Reflections from the River Styx: Near death experience.
“Well, it was just dark and peaceful,” he said. My Dad looks a little like Clint Eastwood. He’s got the same kind of squint and no nonsense style. (And he spends most of his time operating heavy machinery on a farm. By choice.) But he’s also quick to smile and chooses to laugh when life is quirky rather than get mad about it. Even when “quirky” means near death experience.
“So it wasn’t painful.”
“So you didn’t see any lights, or…fairies, or anything like that?”
“No one saying, ‘Welcome to the light, Bill?””
“No.” He concedes,“Okay, there may have been a light, I’m not sure.”
My Dad is very tolerant.
“Were there any feelings associated with that place?”
He looks up and considers.
“Like I was floating,” he shakes his head, “But then it was over.”
“How long were you out for.”
He inhales through his teeth, “About five minutes, I’d say. A retired New York firefighter started CPR and they brought a de-fib machine. Rumor has it they hit me with a jolt five times.”
I deadpan. “They really didn’t want to mess their cruise up, did they.”
“That,” I say,” would have been some bad PR.”
We crack up.
“…Okay, so when you came to…”
My dad sighs.
“Hey,” I say, “Hello, excuse me, near death experience, here?”
“Alright, alright.” He gestures impatiently.
“Would you say that that experience made you less afraid of death, more afraid of death, neither way?”
He shrugs, “I was there.”
“And it didn’t hurt, it wasn’t bad.”
“You were like, I can chill here for a bit.”
“Were you alone in that space?” I ask. He probably knows what I’d like to hear. It’d be nice to hear that Granddad Scott was just around the corner and that all our childhood pets were romping happily at his feet. Or that at the very least there was some sort of benevolent indefinable whosi-whatsit floating around. I’m a yogi, so I’m not particularly attached to a vision of St. Peter. But I’d be open to some straight-forward experience of one-ness and ultimate transcendence. But my Dad isn’t one to blow smoke up anybody’s spiritual ass.
“There wasn’t anybody else there,” he says.
“But you didn’t feel lonely,” I press.
He considers, “No.”
“So it was alright.”
My Mom interjects from the kitchen, “What are you telling Rachel that you never told me? You told me you didn’t know anything!”
“He didn’t say he knows anything,” I holler back.
“I told you everything that I told her,” he says, only slightly exasperated.
“You told me you just blacked out and there wasn’t anything!”
He rubs a hand over his head, “No I mean, it was just…peaceful. I mean, it seemed okay. But I was gone… “ he laughs at this, “So what do I know?”
“Well,” I say, “I think it’s interesting that you felt alone, but not lonely.” I am taking this as a good sign. “I mean lots of people have experience of seeing lights, things like that.”
He tries to humor me, “Well, I was probably in this transitional…” he holds up his hands, demonstrating some sort of supernatural crawl space.
“Right…” I point over an imaginary hill, “Like the trumpets were just right over there.”
He stands up and grabs his coffee, “And they were just holding them up to play…”
“And then they were like, ohhhh! Snap! False alarm, he’s back.”
We giggle. Well, I giggle. My dad kind of guffaws.
He heads back outside to fix up the fence across the road. That’s enough time today spent on afterworld speculations. There are stakes to be put in the ground, welding to attend to, and then the deer need to be fed.
And even though Dad wasn’t greeted by relatives, pets, hallelujah angels, or a benevolent light, the experience was okay. And he’s not afraid of death anymore.
And that’s something.