When people find out I dropped dead on October 13 of 2011, they often ask me if I saw “the white light.” They are disappointed when I tell them I did not. They’ve come to believe in the light, believe in it in a very literal way. They’ve heard it is seen and they’d like continuing confirmation of this sighting. My report always, as I said, disappoints. It would seem that even though I was dead, I was not dead enough. Still, I was dead and I am sorry to disappoint in not being able to report anything other than a timeless blank between two moments; a dark with no dimension or duration between a light and a light.
The light went in one instant as the light goes out when you flip the switch to “off.” The light returned in the very next instant as if someone slowly turned up a dimmer switch in a small room. In one moment I was standing on my front porch looking at children running about in the playground across the street. The very next moment I was looking up from my bed at the sound-muffled ceiling of the ICU in Harbor View Hospital in Seattle. A voice like footsteps coming closer down a long hallway was repeating and repeating, “You are in Harbor View. You’ve had a heart attack. It’s daytime….” Thus, after being held in a coma for 13 days, I was returned to life. Thus, tick became tock.
Between those two moments I have no information to report since, to my mind and memory, there are no moments between those two. They are found side by side in my mind; an enjambment bracketing a caesura. The thirteen days between them have no duration at all. In a sense the only clue they provide in their utter nonexistence would be one to the true dimensions of eternity.
Some people seem to think that, with no light to report, my cut-rate resurrection is something rather modest, a common outcome of our enlightened, medically advanced age available to all. They express thanks that the 911 medical crew got to me as fast as it did and knew how to, in effect, jump start my heart. To those who don’t get a comic book resurrection mine seems only a mundane report on a modern ability. They don’t find it miraculous. But that is only because they are deaf, dumb, and blind to the miraculous. I am not. It was my miracle. And a miracle it was.
The roots of my miracle go back many years and begin, as so many things do these days, online in a long correspondence that became, in time, a deep and abiding friendship and love. Part of that friendship entailed that, although we lived in separate towns, we spent some parts of each year visiting. In this particular autumn she was visiting me. And on this particular day she had — for obscure reasons — postponed her regular daily walk and, upon return, postponed her regular post-walk shower. This meant that during the time she would normally be either out of the house or under running water she just happened to be standing nearby when my heart stopped. The result was that she started the 911 response within seconds after I stopped breathing. Because of this the three units dispatched to help me came within minutes and returned me to life and transported me to the hospital where I spent the next 13 days suspended between a light and a light.
Some seem to feel that miracles only happen in the center of a bright light with a large boom and a loud voice out of a whirlwind; Imax miracles in Surround-sound. Perhaps they do. I’ve no experience with them. My experience has only been with the miracle of a long chain of small events, happenings, and abiding love that have given to me this extra year of being alive in the midst of the miracle of creation; creation as it is, both miraculous or mundane.
My formal birthday is the day after Christmas. I’ve never liked the 26th of December. It’s hard to try to have your birthday party on the day after the biggest birthday party of the year.
Today though, it strikes me that I have a new birthday — a ‘rebirth’ day if you will. And that’s what I am going to celebrate for as many years as are left to me, my Re-birthday.
After a long, long string of dry sunny days this day, Saturday the 13th of October in the year of our Lord 2012, is overcast and raining. In previous years I would have shrugged and grumbled at the inclement weather. Today I am going out in my back yard and shower in it. Because today I know I am both blessed and, as we all are on every day in this mysterious life within the light, reborn within the miracle.