What is it Like to Die? Part 2- My Experience

This post was originally published in August 2014

The week of June 8th I could feel a flare coming on and the medication was not working fast enough to control it. I expected that it would land me in the Cleveland Clinic, so Wednesday night, June 11, I went downstairs to pay some bills and get things cleaned up. The next thing I remember is that it was now 4 AM and I knew I needed to get to the hospital. I called Mary Ann and told her (I couldn’t walk upstairs). I don’t remember the ambulance ride or any part of the admission process, maybe a spill-over of the effects of the sedation.  I remember Mary Ann telling me that they were going to vent me. I knew that had caused problems with other RP patients and I signaled her not to do it. They warned my that I could die as a result and that it was necessary if they were going to fly me to the Cleveland Clinic. I didn’t care about dying, but I did want to get to the Clinic if we could. I signaled OK and I was out.

The next thing i remember is waking up at the Clinic 8 days later. (It had taken 36 hours for a bed to open so I remained on a vent and sedated in Cincinnati until Friday August 13th (I know, lucky for me).  I was flown to Cleveland Friday afternoon. Saturday morning, June 14, the doctor asked Mary Ann to step out of the room so he could put a line in my neck and I had a heart attack. While Mary Ann and our daughters prayed for me over the phone in another room, the “Code Blue” team gave me CPR for 30 minutes.  When my heart started, they put me in a medically induced coma to prevent or limit any brain damage that may have been caused by the lack of oxygen.  After 8 days in the coma, I responded to my name and could answer “yes” and “no” questions by nodding my head. Do you know who you are?  That was a softball, I responded to my name, right?  Do you know where you are? I knew where I was supposed to be, so I guessed right. The effect of the sedation wore off and I was “waking up.”

I’m retelling this story in case you have just found the blog and missed the longer version of the story in my initial post in this series. I also want to remake the point that I was out cold. During those 8 days, folks visited me, talked to me, read to me, prayed for me and I was completely unaware.

I have read 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real (both great books) and I would have expected a different kind of experience as I laid close to death. But, I didn’t hear angels singing , see people who had died before me, or get a glimpse inside the Pearly Gates. My only recollection from that time is what seemed like a short dream that I can’t even place in time.

It was night-time and I was in a strange city and needed to get home. I walked into the parking lot where my rented car was. I could hardly walk and I knew I needed to get home. It was a small red car. The cars in the lot were parked so closely together that I couldn’t get in mine. Someone I couldn’t see told me that there was a way to walk home so I started to walk. I was on a big concrete platform, like an outdoor performance pavilion and there were rows of concrete benches where the audience would sit. There was a wet slippery ramp that led down from the middle of the stage that I needed to go down. There were no guard rails. As I moved toward the ramp, I fell off the front of the stage. I was going to fall about 6 feet and land on the first concrete bench. I rolled to brace for the impact. I stopped in mid-air and “woke up.” Something told me that what had happened was not real but reflected a spiritual battle. In the end, God said “enough,” stopped the fight and spared me.

For now, I am taking the experience at face value. There was a spiritual battle going on while I was sedated and God intervened to end it. I may remember more as time goes on, but I think it is lost in the sedation.  Mary Ann is better at talking about that time and I will ask her to write a post describing her experiences during my heart attack and the days that followed.

No pithy lessons here.  I am still processing the experience and I’ll share insights as they come.  I guess the one thing this demonstrates is that we don’t always get answers.  Our job is to trust God to lead us and follow where He goes.  Even at times where we have only enough light to see what is immediately ahead of us.  Take the step you see and trust that the next step will be there.

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