It’s My Rebirthday!
One year ago today, I died. Three times. It was the day the doctors realized my colon infection had descended into gangrene. The only way to save me was to remove a good part of my colon. If it didn’t come out, the gangrene would kill me within a day. The only problem was that I was far too weak for the operation. There was a really good chance that, instead of curing me, it would send me on.
Obviously, I survived, and I am eternally grateful for that. When I came to in the recovery room I offered a prayer of thanks, and have done so at least once a day ever since. And today, I celebrate my second life. I’m one year old! Again!
Below is an excerpt from Crawling Through Fire, the book I’m writing about the ordeal and the lessons learned. Here is what happened about ninety minutes before the surgery. I’ll never be able to perfectly capture the events. But if you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to die, this is as close as I can come.
Death Comes Calling
Light is everywhere, it seems. Every fluorescent glares. Bright mid-day sunshine streams through the window. Every apparatus, every gadget – Robots, more like R2-D2 than C-3PO – they’re cute, and they beep a lot – are bathed in crisp, white light. The nurses and technicians – Butterflies – glow like elves in Middle Earth when they’re about to perform magic, or kick some Ringwraith behind. That’s what I need! An elf. Some magical, mythical super-being to cure me with some weed that only they know is powerful, a few strange words and a wave of their hand. And Poof! Or Shazam. Whatever. I’d be cured! Then I could go hang out with Frodo and Sam and all their friends at the Green Dragon Inn and we’d all toast the close call I had, and the magical elf who saved me.
Light all around, except for a shadow near the ceiling in the corner by the door, a nothingness obscene in its malevolence, oozing hatred for the living – hatred for me, although I don’t know why. I know I don’t like that shadow, though. Not a bit. And I know it doesn’t like me, either.
It doesn’t occur to me until much later that there never was a shadow, never could have been. There are far too many lights in the room for any shadow to survive. A snowball would have a better chance in… well, in an oven. An eternal oven of supernatural proportions. None of this occurs to me on any level you could call thought; not then. All I know is that the room is exceedingly bright, and the shadow is exceedingly unbright. The shadow is a black hole, and will soon begin to capture the light in its gravity well, sucking the life out of everything along with the light. I’m starting to really hate that shadow.
Like the drip
of Chinese water torture, the heart monitor continues its incessant beep
until I think I’ll go mad from it, the annoying demand for attention blotting out any comfort I might derive from the fact that it is beeping it all. Blotting it out like a shadow, in fact. Just like the shadow in the corner is going to blot out the light. The room. The world. I know this is Truth. I know it will happen soon. I don’t know how I know, but I know. All the way to my bones. All the way to my soul.
The shadow begins to tremble as if alive, as if dancing to the rhythm of the heart monitor. It begins to grow in size and depth. And darkness. As it grows it flutters in a non-existent breeze, like a travel-worn cloak, stained and ominous in its intent. It keeps growing, filling the room with finality as it absorbs the light. Expanding steadily, it subsumes the nurses and technicians like a fast-moving fog bank, only black and empty. And hungry. I can feel its insatiable hunger, can feel its need to feed.
Suddenly, but far too late, I realize it’s not a shadow at all. It’s old man Death, and he has come for me. Death is hungry for me, has come to feed on me. This time, it’s my soul that will satiate Death’s desire. Too late! I think as the darkness crowds around me. Too late by a fair piece! I shout in my mind as Death grips my soul, freezing it in an instant.
There is no time to palaver. No time to talk, because talking’s done. It wouldn’t matter if there still was time, because death is silent. Death doesn’t speak. Death doesn’t discuss. Death doesn’t listen to reason or logic, and certainly not to the begging and pleading of a man so weak ha can’t even control his bladder. Death negates all equations, all summations, all principles. No, there is no time to talk. Talking’s done. There is no time for the operation that will save my life. There is only time to die.
“YOU AIN’T TAKIN’ ME!” I yell at Death. Or think to yell, perhaps.
“Not now… not yet!” I whisper to no one.
I am alone with Death and Death is silent. The Butterflies and Robots are all gone, eaten by the darkness. I am alone with Death and I understand the Truth of loneliness. In the final scene of the final act of my final opus, I have come to the end of my journey, and there is no one to help me stand my ground. There is no one to comfort me, no one to hold my hand, no one to smile down on me in reassurance, no one to promise me it will be all right. It is most certainly not all right! I am as alone as I’ve ever been, even in my darkest days of despair and depression. I am a stranger in a strange land, lost in the desert with no oasis – no hope! – in sight. I am done in and I am done.
I have nothing left to give. Weakened beyond reason from the disease, I am physically spent. Overwhelmed by month after month of stress and strain, I am mentally exhausted. Drained of every emotion except deep sadness and terrifying, overwhelming fear, I am an empty shell, a carcass on the side of a backwoods road, rotting by itself as it bakes in the sun, even as the gangrene rots me from the inside out. I have been knocked down too many times, and this last blow is harder than all the rest combined, crushing me with ruthless cruelty. In the end, it is more than I can bear. It is far more than I bargained for. And so, like Atlas under the weight of the world, I crumble. I meet Death on my knees, a broken man, alone, even as I lie flat on my back in a room full of people.
I can see Death smile as it prepares to bring down the final curtain. Somewhere in the distance I hear my own song mocking me:
When they lay me down in the cold, cold ground,
“I’m losing him! I’m losing him!” a male voice yells. “I have ZERO BP! NO BLOOD PRESSURE!”
The voice fades, as does the relentless, infuriating beep as it is replaced by a continuous tone even more grating in its constancy. Death leans over me and its smile becomes the lunatic grin of a madman in a Stephen King novel. The maniacal clown. The depraved politician. The minions of the Crimson King. It’s every evil I’ve ever known, every fear I’ve ever felt since childhood, towering over me like a giant, and I know this is it, this is The Big One. Game Over, and thank you for playing! Carol has some lovely parting gifts for you back stage. And THANK YOU for playing You! BET! Your! LIFE!!
The Final Thought comes to me, the revelation that Explains It All in one mind-altering epiphany. The Truth for which I’ve searched my entire life. It makes so much sense, like every other Duh! Why didn’t I think of that? discovery I’ve ever had, times a billion. Stupefying in its simplicity; mind numbing in its complexity and scope. I know it’s the final answer to all my questions and I tell myself to remember it above all things, to burn it into my consciousness, my soul, my heart. I tell myself to take it with me to What Comes Next so I won’t have to repeat these painful lessons. I tell myself to hurry before I
fade to black
. . .
Excerpt from the forthcoming book Crawling Through Fire, © Lane Baldwin
You never know when your time will come… when death will knock on your door. Every day is a gift. Every moment a treasure. And I give thanks for each and every one. I hope you will do the same.
Please LIKE, COMMENT an SHARE!
Help Lane survive the final surgery – Can you spare a few dollars to help Lane keep a roof over his head while waiting for the final surgery? If so, please CLICK HERE to help! Thank you and God bless!!