My Near Death Experience
Reflections on this World and the Next
This is a difficult hub for me to write because it touches on a time in my life that I am still processing.
Five years ago I was a thirty year old mother with two little girls, aged 2 and 3, and a 3-month old baby. My husband was pursuing his PhD. and we lived in married student housing on the university campus; housing that we lovingly nicknamed the "academic ghetto" because of its cinderblock walls and black mold. When I wasn't feeding children, wiping bottoms or chasing after my toddlers, I was immersed in writing poems and short stories. Writing became my lifeline and the only escape I got from the perceived drudgery of my life. Emotionally I felt like I was treading water everyday, and if I stopped for one moment, I would drown.
I was also severely overweight, obese some might say, and my health wasn't right. I had become so used to the chronic infections and pain that I didn't know what it felt like to be "normal" anymore. I thought that was just how it is: you get married, have kids, feel like crap.
Oh, I had been to doctors, but they told me my problems were all in my head. They viewed me as a psychosomatic female and I tended to agree with their assessment.
March of 2004 my propensity for infections increased. In addition to mastitis I suffered from weird infections in my nether regions. I called my midwife and my mother, crying, wondering why I was so sick all of the time. Shortly after these phone calls I caught what I thought was a normal cold- but it wasn't. It ended up developing into a very rare Group A strep pneumonia with complications of septic shock.
Septic shock is pretty nasty. In a nutshell: bacteria enter your bloodstream and infect all of your organs. One by one your major organs shut down until your heart stops and you die. The odds of surviving septic shock are rather grim. Some say there is a fifty-fifty chance of survival, but E.R. doctors I've talked to said the statistic is more like a twenty percent. The late Pope John Paul II died of complications of septic shock from a urinary tract infection. Septic shock is the reason many people die in hospitals. Septic shock is usually the main reason for death from pneumonia.
On the Brink
When I arrived at the E.R. my blood pressure was 65 over 30 and I was in acute renal failure. The hospital staff didn't know I had septicemia so they did a CAT scan of my body. After the scan they wheeled me into the section of the E.R. where my husband and 3 month old baby were waiting. The intern, a blonde man with wire frame glasses, told me:” From your scan it looks like you have either pneumonia or a blood clot in your heart."
The room went crazy for a moment and I felt like I was looking at my husband and child from the wrong end of a telescope. This might be it. The end of my life. I began to pray that I could stay on the earth and remain a mother to my children.
At that point I was separated from my wide eyed infant and confused husband. The staff wanted to check if my IUD was a source of infection. But my blood pressure was so low that they couldn't give me any pain medication. They put me under anesthesia and told me to be calm while putting a square, see- through yellow mask over my face. I panicked. Was this it? Would this be the last time I saw the world?
They were working on me when I became conscious again. I couldn't move or talk, but I could sense that they were working on me. I couldn't open my eyes. All I could see was an orange light stretched into the shape of a coffin. I prayed again that my eyes would open so they could see I was awake. My eyes must have moved because someone said: "Don't worry Mrs. Clement. We are putting you under again."
The next time I became conscious they were shoving a pic line through my neck and into my heart. I screamed and tried to rip it out of me, but someone held me down and I was asleep again.
The third time I became conscious I was no longer in my body.
There was no body, no time and no space. It was like I was weightless, drifting in an infinite black ocean. There was no me. I was merged into the nothing that was all pervasive. I was not afraid nor was I happy. I was waiting.
In the midst of this sea of nothing a voice spoke to me. It was a voice that I didn't hear with my bodily ears-it was vibrating, everywhere and commanding. A decision had been made.
The voice said: "You will live!"
Woman Talking About "The Void"
Life after Death
Eventually I awoke from my induced medicated coma in the MICU. The pain was awful but I was guided and cared for during that time by, I believe, physical and heavenly forces.
Wiithout being told, I already knew that my milk had dried up and
that my children were being protected and cared for. I was also held and soothed by the arms of angels, both living and unseen. These angels surrounded and held me during painful episodes of that first week in the MICU and beyond.
The day I was finally wheeled out of the MICU the staff looked surprised. Here I was, Lady
Lazarus, back from the dead. Many couldn't believe that I had made it. Earlier when I was on the brink of death the MICU nurse had told another staff member, not realizing my father overheard her conversation, that I would not live through the hour. Everyone was shocked that I had survived.
When I was settled into my new hospital room I had a panoramic view of the city. I will never forget how the sun glinted off the buildings and the rush I felt, despite the pain, of being alive. It was like having given birth, but better.
I did wonder about my NDE, however. What was this place of darkness? Where were
the tunnel and the light and all the rest of it that I had read in books by
Moody and company? The idea of eternal darkness sent a chill down my spine. Later, as I did research into NDE, I found out that others
had experienced the place I had been. Some called it "the void" and
it was the stop before going down the tunnel. The void is a way station and a
point between this life and the next. I was not dead but I was not living-somewhere in-between.
I no longer fear death. I no longer wonder if there is an afterlife. Many atheists and scientists believe what I experienced is just a trick of the brain, but I disagree. What my NDE gave me was confidence that there is life after death and that we are loved infinitely and eternally.
I have renewed respect, zest and joy for life. Though the ride has been bumpy, I have changed my life for the better since my NDE. I have taken a pro-active role in acquiring my health again. I treasure my children and my role as a wife and mother and am so grateful that I have been able to have three more children since that time (twins are in the mix!). Almost losing my life has taught me how to live with more power and passion.
Months after I left the hospital I would cry a lot, over little things mostly. The movie that made me cry the most was the French romance Amelie. For those of you who haven't seen it, Amelie is a movie that celebrates the small things in life; skipping rocks over water, crème Brule, the way the wind moves through an empty cafe. The little things are important because by recognizing and enjoying them we live in the present. We joy. My NDE taught me that love and life are the greatest gifts and instead of "getting through it" we should allow ourselves to be still and enjoy where we are at. I am no longer "goal oriented" because that focus means that something better is just around the bend. Nice idea, but what if "around the bend" never comes? What if, to quote Jack Nicholson, this is as good as it gets?
It is my belief that we should honor and treasure the opportunities for connection within our families and communities. We shouldn't wait, we shouldn't hesitate. We should love-before our lamp flickers and vanishes into the night.
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