My Response to #LinkYourLife PROMPT: Fear, Compassion and Community Action

Warning:  Some of the material may be triggering.


I recently started blogging this year in March, and the experience has been fantastic.  I’ve connected with so many amazing people who are also in the process of writing their stories.  I haven’t yet blogged about some of the more tragic issues in my memoir:  abuse in childhood, my suicide attempt in college before I had the NDE (I woke up in dried vomit 36 hours after swallowing enough pills to easily take me over the edge), hospitalization for depression, facing addiction, escaping a violent marriage, and continuing to work on trust issues in relationships.  I have mentioned the stalkers, but I haven’t blogged about those two sick men.  I blogged about being a rape survivor, and this felt both frightening and then freeing.  No one challenged me for writing about it, but the private responses of friends were not exactly what I expected.  I feel more connected to strangers than to family and friends after writing that post.  Maybe that is the writer’s journey.

I realize my life sounds like a horrible, chaotic mess when I list all the traumas in this way, but largely my life is beautiful.  There is so much joy, so much hope, and so much beauty.  Much of that joy comes from being of service to others.  Many of my students over the years have shared moments of trauma with me, and I have an overwhelming assortment of traumas myself.  I can relate to most anything they share.  If I can’t relate specifically, I have faced enough pain to realize what pain can do to a person and the importance of creating peaceful, healing moments to ground oneself in a new reality.

One of the beauties of teaching is that I forget myself as I work with others.  I wish everyone could experience this amazing forgetfulness. The more I am in motion, asking how I might help others, the more my own pain is lifted away.  Even writing is beginning to do this for me.  As strange as it might seem, writing about trauma releases it at even deeper levels.  Pain shared with others seems to lessen the individual’s pain.

Although complex trauma is part of my story, and I’ve included most of these moments in the first draft of my memoir, my hope is that the book will show others that healing is a long journey, but one that is possible and worthy. I don’t run away from my pain any more.  I feel it.  I release it.  Feeling the pain and all the places that I have been shattered allows for more light to come through me in order to help others.  I am largely healed from much of my past, but like a caterpillar who has emerged from a painful cocoon my wings aren’t completely adjusted to flying.  I have to rest on branches frequently and tell myself that I am a free creature and not one bound up in pain and dependency.

I feel stronger because of all the many women’s stories I have read on various blogs.  I hope that my story of my NDE and how our lives are actually quite short from the perspective on the other side, reminds everyone to enjoy the little, beautiful moments in life, no matter what they are going through.  I hope that my knowledge of angels helps others to call on their guides and angels to help them navigate difficult patches in life.  I hope that if I can overcome what I have overcome, then others feel that they have incredible moments of healing in store for their lives.  After all, the title of my book is Healed, and that healing is past tense.  This does not mean I am completely free from post-traumatic affects.  It means that in my individual experience and journey I am able to live in my present moments with more joy and freedom than I ever imagined possible.  I’m not overwhelmed by my past.  I use it to help others.


National Poetry Month and Other Reflections


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.


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?

—Tricia Barker

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.

–R.M. Rilke