist was speaking softly from some far off distant land. Calmly he reassured me that all was in better than excellent working order. "You have an extremely strong heart. You could run the Kentucky Derby and win. In fact, I don't know why we are even bothering to do this procedure," he said. "You can look right there in that monitor and see for yourself! We are now done with the left side and we are entering your right ..."
That was the last thing I heard him say. My heart stopped completely when he entered the artery with the dye and probe. Heart attack, myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, flat-line, deader than a doornail! It doesn't really matter what you say or how you say it - when your heart stops beating YOU ARE DEAD.
Later they would ask me what I remembered. I would recall the intense crushing pain and burning in my chest. I choked to breathe. My first conscious thought was "Oh my God, have I been SHOT?"
It was a searing pain like nothing I have ever experienced before or since. They were rushing around me rubbing salve on my chest, torso, and back where my flesh had been scorched from the paddles. "We had to paddle you three times to get your heart started again," I heard someone say, "And there is some second degree burning here on your chest and your sides so we are applying some salve to help you with the pain." I looked up at the attending nurse and said, "I swear that I can smell burning bacon."
"Who threw me up against the wall?" I asked weakly. I heard them laugh halfheartedly. The bottom of my feet throbbed and my ankles ached. Someone explained that when they 'defib' you the electricity exits out the bottom of your feet. "They will probably hurt for a few days," they assured me. That was an understatement. It would be nearly six months before I could step down on my heels without feeling pain. I could hear them talking to me but what they were saying seemed foggy and far away. I was remembering what had REALLY happened when I was 'out of the room' while they were busy trying to bring me back.
Since then a few people have jokingly asked me if I was really 'in the light' or if I saw Elvis or Lady Di. Later on when I asked my doctor why I didn't see angels he told me that it was because he didn't let me "get that dead".
The truth of it all is this - It was if I was given the gift of seeing everyone I have ever loved. One at a time I 'viewed' my relationships... With Bill (my significant other at the time), each of my children, my grandchildren, my siblings, my parents, my dearest and closest friends... The cast of characters appeared randomly - the living and those that have gone on ahead. It was a slide show filled with powerful points of light.
It was as if one at a time they stood there with me and we 'spoke' of our love for each other. I could actually feel the sorrow and pain that they were feeling at the loss of me leaving them. As each person appeared before me I thought of all of the hurts we had caused each other, the times we neglected each other, of the many, many things we had said that we shouldn't have and the many more things we should have expressed but had left unsaid. The silent sound of the 'I love yous' we left unspoken roared through my heart.
I thought about my deep and abiding love for each of them, my gratitude for the gift of their love and their lives in my life, the many times they lifted me up and the joys we shared. I could feel the depth of my deep, deep love for each of them. Sorrow flooded my soul with regret that I didn't tell each and every one of them how very much they mean to me when I had the chance. I wept at the sadness and sorrow we have shared and longed to be the wonderful blessing to them that they had been to me.
They say that your life passes before you when you die and now I absolutely believe that it is true. I believe that God brings all of the people that you have ever loved to be there with you. And He gives you that incredible slide show for you to view and re-view. It is my utmost certainty that God shows you the depth and breadth of your love - the love that you have been given and the love that you have given away.
My dear friend Grace Moore told me as she lay dying of cancer that Christ came to visit her in a dream. He told her that when we stand at the judgment bar on the last day we will be asked only one question... "HOW WELL DID YOU LOVE?"
And I can tell you that I now know personally that her vision is true. As I lay weeping on the table the doctor leaned over me and asked me what I was thinking. "I didn't get a chance to tell them how very much I love them," I whispered. "I didn't get a chance to say goodbye."
He looked me directly in the eyes and softly brushed the top of my forehead with a kiss and replied "well, now you can go home and say HELLO! You won't have to say goodbye for a very long time."
So what thought do I want to leave you with here? Don't let one more minute go by without telling those that you love how very much they mean to you. Hold on to each and every precious moment. Cherish your babies, your siblings, your parents, your friends... Be kind to those that despise you. Love them beyond measure. Love them long and hard and well. Don't let the sun set on one more day without telling everyone you love what he or she means to you. Say you are sorry if you need to, beg forgiveness if you must, climb over mountains and crawl across valleys to deliver the message to those that you cherish that your life would not be the same and you would not be who you are today without the gift of their presence in your life. Say it now and shout it loud while you can still say it and while they can still hear you!