It must be so, lest all our sufferings be in vain, making life nothing more than futility.
After experiencing nine near-death encounters, I believe in my heart that something beautiful awaits us.
I will share two of them, the first and the last. In 1995, my leg spasms were so bad that they shook my whole body and threw me out of my wheelchair. The cold weather exacerbated them and when I lived in Baltimore, Maryland, winters were brutal.
My neurologist suggested inserting a baclofen pump into my back that would administer the anti-spasm medicine directly into my spine and reduce the severe spasms. I agreed and we scheduled the outpatient appointment.
The procedure took place at Johns Hopkins hospital. Two technicians transferred me from my wheelchair to a gurney. My doctor and a female technician remained in the room.
The female technician turned me on my side bending my knees and putting me in a fetal position. “Don’t move during this procedure.” As if I could. Then the doctor placed heart monitor leads on my legs and upper body.
It confused me because he said the procedure was not dangerous. I asked him why. “It’s just a precaution. You’ll be okay.”
The next thing I felt was a puncture into the base of my spine. “I thought you said this wasn’t a spinal tap.” I said, upset. I hated spinal taps. They scared me.
“This isn’t a spinal tap. We just need to find the right place to insert the pump.”
I laid there petrified when I heard a voice in my head long before I ever knew a Bible verse. At the time, I was forty-three. However, I clearly heard the words, “the issues of death are in the hands of the Lord.” I had no idea what that meant but next I felt a surge slowly moving up my spinal cord.
I tilted my head towards the doctor and said, “My heart is stopping.” I felt a rush and then nothingness.
My eyes popped open and my breath caught in my lungs. I thought my ribs broke, as if a brick smashed them. Men and women dressed in white surrounded me. Code Blue. I was dying. A nurse told me later that just as the doctor was going to call it, an intern lifted the paddles one last time and saved my life.
I turned to a woman and asked her if she was okay. Then I turned to one of the men said thank you. Everyone left the room except a nurse, the same one who told me the doctor had given up on me.
At that moment, an ethereal presence overwhelmed me. It was larger-than-life and so exquisite that I wanted to dwell in it forever. The nurse remained silent for several minutes and then she said to me, “I’m not supposed to do this, but you flat lined for over two minutes. We were sure we lost you.”
She showed me the graph paper with the time stamped flat line. “The only reason I’m showing you this is because you shocked all of us. The woman who you looked at to ask if she was all right was the technician who made the mistake which caused your heart to stop and the intern you thanked was the one who convinced the doctor to let him try to revive you one more time. How could you possibly know that with so many of us in the room?”
I had no idea. All I remember is a cloud-like presence that awed me.
She gently rubbed my shoulder and told me the rest. “We will discharge you soon.” I asked her for a phone.
I never got the baclofen pump, but my faith skyrocketed. Still overwhelmed, I called my friend Linda to tell her what happened. She told me that the words I heard were from a real verse in the Bible, Psalm 68:20. I got chills that day and it remains as real and vivid to me today as it was all those years ago.
My ninth event happened in 2015 during my sixth hospital stay that year. Michael and one of my aides were there to take me home. My doctor had discharged me. Four nurses positioned me in a Hoyer lift to transfer me to my wheelchair.
I drifted away to that exquisite place once again. Peaceful, beautiful, wildflower fields, brilliant sunshine, and a presence that I cannot explain. Once again, I wanted to dwell there forever.
Instead, I woke up back in the hospital bed. “What am I doing here? I’m supposed to be going home.” I was so upset.
As it turned out, my blood pressure had dropped to 60/40 and my lips turned a bluish color. Michael and my aide told me how distraught they were when they thought I had died. All I could think of was why God or whoever dwelt in that celestial place didn’t take me away from my suffering.
Of course I understand how painful it would have been for my loved ones and I’m thankful that I am still alive; but it inspired the following two poems which I hope don’t seem morbid to anyone.
When my body dies
Lay me on creamy satin in an ivory casket
Paint my nails a pretty pink
Adorn me in a flowy white gown,
Style my hair, adjust my smile.
Do not wonder, do not weep.
Rejoice with me! I am free
Dancing in ethereal wildflower fields
Surrounded by celestial beings
No more tears, no more pain
No more earthly chains
Vibrant fields of flowers, billowy silver clouds
lush, verdant meadows, Stunning, vivid sunsets
Melt into shimmering, starry nights
with the kiss of a gentle raindrop upon my cheek
Earthly shadows fade
a longing heart and a dream . .
Angelic escorts whisk me away
Legs that were once dead dance again in a glorious presence
Shed not a tear, but rejoice with me
Suffering ends, Life begins.
all rights reserved ©Nancy Jean Walker