And then it happened


I suffered through a near-death experience 15 years past.  It was a harrowing encounter complete with great fear associated with even greater pain.

My pancreas attacked me.  It came in the form of a sneak attack.  I went from no pain to a shocking level of agony and within minutes I was on the floor curled up into a little ball, rocking back and forth and moaning piercingly.  It felt like I was dying.

My then-wife rushed me to the nearest hospital where an ER doctor diagnosed my condition.  My pancreas had stopped working – it could no longer break down fats.  The hospital measured my Triglyceride levels at around 8,000.

The doctors told Carol I had a 50/50 chance of surviving my acute pancreatitis as they rushed me to an emergency unit to receive new blood.  I was an atheist at this point in my life, but I prayed for God to kill me even though I didn’t believe in any sort of God.

I prayed for death because of the pain.  It seems that pancreatic pain is so intense that doctors and hospitals cannot give a patient enough morphine to completely stop the pain for to do so may kill them.  This is what they told me, but I said, “give it to me anyway.”  Since God was not answering my prayers for a quick death, I started asking the surrounding medical personnel to please kill me.

The doctors of course ignored my pleadings so I remained in horrific pain and just laid on the table looking upward towards the ceiling tiles hoping that I might die, soon.

And then it happened.

The pain never completely abated but out of nowhere came unexplained peace.  I had a vision (of sorts) that God was standing in front of me.  I looked up at God and laid down my sword which I curiously found in my possession.  I laid this sword at the feet of God.  And I knew what it symbolized.  My life had not been the easiest.  I’ve suffered through some terrible events.  Laying down my sword meant I was surrendering my life over to God.  I had a brief sensation that I had lived a good life and that God was pleased with me.  And right at that very moment (when I placed my sword at God’s feet in a gesture of total surrender), an overwhelming peace engulfed me.  I heard God say, “job well done”, although I didn’t actually hear a voice.  This peace “which passes all understanding” lasted roughly 10 seconds but it was 10 seconds that made my entire life worth living.

At the end of my 10-second, life-altering peace experience, my world faded to black.

I awakened in an intensive care unit hooked up to a surfeit of wires and hoses.  As it turned out, I was still alive, and this sudden realization depressed me.  And it did so because I had made complete peace with my life, suffered through an intense dying process, begging for an escape plan throughout, only to discover I had to do it again in the future (die, that is.)  The bottom line was – I was not happy to still be here.

But the guy who went into the hospital that day was not the same guy who was discharged 8 days later.  That guy had been reborn, and it didn’t take long for him to notice that his inner world had radically changed.  My thoughts, the random ones created at the subconscious level and then sent to the pre-frontal cortexes for processing had a new theme.

I started to observe my thinking on a whole new level.  Gone were the random thoughts of I’m not good enough or I’m not smart enough (these thoughts were left over from my father’s early criticisms).  My replacement thoughts were much, much more affirming.  My self-esteem got a huge booster shot in the arm.

Like I noted prior, my NDE occurred 15 years ago, and a lot has happened in the interim.  My story is too long to reproduce but let me end with this:

After my NDE, my brain acted like it had been re-wired, much like Viet Nam had done (but in a bad way).  PTSD leads to new and different neural pathways being added to one’s overall brain chemistry.  Biochemical electromagnetic neural pathways are like a very sophisticated series of roads and highways for thoughts to travel through and mine had been rearranged on two occasions – one led to severe depression, and one led to much hope and optimism.

I started meditating for long periods of time after my near death experience (NDE).  During deep meditation, I am often visited by deceased family members including my son, Eric, who took his life 17 years ago.  Also, during deep meditation, I travel to places I’ve never visited or seen in a movie or read in a book.  I don’t know what these places represent but they seem otherworldly, and they can sometimes feel dangerous.  After having an extremely scary traveling experience, I stopped doing deep meditation until I acquired two travel guides.  Travel guides are like guardian angels, if you will.

My definition of deep meditation equates to 90 minutes or more of uninterrupted meditation.  It took me close to 3 years to reach this level of deep meditation.

Meditation is good for one’s total being, I believe.  The world has become a scary place and becoming scarier with each passing year, so anything we can do to calm our soul’s jitters is a boon.  We can’t control what is occurring on a global scale, but we can control how we respond to such.  Alcohol and pills are not the answer to feelings of doom and gloom.  These are but mere band aids, both of which can kill their users.

Prayer and meditation are two means by which we can embrace peace and tranquility, and both are part of my survival kit.  A spiritual approach to life can lead to many positive encounters and experiences.  My days as a card-carrying agnostic are in my review mirror.  I try daily to remain open to spiritual truths.  And even though I’ve been around for 7 decades, I’m still growing spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually.  Perhaps someday, I’ll grow up?

Ha-ha – probably not, though.

Post log – what did I experience during my brief crossover?  The short answer is I experienced enough to convince me that a physical death is not the end of conscious awareness.  Let’s just say, I no longer fear death even though I still fear the mind-numbing pain that often precedes it.