I wish I could say the day I died was just another ordinary day so it would appear more literarily dramatic. Instead, like an ironic preview of coming attractions, the day was besieged by the only snowstorm of the winter season in the Niagara Peninsula. For me, it was a prelude to the inevitable reality that each of us will someday face. It is a day that some consider while others fear it to an extreme.
February 26, 2010, is only a short distance behind me now that I’ve spent some time in the sun amongst the care of loved ones. I am grateful for having had a peaceful space to do my healing of body, mending of mind, sorting of soul and learning the lessons of what “being” means.
That morning was quite different in that the fabric of my physical world appeared somewhat out of sync. Under ordinary circumstances, most would be oblivious to these minute details. Pain from what I assumed was severe heartburn had lingered for three days. I was driven by a less than ideal life situation, ignoring the pain although I knew deep down I shouldn’t. It was here I first stepped into the conflicting pothole, having prioritized work over my health. I got ready for work, my routine unchanged except for the sluggishness that dogged me as I put on my winter boots.
Seized with a powerful sense of apprehension at venturing out into the bitter-cold Canadian weather, I still ignored the instincts that relentlessly nagged me. Thanks to a financial crisis where ends already did not meet and a work schedule that had me off for the previous six days, I was compelled to ignore my inner voice and layer up to deal with the harsh weather. What my internal voice couldn’t convince me of, the increasing pain of even the simplest movement began to. The thought of walking six blocks in the snow storm only worsened my physical discomfort. For a fleeting moment, I thought of asking my younger brother for help, as he was in the living room watching the morning news.
Unfortunately, I had already envisioned his typical, “Suck it up buttercup,” response to anyone mentioning a personal problem or hardship of any nature. Quickly dismissing the thought, I pulled my coat over my bulky layers and with a sense of great sadness, slipped my hat and gloves on.
Even as I opened the door to a blizzard and freezing temperatures, the sense of my impending doom hovered on the fringe of my awareness. The inexplicable sadness began to overwhelm me and the raw emotion was yet another warning. Ignoring it with stoicism, I simply stepped outside and closed the door to the first opportunity to save my life. I didn’t say anything to my brother, not even a simple goodbye, as tension was still high following an argument two days earlier, the cause as trivial as most were.
The blasting wind and snow intensified, clutching the collar of my coat to my cheek as I cleared the steps of the front porch. I churned my feet through the foot-deep snow, making my way over to the main street. With my head bowed, the biting winds still teared up my eyes. Even in optimal health, walking across town as I usually did wasn’t an option on such a brutal day. The agony in my chest had reached a disorienting level so I stopped at the store around the corner to grab a roll of antacid tablets, though it was against my better judgment. I simply knew I needed some kind of relief at that point – hell, anything!
While waiting behind another customer paying for their purchases, the store clerk, whom I knew fairly well, glancing at me several times with concern. Once again, an opportunity to save my life was presenting itself, if I would simply have asked for help. There was no excuse. I’d had many conversations with the clerk over the past six months and knew that he had been a paramedic back in his native Serbia. He had been unable to qualify as a paramedic in Canada due to his English. The sad and ironic thing about that, was his English was better than most born here.
His eyes never left me as I struggled to open the antacid roll. I barely remember paying for them, and as he counted the change, his eyes carefully assessed me.
“Are you all right?”
“Oh, I’m okay.”
“You don’t look too well,” he said more firmly.
Though his words registered in my pain-wracked mind, denial fought me on every front of my deteriorating condition, challenging all my common sense.
“I’ll be all right.”, I insisted, though in truth a feeling of sheer dismay coupled with an emotional hopelessness had my thoughts flitting and flirting. All the while, the emotional roller coaster sped up to the point where it felt as though it would come off the tracks at any moment.
Concentrating on the antacid package, it was all I could do to keep it together. Finally succeeding, I headed for the door while popping several tablets into my mouth. The regularly simple task of pushing open the door was as overwhelming as pushing a car, and once again I sidestepped an opportunity to save my life.
I stepped into the ferocious storm to walk six blocks through weather conditions I had not seen in years. My feet dragged like lead weights; it was all but impossible to lift them from the steadily deepening snow. With each step, the vise of dismay tightened its grip on my chest even further. My mind searched for solutions within the pain-induced fog, as my ego barged to the surface of my thoughts and screamed, “This isn’t the day and nothing’s going to happen to me!”
