The Gift of a Near Death Experience

Almost everyone has experienced at least one harrowing event in which they felt they might have died. An automobile accident or near accident, a fall, an illness. A car speeding past them careening off the road while they were walking along. A kitchen towel you were holding just started to catch fire, and you noticed it immediately. You began to lose your balance while climbing on a ladder. A driver lost control of his vehicle and ran onto the sidewalk right near you. You might think back to one of the more frightening times that you remember from the past. If it was very dangerous, the mere memory of the event right now might send a chill down your spine, and shivers over your body. Recall how you felt after the initial shock passed, your heart rate had returned to normal, and your breathing had slowed down and the trembling in your body had ceased. The scenario reverberated in your head. You would relive the experience, the near miss, a number of times as you sat there, calming down. You might very well view in your mind what might have happened if only one small factor had been different. If the other car had been only a few inches closer, you would have been pushed into the median. If you had been more distracted the few burning fibers of the towel in your hand might have spread to other flammable items near by. If the branch of the tree near the ladder hadn't stopped the slippage of the ladder, you would have fallen the twenty feet onto the concrete. The gruesome scenes were vivid in your mind's eye. If any of these types of events happened when you were a child, these scenes probably affected your parents more than they affected you. They were the ones most terrified, and they experienced the shock, numbness, and panicky feelings. They were the ones who would grasp and then hold you tightly, and cry. It might only be later that you would have a small glimpse of the close brush with death that had occurred. As an adult, as we begin to recognize the fragility of life, the fine line of a few inches, a few seconds, a few pounds of force that keeps us from the hereafter, we can realize that there may not be any more time to do those things we would like to do. There may not be another chance to tell our spouse that we are sorry that we lost our temper and yelled at them last night. We might not be able to tell our kid that even though he failed the last test, we still loved him anyway. Despite the harsh lecture and the month's restriction we gave him, we really thought he was a neat kid. Following an incident which puts us in touch with the fact that once we have ended our short span of time as the physical presence on this planet, we are often filled with a heightened awareness of the physical world, the presence of simple actions that we perform, and sensitivity to people around us, particularly those we hold dear. Colors seem more intense, sounds more acute, tastes more pungent, and emotions more intense. It