Thursday, March 06, 2008

R. I. P. Me.

I've been wanting to write about this. I've been dreading writing about it.

Last Thursday, sometime during the late morning (I think), I died in the emergency room of a local hospital, with doctors, nurses, paramedics and two friends in attendance.

People here and in so-called "real life" (which is a somewhat small piece of turf for me these days) have been asking what it was like to punch out for the last time.

I'm going to try to tell you. It won't be easy. Some of what I know is second-hand (I was comatose), some of it wasn't pretty; some of what was beautiful then has turned ugly since. Some of my attempts at "humor" may offend, some of my views will surely offend some religious folks.

Believe me: while writing this, I will be laughing and weeping, reliving the experience, Hope with me that I hear no sirens, lest I hit the delete key; it's a sound that wigs me out now.

You must know that my attitudes about many things have been altered as if by an earthquake. Much of what I think (or "know") has not formed fully yet. I am a changed person; not sure what I have changed into as of now.

I'll report. You decide.

Or not. This is more personal, I think, than anything I've ever put in a journal. I know it's affecting me just to think about what to say.

It really began when I was loaded into the paramedic ambulance. The same guy who rode with me on the trip the day before was there today. I could tell he was in a much bigger hurry this time, more intensely concerned with my state.

I told him, as I told Ernie and Holly, that I was dying. I know I told the paramedic to just take me to the Alpo plant so I could be useful. I didn't want to die, you can bet; I was in considerable discomfort. But it seemed a done deal.

And I will say that the fear I saw in Holly's eyes hurt worse than my own knowledge of my impending demise. No one should be treated to an ugly display like that. I was sure I was dying, sure I felt guilty about doing it front of anyone who mattered to me.

Inside the ambulance, the tech kept telling me to relax and I'd be okay. I told him I would not. I kept trying to pull off the oxygen mask (not just a nasal tube like he'd used the day before). It felt as if it was sucking air out of my body.

I remember our arrival at the hospital. It was warm and sunny outside. As the doors to the E.R. opened and I was pushed inside, I wanted them to turn the gurney around. I wanted to die in the open air. The darkness inside was going to kill me.

I remember nothing else for a while. I have no recollection of the nurses cutting off my clothing, inserting an airway, starting all the drugs and fluids flowing that keep people alive. I did not see my eyes gyrating, my chest heaving for air denied to it, my death-pale skin, the last struggles of muscles about to surrender. Those things were seen and reported to me later.

One final look into Holly's eyes, filled with fear, sadness and -- I hoped -- love, and I was gone away from that room.

I couldn't describe where I was. Call it a void; no shape, no color. It certainly had nothing to do with the "experts'" tales of golden light, heavenly choirs and Jesus-as-game-show-host welcoming you to the Happy Hereafter.

The first thing I saw was Hobbes, my cat who died last year. He was alive, looking at me.

The I saw my music teacher, also now alive again. Finally, I saw my sister, felled so many years ago by an aneurysm. No sounds, no nothing. They were there. They existed. If I wasn't also dead, I wouldn't see them. I understood that clearly.

And then -- to use an unfortunate cliche -- all hell broke loose. Hobbes and the two people about whom I cared so much vanished.

Again, I can offer no physical descriptions of what I "saw." Allow me yet another cliche: you wouldn't understand if you didn't see it, would if you did. That's not me making a judgment; it's what is.

I have a sense that more than one person -- or at least the "conscious" (soul, if you want) of more than one person -- was mad at me, indeed. I was being shown a kind of highlight film of my greatest mistakes. If I ever lied, hurt, offended or cheated anyone (and I did), I got to sit through it again.

In the background, there was a sound. I couldn't tell you what it was, couldn't discern pitch, but it was getting louder, a monstrous and frightening sort of humming. Trying to relive (so to speak) the moment, I have a feeling now that once the volume reached a certain peak, whatever was "me" -- that business of souls and consciousnesses is damn tricky -- was going to cease to exist.

I won't tell you (or anyone else, ever) what misdeeds I was taking the most heat for. Be assured that this was not a court of judgment; it was a place to kick the shit out of whatever self-respect I had.

And then it all stopped. Nothing. Over.

I have a vision in my mind of seeing, but being unable to hear or speak. I'm told I was revived, on a ventilator, in a room in Intensive Care. I opened my eyes and saw Holly's lovely eyes looking at me with love and concern. I felt her hands on mine, saw her lips move: "I love you." I sense her pulling me, somehow. I'm convinced I would be somewhere -- or nowhere -- else without her.