Struggling down Lake Street just past the armories, I looked around to determine how far I was from the bus stop and realized in heart sinking fashion that I was completely alone in the storm. There wasn’t a single soul to be seen anywhere, no cars, no people, no businesses open, only the bone-chilling wind, driving snow and excruciating pain. I felt more alone than I had ever felt or truly been before. To this day, I still clearly remember my instincts shouting, “You need to get to the hospital!” I persisted in the foolish belief that if I could just keep on keeping on, the episode would pass and I might be okay after all.
Making it to the bus stop felt like a victory, though now I had to wait for the delayed bus. When it arrived and I boarded, I slipped the coins into the slot, and realized as it lurched away into the snow that everything had changed from one heartbeat to the next. I sagged into a seat a couple rows back behind the driver, becoming severally diaphoretic (sweating profusely) at this point. My ability to physically move was reduced to slow motion, as my hands wouldn’t obey my struggles to remove my gloves, coat and hat. With a grim understanding, I knew I had no choice but to ask for help now or die, and even with the cold truth staring me in the face, I couldn’t immediately bring myself to act. Once again my instincts screamed at me to ask for help. Who knew how the mind and body truly acted under duress until faced with the most dire circumstances?
Without thought, as the bus drivers eyes met mine within the mirror that hung above her, I asked her to call 911. She asked only why as she picked up the on-board phone. In a faltering voice I told her I was having a heart attack. Turning slowly, I noticed a woman sitting across from me. A horrified expression filled her round face as she clutched her bulky purse tightly to her chest.
The pain began dissipating rapidly as a serene peacefulness gently enveloped me. My gaze slowly lowered to my boots, and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to die.” During that transitory thought, I died. My vision winked into darkness as all the pain I had suffered over the past three days vanished without worry, anxiety or fear. The calm peacefulness strengthened, replacing all the pain of the moments before.
Then slowly, a misty opening began to appear about six inches or so in diameter in front of me. My mind was clear and I felt light as air, as a strong sense of fascination engulfed my being as I felt a slow, easy, sideways movement with only the slightest pressure around me. Glancing down, I noticed that I had four arms, legs, hands and feet. One set was more densely proportioned while the other sets were translucent appendages hovering just outside my physical body.
At this point, my long-time guardian, a tiger nearly six feet tall at the shoulder, stepped out of the near-blizzard conditions onto the bus. It seemed odd, but I knew him from other encounters during my life. Tiger is a soul guardian or what is known as ‘a protector of souls.’ He approached me and lovingly rubbed his head on the left side of my face. Slowly drawing back, he looked into my eyes and spoke in my mind.
You are about to die.
Turning his head toward the adjacent windows, where holographic images displayed events from the past, present, and future, slowing to images of my two daughters.
He looked back at me and said, If you choose to.
“So I have a choice?” I asked in confusion.
Yes, you do. All of you have a choice. Everyone is given a choice with no judgment passed either way. Where you have been, where you are, and where you are going at all times is of your own choice.
I was overwhelmed by an emotional summary of my life, which we must all experience, whether staying or coming back. The best way to describe it would be to take every thought and feeling you’ve ever had, and physical action you’ve ever done, then place it all into one emotional category. Ask yourself which emotion best sums up your life to date. Mine was marked by guilt for wasting my many talents and, in turn, my life.
We both gazed deeply into each others’ eyes and in a soft, submissive tone I replied,
“I want to stay. I want to live.”
Very well Tiger said. Now you have a task.
Tiger turned to leave as the thought flowed freely to me to follow. I didn’t actually get up or walk anywhere, but we instantly traveled far to a place shrouded in a luminous, white mist.
As we arrived, Tiger stepped ahead of me, turning to face me at an angle. Out on the fringe of my left peripheral vision, three Beings appeared, whom I’ve come to refer to as the Beings of 111 or 3. Once I focused my attention on them, they vanished, but when I looked at Tiger, they reappeared, only to vanish once again as I turned toward them. It reminded me of gazing at a distant star in the night sky. If you look directly at it, it seems to wink out of sight, but reappears if you look a bit off and away from it.
Here began my first lesson with Tiger. I was emotionally searching for understanding as to why I could, yet couldn’t, see the three Beings. It does not matter, Tiger whispered. He then informed me the central Being was a Teacher, not only to myself, but to the other two Beings present. Eventually, they will become teachers themselves. The Teacher is an original consciousness ( or child if you prefer ) of what most refer to as God.
At this point, there are some important details readers must understand. First, time as we perceive it does not exist. It is but a way in which to measure distance, such as the distance light travels in a year, or the sun traversing the sky from horizon to horizon. For point of reference sake, however, we shall stick with time as it is traditionally understood. I died at roughly 9:25am and was about to spend what would be considered a day’s worth of time on the other side, prior to coming back to physical reality roughly ten minutes later, at 9:35am.