Choosing Life: 5 Surprising Lessons I Learned from Almost Dying
A few weeks ago, I found out I had giant kidney stone that, thank goodness, I caught early. Yes, it was painful, and I ended up having to be in the hospital for a night or two, but I was able to have a procedure done and taken care of right away.
You see, 6 years ago I had a similar situation that I had not caught early and found myself in the hospital with sepsis, a deadly blood infection. In May of 2015 I nearly died from a kidney stone (and I didn’t even know that was possible. After all I’d never had one before!) I had a seizure on my couch. Thank goodness people around me noticed and took me to the emergency room. I thought I was just tired and was planning to put myself to bed. I hardly even remember being taken to the hospital. Little did I know that I had a very severe blood infection and no idea that the clock was literally ticking down on my life. I later learned that for every hour that passed I was 10% less likely to survive (thank goodness they don’t tell you those sorts of things until after you recover!) The doctors immediately started pumping my body full of antibiotics and scheduled me for an emergency procedure. I hardly even remember going into surgery.
To this day, it is one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had (and I can tell you it was nothing like what I had ever read or heard about)
Here’s what I experienced:
I remember I was wearing one of those “Bear Paw” hospital robes, standing in the hallway of a hospital (definitely not the same gown I was wearing when I went into the hospital)
I looked down at my feet in a pair of hospital socks walking down a gray hallway, and as I looked up I saw a sign that read “8th floor” and thought to myself, “Where am I?” Now you must know, I had no memory of who I was, or the life I had been living. Everything had sort of faded away, there was no context to anything.
At the end of the gray hallway that split into two directions, there was a person standing. No angel, no glowing God, just an indistinct person that was neither male nor females, standing in a robe. As I walked towards them, I didn’t feel fearful, in fact, what I felt was love and compassion.
They said, “You have to choose.”
At this point I was a deer in the headlights. I mean I didn’t even know what they wanted me to choose. “What do you mean I gotta choose, choose what?”
They repeated, “You just have to choose.”
I turned my head and looked down the hallway to my left and it looked all gray; I looked at the hallway to my right and it looked all gray. It didn’t look like there was a light shining in either direction. They were indistinguishable gray hallways.
I asked, “Which way do I choose?” After all, I still had no concept of my life. Everything had faded away.
“I can’t tell you that. This is your journey. You have to choose.”
I knew that I had to make a decision to go one way or another, but I couldn’t tell which way was the right way. I thought to myself, “Am I choosing to live or die? If so I’m definitely going to need to change my clothes wherever I’m going I can’t wear this hospital gown.”
Suddenly I heard a sound, a song coming from my left and I just turned towards it.
It wasn’t like I questioned it or had to think about it. I just turned left towards the beautiful music I heard.
Immediately the hallway I turned towards lit up and so did the being that I had been talking to. I instantly felt myself back in my physical body, laying in a hospital bed, hearing the beeping monitors with somebody touching my foot. I opened my eyes and there was my loving partner, sitting at the foot of the hospital bed with a worried look on their face holding my left foot.
That was it. I went from being completely unaware of what I was choosing, to instantly aware that I had chosen life.
I mean, what if I had gone right instead of left? Would I still have come back? I guess I don’t know for sure, but it felt like the sound of a heart that I followed. At least that’s what it felt like. Definitely a feeling.
I knew I had to make the decision to go one way or another, and the being who was there was completely neutral, and couldn’t influence my decision one way or another. The weirdest part was, I didn’t really know what it was I was choosing, there was no context. I had no way to make my decision from my head, there were no facts to base a decision on, no pros and cons to weigh. My choice to live had to be from the heart; there was nothing else.
I was waiting for the orchestra, the glowing lights, the pearly gates to open up. But nope. Just woke up in my hospital bed.
This was only the first of several bizarre experiences that happened during my stay.
I later learned that two people died on the 8th floor that evening unexpectedly during routine procedures. They both were relatively young and healthy adults, and I remember hearing the nurses say, “It always comes in threes.” Whew, I guess I dodged that one.