PARENTHETICAL NOBODY-CAN-UNDERSTAND EXPLANATORY THOUGHT: I am quite convinced Holly is thoroughly irritated with my adoration of her. I loved her before, but that certainty of her saving my life -- and not in a vague metaphorical way -- works so deeply into one's system that the feelings it evokes transcend anything to do with sex appeal or any other elements of normal "relationships."

No matter what she says or does or doesn't say or doesn't do from this day on, she will have a full measure of my devotion and love. It's as if she has a prepaid phone card from the soul. Doesn't mean she ever has to see or talk to me again; hell, she can throw rocks through my windows. She has done her good deed, and I can't imagine anything changing my positive view of that or of her.

But I will always be no more than a call away. I mean, she saved my life. You don't forget little things like that.

Okay. So there were a few moments of relative clarity, in which I understood that I was a) alive and b) feeling pretty damn miserable. Basically, I have no conception of time at all between the moment of death on Thursday and some time on Sunday.

As soon as I regained a reasonable amount of consciousness, I was convinced that I died. I have since received some pieces of proof.

What did I learn? Not sure I believe in God, but I surely know there is some kind of creative force behind the universe and everything in it.

If there is a God, I'm gonna say He is more like the Old Testament God of sometimes unrighteous and unjustified wrath, hellfire and brimstone than the sanitized Mr Nice God the happy-clappy churches try to sell.

If what I was in was a sort of Purgatory, I know a lot of people who will zoom through in the afterlife's equivalent of '59 Cad convertibles, sipping tropical Adult Beverages from glasses with little umbrellas on 'em,, while others will have a much worse time in the molten-lave hot tubs than I did.

Yeah, that's all been reduced to crappy metaphors. Because my sense of the whole thing is once you've done the crime, you will do the time, and there is no such thing as "forgiveness." Pay up, then vanish.

I think I've stepped on damn near every major religion there is by now. Sorry. But it was not a pretty sight and doesn't fit in with any known theology I've checked into.

Well, maybe Judaism. I kind of hope so, because it means there's a good chance that all of you will run into this dude with a robe who looks like Jackie Mason and will say something like: "Oy, him you listened to? What a schmeckele he was, so we dumped extra-heavy on him. From nothing is what he knows. You want a Yoo-Hoo or a Dr Brown's soda with your Hebrew National kosher dog?"

FINAL PARENTHETICAL NOW-THAT-I'M-ALIVE THOUGHT: You'll have to decide for yourself that I'm full of BS or telling you the true story. You'll have to read between the lines a bit, too, here and there. We all ultimately make our own judgments about everything.

I know three things:

1. I was dead. It was not nice.

2. I am now alive again. Alive is better.

3. I am considerably different from the Me who died a week ago today, in ways and to extents I can neither understand nor explain.

To prove or disprove my experience and beliefs, you'll have to die and come back with a full report. I, for one, would prefer you all remain happily alive.


Anonymous said...

Interesting account. Thanks for sharing it. It matches substantially the experiences of about a half dozen people I know well who have gone through similar events. Good to have you here again.


Amanda said...

That was a fascinating story. I, for one, am very glad you came back, too. Hooefully, I'll remain happily alive for quite awhile, myself.


Amanda said...

Oops. I meant "hopefully". Stupid typos.

ptolemy said...

Your experiences are YOUR experiences and you are fully entitled to them and since it's YOUR blog, you can write about them there... Very interesting chain of events... I put myself in your place, reading it, and STILL couldn't quite imagine how it would feel to slowly come awake after all that. Would think it might be traumatizing enough to cause you to repeat the whole experience. Huge WOW. Glad you got to see your cat and other loved ones, even if just for a moment...

By all means, WRITE WRITE WRITE. I'm sure you'll have plenty of people READ READ READING.

Earlier, I tried to post, but appear to have failed... I was so glad you came home to clean sheets and a warm blanket that represented in a small way the purity and warmth of the care and affection poured out for you in the last week. How was that for a metaphor?!

MrScribbler said...

ptolemy -- cool metaphor! Fits right in with my post-resuscitation feelings for the giver of sheets and blanket.

Understand that I remember nothing about working my way out of the coma/sleep/whatever. Going the other way seems, in hindsight, far more gradual....

DAL said...

You're back, you had a tale to tell and you told it. I'm not a follower of any religion, so I read this as it is, a journey that very few ever get to relate. I agree that I would rather not find out for a while, and I don't know if I would want to come back and try to explain.

You did a hell of a fine job telling this, Scribbs, but try not to research a second chapter.

emd said...

This is one of the most interesting and fascinating posts I've ever read.

emd said...

And, I still gotta say: glad you are back!

coyoteslinks said...

