What Happens When You Die? I Can’t Really Say … I’m Still Alive

It’s raining. A common thing this time of year here. It’s fairly warm at 6 degrees Celsius (42 for you Fahrenheiters), too. Also, typical. The rain is soft; no puddling. There’s a slight breeze blowing. I know this only because, through the window, I can see a branch or two wave at me occasionally. Inside, the house is dead quiet. Not a typical thing, especially for a Saturday morning. The stillness and silence are, however, glorious and as I sink into the mood, I am reminded of a similar feeling from a long time ago.

I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that I was sick with both of my pregnancies. I managed, if poorly, with my first, but couldn’t keep it together with the second. About two months in, after a couple of weeks in the hospital, I was sent home. It was, like today, a Saturday.

My toddler was away. The plan was to pick her up the following weekend. Give me time to settle in. The house was quiet with no little voice chattering. No little feet running about. It became quieter still after my husband headed back north for work early Monday. I was alone. I was still very sick.

By Tuesday, I knew I’d best get help. The nurse reported that the doctor didn’t know what to do for me but would see me. I was to come in at 4PM. It was barely 9AM.

My father was dying but he was all I had. Looking back, I could have called a cab. Golly, I was so provincial. Hehe. Anyway, he got me to the appointment. It must have taken a lot out of him.

When my name was called, it took everything I had to get down the hall and into that room. My doctor walked in eventually. Head down, sullen. He finally looked over at me and gasped. I smiled and tried to speak but found it almost impossible. I put my head back to rest it on the wall behind me. I couldn’t catch my breath. “What’s up?” I asked. He turned away from me and picked up the phone mumbling something about an ambulance.

“You’re dying” was all he said. I smiled and kept gulping air.

And here’s where the feeling attached to the memory begins.

During the subsequent minutes that turned into a couple of hours, I felt wholly at peace. Still in the office, I told the doctor my father would take me around to Emergency. The hospital was, after all, two blocks away. He had to drive right by on his way home. Someone can be waiting for me there, yes? I stood up, still struggling to breathe. He reached for me and helped me back down the hall, outside, and into the Lincoln. My father had no idea how dire things were. I had asked the doctor to say nothing. “He’s too ill, you see.”

Once laying down on a gurney, I relaxed further. I was hyper aware of everything and everyone around me and yet felt no pain, no fear. Colours were vibrant. The air, crystal clear. I calmly watched as an orderly clumsily tried and failed repeatedly to insert an IV into my arm. “There’s no vein!” he moaned. I watched the blood drip-drop to the floor as a frustrated superior pushed him aside to take over and do the job properly. I smiled.

Finally, on a ward and in a bed by the window, two nurses finished straigtening blankets and wiping away the dried blood from my arm and hand. They filled in their respective charts and pulling the long white curtain around me, looked at me, smiled kindly, and walked away. Chatting quietly as they left the large, sterile room, I eavesdropped on their conversation.

“Where’s her husband or family?” said one to the other.

“Don’t know, but someone should be here. She’ll not make it through the night. Sad, eh?” came the answer.

I’m certain the smile remained on my face as I drifted off to sleep.

In the wee small hours of the night, my body stopped working. I no longer fought for air. Nanny, my beloved grandmother joined me. It was lovely, such a comfort, to see her. I ran toward her open arms but she held back, looking into my face, searching my eyes. When I gave her my full atttention, she reached out a gnarled hand, a hand I knew so very well, and touched my tummy.

“You’ve got to go back, sweetheart. You have things to do.”

I woke with a start. There was light shining through the window and two men at the foot of my bed.

“Don’t tell me you two are dead!” I said with a smile.

The OB-GYN spoke while my GP stood and stared at me, quite ashen.

“It seems you have a baby who wants to be born.”

My doctor finally mustered his courage and said something like, “You shouldn’t have made it – but you did – so we have to keep you here now. Get you well.”

My smile became a laugh.

