Update on 1/19/19: My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered now. It is a #1 new release in several categories. I would love it if you helped me make near-death experiences more mainstream.
National Poetry Month: To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’m posting “After the Wreck,” a poem published by the Binnacle in 2007 which is inspired from moments during my near death experience. I’m also including a poem by Rilke from Book of Hours: Love Poems to God which I adore.
Writing on Morphine: I wanted to document my NDE as soon as I possibly could. I stayed in ICU for a few days after surgery, but once I was moved to a hospital room, I asked for a pen and paper. My surgeon confirmed that I had died, but she didn’t feel inclined to talk about the spiritual experience with me. The nurses were a bit more willing to listen to my experience but most seemed busy and hurried. Some people only nodded and looked at me strangely when I wanted to talk about the powerful experience of being in God’s presence.
While in the hospital bed and hooked up to a morphine drip, my greatest fear was that I might forget those beautiful moments outside my body. The pain and disorientation made it difficult to write in a straight line, and the words bled down the page. I persisted in the hope that a few lines would be salvageable and used later. The lines about the angels in this poem were lines I wrote days after the experience.
Memory: To this day, I remember the vividness of the angels, the light, and the love from the divine intensely. I’ve never forgotten the experience and the images. What faded a bit were the direct messages given to me by light. I remember a lot of what was communicated, but the information flowed into my spirit body so quickly that it was difficult to slow down the information and remember it as specific words. Mainly, I knew that I had immediately and forever changed in that moment.
Outside of my body, I remember feeling slightly worried for my body as I looked down at the operating table, wondering if I would walk or run again. The angels assured me that I would have complete healing. In fact, they assisted in that healing, and my questions were answered not only with information but with demonstration.
Trauma and Forgetting the Beauty of the Light: I have not forgotten the NDE in the way some dreams are forgotten, but there are times in life when the material world, when trauma, or when stress has overwhelmed me. When overwhelmed and burdened by life, I can forget the beauty of that moment. The memory though remains incredibly vivid.
Certainly, the actions of others have startled me, shocked me, and sometimes horrified me. In my memoir, Healed, I write about being harassed by friend in a writer’s group, raped while living overseas, and beaten up by my first husband. I thought my life after experiencing an NDE would be pure bliss, and I would live a protected, purely pleasurable life. This was not my experience, and I wasn’t prepared to write about these traumatic moments until years later. Though I had greater moments of intuition after the NDE, I didn’t always know how to trust or use this intuition. In those first years after the experience, I also had an almost child-like openness, trust, and belief in others and that trust sometimes put me in close contact with desperate people.
Service and Healing: When I examine all my experiences together, these experiences sometimes seem like more than one person should have to endure. However, I have survived and thrived, and I realize others have endured far worse events. Perhaps part of my legacy is to experience the horrors that many women have experienced and to report that what remains after harm has taken its best shot at me is light and hope. I heard Matt Kahn say something similar about harm in his latest video, and this idea seems accurate to me. What also remains after the harm is a deep desire to heal myself and to help others heal. At certain times, I certainly forgot the light and its message. At other times, I became angry at God on this journey, but I always came back to the belief that I should help others and should remind others of their connection to a loving, forgiving source.
Self-absorption and all too human wishes and desires vanish the moment I ask my students about their lives or when I am of service to others somewhere in this world. There is no greater way to make the world a better place than to offer help or kindness. We are freed of ourselves in those moments. Who knew that freedom from the self would feel so wonderful? It does though.
AFTER THE WRECK
How could I know that the world would have compassion
and that at the moment of impact my back would crack,
but I would retain the sensation of this body, first floating
away from it, then returning, silvered and open-mouthed
like a fish caught on the hook of a reoccurring dream,
struggling, flapping about, and jerked up to the surface
of a room full of florescence, tiny desires to survive
pulsing through my body in rivulets?
How could I know that the angels I recalled from paintings
would become bright, intelligent companions at the end of my bed
and that the torrential light from their eyes would answer my questions instantly?
How could I know that this peace would disintegrate like ice chips
in my mouth and this calming knowledge would drown in refills of morphine.
How could I know that I would forget specifics in the way we forget dreams?
In these bodies, we are often anxious, but I love how Rilke reminds us that God is around us and in us from the beginning. Certainly, the light on the other side of this life felt familiar. This light is the same light we have in our eyes as infants, and the same light that comes for us at the time of our death.
I am, You Anxious One
I am, you anxious one.
Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?
I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am waiting.
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time.