(I am assuming that most of you dear readers know that, nearly a year ago, I suffered a severe heart attack at home. There are so, so many angels (The 911 operator, ambulance crews, firefighters, police officers, nurses, doctors, medical technicians and more) involved in me surviving the incident, but suffice to say that without my incredibly courageous wife, Sue, performing CPR until the Paramedics arrived, I wouldn’t be here now tip tip typing on my keyboard. AND, trust me, I shall one day bore you silly by writing about the entire incident in larger detail, but this week I want to talk about… The Light.)
I died on the living room floor…then BOOOMMMPPPFFF…I was brought back.
I then died in the ambulance rushing me to hospital…then BOOOMMMPPPFFF…I was brought back.
I died one more time in an angiography suite at the hospital…then BOOOMMMPPPFFF…I was brought back.
Not a bad days work, all things considered. Duking it out with Death three times and royally kicking his ass. (Oh! Down goes Death! Down goes Death! Down goes Death!) And if I hadn’t been absolutely comatose at the time (and would basically remain so for almost a week due to a medically induced coma), I probably would have been very proud of myself. Forget the eight broken ribs, the flail chest (Google it) and the punctured lung (which led to pneumonia). My magnificent band of gallant warriors had somehow, against all the odds, miraculously pulled me away from that final door and slammed it firmly and defiantly shut.
And what follows next is your quiz for the day.
After being weaned off the heart pump and eased out of the coma (with still another fun-filled week to be spent in the Cardiac ICU)…what do you think the most common non-medical question I was asked might be? (And not only over the first few weeks following the incident, but even to this day.) I have been asked it by friends, family, neighbours, people I did business with, strangers who heard of my experience, fishing buddies and even some twitter friends. All sorts of folks.
And the question is…Did you see The Light?
And when people ask me the question, they always have this kind of yearning and hopeful look on their face. They want me to have seen The Light. They want me to have seen the beam that would have guided me (and therefore probably them one day) to eternal life and salvation. It brings to mind the paraphrased line by Voltaire that “If there is no God…man would have to invent Him”. And I can understand that. This old world we all inhabit can be such a cruel and sad and cold and brutally lonely and unsure place…and at times it is almost unbearable to think that this is it. That there must be something more. That life isn’t simply the space between birth and death.
So…did I see The Light?
No…I did not see The Light.
And since almost everyone has a story about an Uncle Vito or an Aunt Matilda or a guy they know who knows another guy who had a cousin who died on the operating table, and then started floating away while watching everything going on below and ended up a hairsbreadth from The Pearly Gates before suddenly being yanked rudely and depressingly back into the land of the living, I usually get one of two reactions when people find out that I never saw The Light.
The first reaction is a kind of sympathetic shrug…as if to say, “Gee, I’m sorry to hear that. But I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am that I haven’t led the skankola, disgusting kind of lifestyle you have, because I just can’t wait to sit on a fluffy cloud and strum on my harp for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever”.
The second reaction, however, is actually one that amuses me. And it is always stated with an oddly curious mixture of hope and conviction. “Oh, you probably just weren’t dead long enough.”
(Yeah! That seems reasonable. My timing was lousy, that’s all. Phew! Thanks for taking a load off my mind.)
But the fact of the matter is, like everybody else on this Earth, I will find out one way or another someday. Hopefully not in the near future, of course, but sooner or later we must all face the realization that nothing here is infinite. Nothing. And I know for certain that Death is going to demand a rematch one of these days. And maybe I’ll manage to kick his butt one more time. But, ultimately, and unfortunately, for those being dealt Death’s crooked hand, The Reaper has the deck stacked in his favour.
Because all he has to do is win once.
But it doesn’t worry me. Nor does it frighten me.
I am alive…and to worry and feel fearful would only diminish this wonderful gift that has been bestowed upon me.
So, no, I didn’t see The Light. But something else did shine down on me. And it shone ever so brightly from the eyes of my wife, my son, my two daughters, my parents, my brother, my sisters, my dear Granddaughter, from friends and other people far too numerous to mention. It was love. It was a love that surrounded me…warmed me…comforted me…protected me. And someday, when this old soul is set free…if all I have to gently guide me through eternity is the light of that special love that shone (and still shines) upon me…well, that will be OK with me.
I shall travel much blessed.