About a week after escaping the High Dependency ward I had an unexpected visitor to my bedside. Someone dressed all in black and wearing a dog collar entered the ward, locked on to me and began her approach. I watched this advance with a sinking feeling – I am not great with organised religion (or for that matter disorganised religion either) and I had a feeling that this conversation was not going to go well. I was not wrong – but not in the way I expected.
She pulled up a chair, sat down at my bedside and opened up with “I understand you are someone who has come very close to death recently.” As a conversation starter I have to hand it to her for diving right in there. I nodded and waited. “Did you” she asked “Feel or see any kind of higher presence during that experience?”
I looked at this lady – an ordained member of the church – and ran through the truthful answers in my head which were a) most of the time there was nothing but blackness and terror and b) one day I appeared to be stuck in a rock cavern with metallic spiders crawling all over the ceiling (once again, thanks morphine) and there was a presence sitting beside me but I was quite convinced at the time it was in fact two things – male and evil – and therefore the polar opposite of reassuring or angelic.
As these things ran through my head I suddenly realised that the vicar was awaiting my answer in a manner that suggested both trepidation and a kind of desperate hope. When she first approached I had been afraid that I was going to receive some kind of religious-based solace, whether I wanted it or not but now I realised that she was actually looking to me for reassurance. In that moment I desperately wanted to be able to tell her – and potentially you, dear reader – that I HAD felt a comforting presence or a sense of calm or seen a bright light or felt this outpouring of love. But the opposite was true and I didn’t want to lie. I shook my head and her face crumpled. “I am so sorry” I replied as gently as I could. “I’m afraid I didn’t feel or see anything”.
She nodded, thanked me quietly and left. I watched her go, feeling terrible. I have no idea what was happening in her life or career but I wish I had been able to give her the answer she was so clearly seeking.
To finish on a slightly less depressing note I CAN tell you that, as far as I was told, whilst I did skirt quite closely the idea of ceasing to exist, I didn’t actually clinically die at any point during my experience. Therefore we might be able to chalk up my lack of religious experience to just not trying hard enough. However I later ended up talking to one man who did die – obviously temporarily – I have no talent for talking to the dead, although, as someone correctly pointed out, talking to the dead is very straightforward. It’s getting them to reply that’s the tricky bit. He had a huge heart attack and, as he put it, had been dead and gone when the medical team restarted his heart. Unfortunately his time dead had cut off blood and oxygen to his spinal cord so when he woke he was paralysed from much the same level as me. His view was that he wished he had not been brought back – that he was peacefully gone, knowing nothing and now was being forced to live a life he would never have chosen as the alternative.
So, to finish, I have no idea where I or you stand on all this malarkey but my strong recommendation would be to live your life like this is all you’re getting. If I’m wrong about that then you can send me a smug note from the afterlife – presumably on really lovely, scented notepaper – but, if I’m not then it would have been a terrible waste not to have squeezed all the joy you can out of this one, despite the many obstacles that can get thrown in our paths.