I generally avoid talking about this. Dying, that is. I’ve coped with its aftermath, living on borrowed time for more than forty years now. But of the actual deathblow, followed by the leaving here and being elsewhere? No.
True, I wrote it down soon after, copious information, complete with diagrams and a glossary of terms totally foreign to me. And, yes, I told someone. Naturally, it was met with skepticism, having occurred two decades before disclosures of near-death experiences became common.
The thing is, my death-death doesn’t exactly duplicate what others have echoed to the awe and applause of audiences.
So, let me go back far enough for long enough to tell you just enough and nothing more.
The first time I died was several days after I was born with pneumonia in 1946, when the incidence of it was still the leading cause of infant mortality in America. According to my grandmother, I was discharged from the hospital to die “again” at home after doctors declared, “There’s nothing more we can do for her.”
Some would contend it was my grandmother’s and my mom’s hourly rotating attention that saved me. But grandma insisted otherwise.
“It was an onion,” she assured with a Swedish intonation, her hair braided and pinned to her head like a peasants crown from the old country she refused to speak of and claimed not to know. “On your chest.”
I never really understood the significance of that pungent bulb’s role until recently when I read that an onion begins to absorb the viruses and bacteria in a room the moment it’s cut. I’m now convinced that if I place a raw onion on the nightstand next to my bed at the first inkling of a cold I’ll sleep more soundly and awaken well, or (at very least) breathing better. Regardless, I’ve ceased saving the remains of sliced onions for future use.
The second time I died I was six weeks shy of my fifth birthday. While playing with my dog (an Irish Setter named Clancy) in the front yard of our home, I chased a ball out into the street where I was struck by an oncoming car. (A taxicab, to be exact.)
I vividly recall running, the dog, the ball, the sandstone ledge I scooted off, the cement sidewalk with it’s chalk drawn hopscotch squares, the sunbeams filtering through the still leaves of oak and chestnut trees, my innocence on that August afternoon, the dense, prismatic glass of headlights, a shiny chrome grill, and feeling mystified just before being hit.
I do not recall my death, or anything happening directly afterward.
But I can still see – just as clear can be – me standing near the porcelain countered sink in our century old kitchen, becoming oddly aware of myself with my mom behind me, gently running a wide-tooth comb through my hair and tying it with ribbons. My hair was long. The comb was pink. The ribbons were yellow.
“May I have a class of water?” I muttered.
“Did you say something, Dolly?” she answered, as if in disbelief.
I’d not been taken to a hospital. I’d simply been snatched up from where I landed (fifteen feet further down the street), carried into the house, and laid out.
I don’t know how long I remained, motionless, with Clancy standing guard. I don’t who came, or went, or if anyone did. I don’t know when I regained the perception of consciousness. All I was told is that phone calls were made, blame was assigned and reassigned, and those who were present writhed and waited until I eventually arose and walked to the kitchen, deaf, dumb and blind to it all. It might have taken minutes, or hours, or days – who knows? Because once the ordeal ended the incidence was closed for discussion, except as a matter-of-fact briefing whenever a neighbor inquired as to my well-being.
It wasn’t until twenty-one years later and the third time I died that I knew I hadn’t truly died the first two times at all. Yes, I’d been clinically dead by medical standards. But what doctors didn’t know then and don’t know still is – it was only upon dying the ‘third’ time that I actually departed. The third time I died changed my life forevermore. When I reappeared after the third time dead, I knew where I’d been, and instantly understood the burden the blessing of immortal insight bestows.
(1) Immortal insight is not something you reveal to anyone unless you’re in the presence of a person, or animal near death that expresses fear by words, gestures, or conduct. (2) Details pertaining to the experience are not something you write a book about, or (3) go on talk shows staking claim to, or (4) appear in houses of worship professing. (5) It is not to be exchanged for financial gain, or (6) to obtain any degree of power, or (7) to use as a means to ennoble yourself.
This I can say as being so without reservation: You were given the gift of life and the unbounded ability to do your best. Embrace and appreciate it. Now.
Okay, that’s all. I’m done, finished and through.
The third time I died I got slammed in the head by two and a half tons of speeding steel. (A taxicab, to be exact.)
It could account for something.
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