I just came back myself from an absence of sorts, (nothing like yours) and to read this upon my return is nothing short of auspicious. I believe in the spiritual world, and I don't believe any religion has exclusive rights to it, but your journey does sound like the first judgment. It does give me pause to consider my life's course. It was a compelling account. Thank you for sharing.

MrScribbler said...

Coyote -- I'm afraid I was on the way to leaving one damn ugly chindi behind....

I for one am glad to see you back, brother.

sugarcane said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I came close once myself, but only remember the excrutiating pain and the paramedics saying I had no pulse. I remember thinking, "I can hear you, so I must be alive." It's a strange feeling, for sure.

I wish I could adequately express to you how happy I am that you're back with us. I just can't seem to find the right words.

Anonymous said...

An amazing debrief, Scribbs. Your comparison of life vs. death reminds me of the old W.C. Fields quote, "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia". Thanks for sharing your experience.


Kim said...

Wow. Amazing, scary, fascinating.

Anonymous said...

So glad you are hear to share with us. Stick around. I like you alive too!

Birdie said...

thanks for sharing.... all I can say is "wow"!

and thanks for coming back to the real world! so many of us were extremely worried!! {{{hugs}}}

John said...

It's strange that people accept so many other things for which they really have no proof, yet in explaining what you experienced, anyone would automatically be thinking in terms of skeptics because you can't reproduce it before their eyes in a bunsen burner.
I don't think your account would step on or offend anyone. It doesn't matter. No one should be offended by simple narrative truth. You went where you went.
I'm glad you are sharing what can of the event.
You sound good. And different. Better.

MrScribbler said...

John -- What I've noticed is the only time someone says "prove it" in religion is when you've said something they disagree with. What they say/believe is right because "God said it." To someone, anyway.

God didn't talk to me last Thursday, so far as I know. But He sure laid down a solid knock on the noggin....

Fitzgerald said...

Cool story, thanks for sharing.

Whimsical said...

PS re "it was a place to kick the shit out of whatever self-respect I had"---that is so reminiscent of what Isaiah says in chapter 6:5: "Woe is me, For I am ruined; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." In and of ourselves, none of us would be able in that dimension to hold on to our self-respect.

Whimsical said...

Strange, my first comment here didn't get thru, somehow. It just said something to the effect that what was even more amazing than your return is that you're already back to your inimitable humor, after such an ordeal.

Sigh, the quirks of cyberspace...

TheLubeFaerie said...

I am pretty sure I thought about dying once, but it was a split second and I just saw the scene from above and then went back to the hell it was. This is very moving Mr. S. Live makes us who we are and for you apparently death changed you. Glad you are still with us.

Anonymous said...

wow...I'm not even sure I have much to see, but I can already tell there is a change, for the positive ...silver lining....just remember this experience when that stack of hospital bills shows up :)

Wizardress said...

That was fascinating to read, and I loved what you wrote regarding Holly.

I'm so happy that you are back among us, and doing well. You were missed, and there have been alot of prayers gone up for you, mine included.

Welcome back sweetie. *hugs*

Anonymous said... cow! wow!


Sunny said...

I loved reading your story....and thankyou for sharing this. No, I was not offended at all.

We all have our own thing we believe, or try to believe, it's such a mystery.

I also died in the ER in 1998 when that Doc messed me up for good.

I saw and felt love. It's warmth and I did'nt want to come back here.

I felt a sharp pain that was a "get back here right now" injection, and I groaned at having to come back 'here.'

Why could'nt I stay dead, darn it anyway....

I'm glad you are here with us.

Carla said...

Welcome back, Mr.S!

As always, you have made me think.

Take care.

simplepleasures said...

I am just glad you are back, Scribbs! ((((hugs))))

Japee said...

I'm glad you wrote it all down and yes, living is better. It is fascinating since so few of us will experience it and come back to tell the story. Welcome home. We're so glad you are here.

Anonymous said...

I for one am glad you are back. I think it is different for each person. I have heard different accounts of dying and coming back. I guess in the end we don't have much choice. We will go where ever we are assigned to go. That is my take on it.

Anonymous said...

I believe there is a something, a force, an energy, although I don't think anyone on earth knows what it is.

I do believe you see people again, but I believe you get a chance to try over - or maybe you are sent as guardians, who knows?

I'm just glad you're back, and hope you have gained something from almost losing everything.

Anonymous said...

I went away on vacation worrying how you were and just got back on to find you are home and recovering which makes me so happy.Made me cry to read you saw Hobbes again, I hope it encouraged you to see how happy he is .You are loved a lot by many of us on here, welcome home Mr Scribbs!