When I was three, I was stricken with a severe fever of unknown origin. As the fever worsened I experienced fits, my eyes rolled back in my head, my body became covered with sores, my tongue had blisters, and I eventually became unconscious. I moved from conscious to unconscious states repeatedly over a 14 day period.

We lived in a very small village in Europe and had no access to hospital care although our family doctor came daily. As I was on the brink of death, my family (who were practicing Roman Catholics), had the village pastor perform final rites (called Extreme Unction at the time; now known as "Anointing of the Sick").

I experienced an initial period of darkness. I assume that this was when I first fell unconscious. This was soon followed by a wonderful floating feeling in which I hovered above my body only to re-enter it. This happened at least twice. I was aware of my mother crying and my father sitting beside me for long periods of time looking very tense and unhappy. Interestingly, I saw them and heard them all the time, not just on the few occasions when I became conscious.

At some point I became aware that there were two beings in the room with me. To my young self they were VERY tall and appeared to be made of almost transparent pure white energy, although they seemed very solid. They caressed me, and one sat with me at all times on the side of my bed while the other stationed himself beside the door to my room like a guard. When people came to see me (the doctor, family, the priest) both of these beings stationed themselves either standing or seated on either side of the door to the room. These beings comforted me and made me feel that my life was very important in some way that I did not grasp. I was ready to go with them wherever they wanted; they indicated that the choice was mine to make. I had the sense that I had all the time in the world to make up my mind about what to do.

I was aware at all times of both the 'real' world and the plane that the beings of light inhabited. In fact, the two worlds seemed to be super-imposed on one another. At times I could see my parents in the room with the priest and he would sit on the chair right on top of one of my guardians. This astonished and upset my young self by its ignorance and rudeness, and from that time I developed a dislike and distrust of him and authority (especially religious authorities) that I have not been able to shake.

The light beings, seeing my distress on their behalf merely glided to my side and calmed me down. I was aware of the distress of my grand-parents and my parents, and although I wanted to go, and made up my mind to go on at least two occasions, my distress for my family always pulled me back into my body.

When I finally made the choice to stay, I felt terrible: heavy, sore, chilled, and extremely sad. I felt as if I was trapped in a large piece of bad meat. I could see out of my eye sockets as if I were wearing a mask and I felt physically burdened by, and separate from my body. I was well aware of being a separate entity from the body that I was inhabiting.

The beings stayed with me until this strangeness passed. When the fever broke and I regained consciousness after two weeks I was distraught and I kept asking my parents where the 'angels' went. To my young mind that must have been what they were. They looked vaguely similar to the angel in a print hung above my parents' bed but so much more luminous and strong. My parents were shocked, and immediately called the parish priest who insisted that he do an exorcism and that my parents forbid me from speaking of this to anyone. My frightened parents nevertheless let me tell my story to them and they made me promise not to talk of the matter again (although I heard my mother and father discuss it with my grandparents later). Many years later my mother would say that I had helped her faith in the hereafter through this experience.

Forbidden to speak of the encounter, I have kept it to myself all these years although it changed me profoundly. My parents indicated that I became much more compassionate and far less self-centered after this experience. After this I was able to almost read people's thoughts I became so attuned to others. I still do this.

I also have very unique and close relationships with animals. I have actually been asked to leave the Toronto Zoo because all of the animals I passed came over to stand in front of me in their enclosures. Many pressed themselves right up against the bars or glass and tried to touch me. A woman from another family who was there at the same time as me said that I was "hogging" the animals and their attention to myself, and zoo attendants asked me to wait until no one else was present before I approached the animals. As this happened time after time as soon as I entered a zoo building or exhibit they eventually asked me to leave even though I was not doing anything but silently appreciating the animals!! Strangers--particularly children--still approach me all the time. People and animals have even followed me home for no discernible reason other than to be with me. I have grown used to this behaviour and I no longer question it. I also appear to have a VERY green thumb and plants that florists have declared as dead come to life for me. I just seem to know intuitively what to do.

As an adult I was drawn to healing professions and worked for many years in an operating room and other hospital environments. Now I work as an applied anthropologist with adult students whose learning disabilities make post-secondary education difficult. I am frequently told that I have a calming influence on others and that my presence is "soothing".

Since my experience I have also on several occasions been re-visited by animal companions who have passed on, and I now regularly get help from my mother (who has passed on) when I least expect it. I feel as if I am far more open to life/nature and that the boundary between planes of existance is somehow more permeable for me than it was before my encounter. I awoke from my illness (whatever it was) with the certain knowledge that all life is connected, and from that day I have refused to kill anything. I lost my fear of spiders and snakes and I now scoop all insects up and put them somewhere safe when I encounter them.

As an adult I have adopted a Jain philosophy (ahimsa or non-violence) toward life.