Now I wasn’t completely out of the woods yet, they were waiting to see if the antibiotics were taking hold. My partner and a few family members were in the room with me, holding vigil if you will, and a little soft-spoken woman wearing a volunteer badge came to my room offering hands-on healing. We’re all accustomed to Reiki ourselves and of course invited her in. She looked at my family and said, “I see you’re all healers too. Why don’t you join me?” Not sure how she knew that, but they all joined in together for a hands-on reiki healing, and I can tell you that healing was a turning point for me. She quickly left the room after she was done, and as the nurse returned we talked to her about the volunteer woman. She and the other staff didn’t know of any volunteer reiki healers, and the funny thing was she returned to my room a second time to do another healing the next day, and the staff were still all unaware of her. She seemed familiar to me and very much reminded me of the being of light I had encountered while I was in surgery.
I also later learned that my partner had a serendipitous experience in the waiting room while I was in surgery. The doctors of course explained the severity of the situation and that I might not make it. They assured her that they were doing everything they could with the emergency kidney stone removal. After sitting in the waiting room for over an hour, she suddenly felt that something was wrong and ran to the nurse’s desk to ask when I was going to be out of surgery. Apparently, they had forgotten to tell her I was already out of surgery, done in the recovery room where she was supposed to greet me and they had already moved me up into a hospital room on, you guessed it, the 8th floor. She didn’t know why, but she felt like she had to get to me. She rushed across the hospital and was holding my foot while saying my name at the precise moment I was coming back from my experience. You see, her voice, to me, sounded harmonic, like music.
Now some things you just can’t really explain, and for me this was one of those.
I took away a lot of things from this experience, some more difficult to articulate than others. But here’s 5 of my own surprising lessonsI can share:
1. I believe in a heart intelligence. I believe there’s a part of ourselves that’s connected and able to discern what is for our highest and greatest good, a higher part of ourselves that makes decisions based on a feeling. I believe our entire life is a decision, and we have to be mindful of being in neutrality in our decision-making so we can make them from the heart. The mind really cannot discern the truth; the heart just knows.
2. I believe that God/Source/The Divine, whatever you want to call it, is neutral. That being I was facing couldn’t make a decision for me, it was unconditionally loving and neutral. There was no judgment, just love. I’ve come to believe that the divine is neutral and delivers to you whatever you need to help you feel safe and make that decision. Some people desire to see pearly gates or angels, for me I guess I just needed neutrality. All I can say is, make peace with your life so you can pass through that decision without conflict.
3. Our connections to one another are divine. As much as we’d like to think of ourselves as an independent island, I believe this life really is about the connections we make with one another. We DO need each other, loved ones around us holding for us, especially when we cannot hold for ourselves. Someone to help draw us back to our own heart beat so to speak. Yes, it’s up to us to choose. We’re the only ones that can make that choice for ourselves, but I believe our connections to one another are divine and part of a greater picture.
4. Look up. I remember when I finally did recover from the sepsis after rounds of emergency antibiotics and painful days in the hospital I got out and went to Target that same day. I was riding around on a motorized cart and I noticed everyone in the store was staring down at their phones. No one was really looking at each other or making eye contact. I couldn’t believe the lack of connection we were having with one another as a whole. I remember telling the cashier my story after just getting out of the hospital, and it kind of caught her off guard. I mean usually when people ask you “How are you?” They expect you to answer with, “good.” Not me. That day I spilled my whole life and death experience on her and she didn’t know what to say, but her demeanor did change. I remember telling her, “You gotta look up.” And it’s true, we do need to look up. Find your joy. If you’re not happy, it’s time to look up and find it.
5. Listen to your body. After this experience I’ve become more in-tune with my body and aware of what it’s telling me. I believe our bodies do try to tell us what’s wrong, sometimes they scream at us. We just have to be willing to listen to what’s being said. Our lives are precious, and you never know if it’s going to lead to a life-or-death situation.
Now I know everyone has their own beliefs and experiences around what happens when you die; these are just mine based on my own personal experiences. I share them with you because I believe we are all in this journey figuring it out together and hopefully connecting the divine dots we are given.
Cheers to choosing life. Every. Single. Day.
P.S. I talk about this experience in several of my podcasts. Listen in for the full conversation here
PPS. I’d love to hear from you, especially any questions you may have email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Every week I take readers’ questions and address them in my weekly podcast, so feel free to submit one of yours here. Anything goes.