When I was in my twenties, I knew a man who died. He had gone in for cardiac bypass surgery, and when the wound became infected, had to go back again so doctors could drain and clean the wound, and, I guess, figure out what the hell was going on in there that could be causing the septicemia. His wife told me later that as the medical team was moving him back to his room after surgery, he suddenly flat-lined. The usual controlled chaos ensued, during which time someone discovered that his ventilator tube had gotten wedged under his body, cutting off his oxygen. This was remedied, a heartbeat reestablished, and he went on to make a full recovery.
He told us later that during those minutes of cardiac death, he’d had an out-of-body experience. He said he’d hovered over the bed in a fury, thinking, Some damned fool has cut off my air. He could see the crimped tube and knew exactly what had happened, and could repeat word-for-word what the medical staff had said and done while the machine went beeeeeeeeeep.
It was exactly like him to be dead and pissed off about it. The guy was as no-nonsense a cowboy as ever has lived. Soft-spoken, undramatic, with more common sense than anyone I’ve ever met. He was also an atheist, as I was at the time, who made no attempt to interpret his experience or wonder however it could be true. He simply repeated what had happened, and we shook our heads over it and moved on.
But I still think about it sometimes. I don’t believe in an interactive god or a bureaucratic heaven in which certain earthly acts must be performed as an entrance requirement; I’ve never found a religion that could stand up to my curiosity or even truly tempt me to join in. I simply have never seen the point. This man I knew was a kindred spirit. He was not bullshitting me. He had seen his own death reluctantly, was dragged out of his body and unceremoniously plunked back in just as he was starting to look around. When I asked him whether he was afraid by what he’d seen, he seemed surprised, as if fear of death had never occurred to him. No, he said, I was pissed. Goddamn doctors. . .
What stories have you heard from beyond the veil? Have any of them challenged your beliefs?
P.S. I will be taking a break from the blog for a week or two while my family is in town. Happy days!