I almost died once. It was scary and traumatic, but I didn’t die. This happened one month after my sister died; she killed herself and the suffering of those left behind was unique and desperate. I lay in the hospital thinking only of the pain I was causing others and Amy, Amy, with her dreams and her Black and Milds. She would have been there crying in the waiting room, and she would have driven me crazy with her hand wringing and sobbing. I can’t remember everything about my time in the hospital, but I remember thinking of her.
When I recovered, I found love and I thought the universe was going to apologize to me for putting me through such pain. This wasn’t true, because shortly after I found love, I found myself with a broken heart. It seemed that there was never an end to the disappointment and misery.
Although life changing, none of these things made me have that moment, that moment that we all wait for in our lives, the split second where we realize that there is something more than our mortal troubles and physical realities. We look around and assume that those gray haired women sitting on benches feeding pigeons have had that moment, but this simply isn’t true. Near death is supposed to be as close as we can get to it, but that isn’t true either. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how much pain you have been through, you choose to have these spiritual grasps or you choose not to.
My moment came later. I was in class with my students, my favorite class, showing them a video clip for our upcoming project on filming a fake murder. Class was almost over, and I was looking forward to the weekend. All of a sudden, a wash of faintness and darkness came over me. I began to feel the same way I did right before I almost died. I sent a child to tell another teacher to take me to the emergency room after the bell rang. I walked around the room hoping to distract myself from this fear and collected papers from the kids. One boy showed me his lovely drawing of a dog peeing on the crime scene he drew for the project. I felt well enough to smile. I moved slowly and deliberately, and the kids didn’t seem to notice. I thought about how I noticed even the slightest change in these kids and how much I loved them. Here I was with tears in my eyes, praying to God to let me live a little longer, and these kids that I loved so much were just being kids.
That is exactly what they were, just kids, and I was happy for them. At another point in my life, I would have felt unloved and unappreciated, but that wasn’t what was happening. They are supposed to live their lives and eventually forget about me, and I am supposed to love them unconditionally forever. I prayed and breathed in the stale classroom air waiting for rescue. I prayed, which had become something I did less since my grief. I didn’t mean to forget to talk to God, I just did, but I knew that God would hear me, and he did. He heard me, not because I lived that day, but because I was released from this self pity and anger that I held. I was physically okay, but I still resented what had happened to me and mine before this moment. I know for sure that it just isn’t about me, it’s not about anything. We are all just praying for one more day, looking for an awakening, hoping to top each moment with the next, and I for one love this life and all its moments.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.