I had been in and out of the hospital following complications from surgery and various bacterial and fungal infections.
This time, it was bacterial pneumonia, severe. I also had a nephrostomy (bag from tube sticking out of my kidney). I was generally very ill.
I felt more sick than I had before. Breathing was labored and there was general pain everywhere. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. I was "done."
There was a sensation of falling asleep, but then again it was quite different from falling asleep. It was more of a sinking or falling. The sensation of motion shifted from downward to forward and I felt myself pressed hard against a sort of membrane. There was a diffused glow on the other side of the membrane and I could sense three beings on the other side. Two were closer and to the right, and one was a bit further away and to the left, but I sensed that the one on the left was somehow superior.
I asked questions, but I made no words, and answers were instantaneous. They weren't even words, more like understandings that were coming to me fully formed, as if I was remembering things I already knew. I asked if this was death, and was told it was. I was still aware of the room I was in, and realized my husband was sitting at the side of my room with a friend, and they were talking to each other. Being aware of him made me very nervous for him, and I expressed fear for my husband and daughter, afraid to leave them, worried they wouldn't be okay. I was assured they would be okay.
I felt almost angry at such a nonsensical promise, and wanted to know if that meant they could guarantee nothing bad would happen to them. There was almost amusement (but a kind, gentle amusement) in the response, which was complex and is hard to put into words now. The closest I can come is to say that I was told (shown?) that of course all manner of events would happen in their lives, but those lives, and all lives on this side, are very short, and not much that happens here matters a great deal in the long run. They would be with me on the other side before I could think about it.
What happens here in this life is kind of like a movie: you pay to see the show and it might be tragic and it might be scary and it might be filled with all manner of things, but then the movie ends and you move out of the theater and into the real world. That was the most profound understanding.... on the other side of the membrane was the REAL world and really, everything would be just fine. I shouldn't be any more frightened than I would be leaving a movie theater. And most of all, the real world was much more wonderful and complex and full of dimension than this movie I'd been watching all my life.
I joyfully submitted. I got it. I understood. I was READY.
Then I was shoved back with a force so great I felt like me teeth were rattling. I started crying, alerting my husband and the friend that were, in fact, sitting there together in the room. I felt so cheated. I still have no idea why I wasn't allowed to go. For years afterwards, I would lie in bed at night and hope not to wake up. No matter how much I loved my husband and my daughter and my friends and many aspects of my life, none of it compared to the understanding I had been given in that moment. I not only lost all fear of death, I longed for it.
In the months that followed I had a number of experiences I can only think of as "spiritual." I had moments of strong connection to a larger reality, some of which included a feeling of communication. Each event would leave me shaken but filled with an overwhelming sense of love and hope. Eventually those experiences stopped.
It took several years for my "understanding" to fade. My memory of it is not as bright or visceral as it used to be. Sometimes I doubt my experience, but I strongly remember knowing it was real at the time, so all I can do is trust the memory of the memory. I've lost confidence in death, though, and have gone back to wanting to fight for life. I wish I could trust that memory more. I wish I could have retained that assurance that death was not the final act. I feel as if I've lost something valuable. I am certain, in fact, that I have. Hoping for something is not nearly as comforting as knowing it. For a time, I knew.