On November 17, 2005, I called my doctor and gave him my blood pressure and heart rate readings. He told me to go to the emergency room. So, that's what I did. After smoking my last cigarette, I entered the ER and told the nurse my doctor sent me. They took my vital signs and the nurse got a weird look on her face, called code something and the next thing I remember is four medical people hooking me up to stuff. My memory is very sketchy, but I do recall my cardiologist saying, "You just quit smoking. Don't worry, you won't remember a thing." I also recall the cold concrete floor just before I went into surgery.

Here's what I recall next. I was on a pure white bed with pure white sheets in a large white room that had curvature where the walls met the ceiling. There was a thin black line where the walls met the ceiling, but the ceiling wasn't perceptible only the curvature, brilliant white and pure white floor. I remember thinking, "Wait a minute, this isn't what it's supposed to be like." I know my eyes were closed, but I could still see everything. I could see my bed, the perfectly squared sheets, the room, and myself. I couldn't make out the length of the room...its corner went on and on, tapering as the distance grew until I couldn't perceive an opening.

As I recall, the instant I had the thought, "This isn't what it's supposed to be like," there was a lady at my left shoulder even with my head. She was wearing an almost indescribably beautiful deep red crushed velvet dress that flowed to the ground (but there really wasn't any ground; I don't know how else to describe it. She had the most beautiful shiny ebony hair, wavy, flowing down below her waist and almost to her feet. I couldn't make out a face but she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. This I knew. This I still know. She said, "You can't go. I can't let you go." But, I didn't want to listen. She kept telling me that I couldn't go, that she couldn't let me go. After repeating that a few times, she sternly said, "You cannot go." A tear was rolling down my left cheek and she wiped the tear with the part of her index finger between the first and second knuckles.

At that moment I was back in the operating room where I saw a chrome bar over me, and a person in hospital greens across my feet. I recall the doctor screaming at me after surgery, "You must calm down and we have to get that tube out of your throat." The next thing I remember is December 3, 2005. I recall asking, "What day is it?" and wondering why my ex-wife, her husband, and my kids were by my side.

I've read the hospital report. I went into arterial fibrillation on the operating table and my entire pulmonary system collapsed. I also had renal failure, but kidney function returned quickly. In fact, during a recent visit to my cardiologist, he said my heart was fine. Then he read the report about my lungs and told me that I was very sick at the time. Very, very sick were his words and expression.

The experience was very serene, but I was saddened that I had to come back. I had no fear or anxiety. After I became aware of things again, I was a little perturbed that I had more of a "mission" to accomplish, especially since I haven't yet figured it out. So I live my life as a much kinder soul, with the knowledge that all of us have it somewhat right and all of us have it somewhat wrong. But in the end, something really cool awaits us on the other side.