In the weeks that followed, that peace of mind and body gradually faded, replaced by the normal angst that accompanies life. I worried. I felt pain. I stepped out of the present.

Today, I am reminded that perhaps the experience never left me after all. In the quiet and stillness, it seems I can access the memory and rekindle the serenity I felt. Such pleasure. Infinite hope. Love.

My wish for you all is that you find a way to access grace. In its divine form, grace sanctifies, assisting in our regeneration. I haven’t used its power adequately, not clung tightly enough to it when offered. That written, it’s never too late to start.

Until tomorrow…

13 thoughts on “What Happens When You Die? I Can’t Really Say … I’m Still Alive

  1. Gosh, what an experience! Is the serenity, hope and love you experienced what you refer to as grace? I’m an agnostic about life after death – i.e. I neither believe nor disbelieve, because there’s both too much ‘evidence’ for each stance, and not enough. However, if I was pushed to make a stance one way or another, I think I would lean slightly towards believing it. What are the things your grandmother told you that you had to do? Give birth to your daughter?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Frances Sullivan

    I’m an agnostic, too, about most of it. The words I use convey the sacredness of concepts rather than the arbitrary governance of some interventionist, anthropomorphic god, of course. As for grace, it’s a bit different than the other three. It’s bigger than the others almost. It’s like a universal gift as it were – an ability to reach beyond, glimpse the infinite. I didn’t attach divine to it because I’m not a fan of separating those beautiful ideas – making them of a god versus something less in a human. Watching a graceful dancer, swan, or bird in flight is grace in action and can inspire the watcher to aspire to higher heights. Grace within or grace without is all divine to me. As for Nanny, she said only what she said. She didn’t elaborate. Of course, I assume my daughter was part of it, but I think she just meant it wasn’t my time. Funny, that was almost 40 years ago. I wonder why I recalled it so vividly today?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frances Sullivan

      You know, I’d usually scoff at something like that, Katrina, but since mid-December I’ve had interesting feelings – kind of unique and intense. I’ll follow myself with some interest. LOL

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I never knew you went through such an experience Frances. How long did it take you to recover? Very scary.
    I had a very painful brush with death many years ago. My parents came from Toronto to be with me in the hospital. Mom asked a priest to give me the last rites. I refused saying “I am NOT going to die!”
    Acting on the adbice of my next door neighbor, I was hooked up to a different drug and I began to heal. I owe my life to my dear neighbor.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    I am so happy you survived! Ox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frances Sullivan

      I’m happy you survived, too. I was back to normal within a couple of months. I lost a lot of weight and kidney and bladder control but everything gradually retuned – especially the weight being pregnant and all. Hehe. I never let on how sick I was – only the docs knew. We didn’t discuss it. It’s specific to pregnancy so not given much attention. Plus I was a drama queen so people didn’t take me too seriously. It changed me a lot, though. Hopefully for the better. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. near-death experiences are profound & change who we are, making us more thankful we still have choices. I had one in giving birth to full-term twins at 42. Even after 20 hours of labor, we still didn’t realize I was having twins; it took a sonogram at the 2nd hospital. Lara & Meagan were born by C-section, and their adoptive parents were there to hold them, and realize they were healthy at 7 lb.2oz each. As I awoke, a white light surrounded me; I asked to nurse the girls, and on the 3rd day, they went home with their new parents. It was time to let them go into a new life I could not offer them. Now they are 32, living in Chile and Argentina, far from the home in Eugene Oregon where they grew up.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Frances Sullivan

    Oh Carol, this story of yours makes my heart hurt. Of course, you did what you needed to do and it took such bravery! I am sure you regretted/doubted your decision on occasion despite knowing you did what was best for your babes. Thankfully, you were able to reconnect and get to know your daughters and have a relationship with them. Childbirth is natural, but it can be deadly, as we know. I’m glad you survived your ordeal. I imagine your beautiful twins are, too.

    I hope you remain well despite the challenges we face these days. E-hugs coming your way and with a thank you for sharing your story with me. xx


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