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Near-death experiences

I read the other day – I don’t remember where – that when you think you’re about to die, you panic, but when you know you’re about to die, you become very serene.

I’ve thought I was on the brink of death three times in my life. The first time was when I choked on a peach pit when I was nine years old. The second time was when a bull decided to kill me when I was eleven. And the third time I was 17 and hitch-hiking alone through Nova Scotia and some guy out of Deliverance picked me up and then refused to let me go. (He kept saying things like “Got any hair on your monkey?” and “Had any skin since you left home?” When he turned down a dirt road and started unbuckling his belt I figured he was going to rape and murder me and drag my body into the woods.)

But, I guess before any sense of certainty and the accompanying serenity could set in, the peach pit dislodged itself from my throat, my step-father and grandfather rescued me from the bull, and the Deliverance guy pulled over and let me go.

In each case, I was both relieved and traumatized in the aftermath of almost dying. I cried and shook. I realized how quickly, how unexpectedly, how easily life can end. I felt terrifyingly fragile.

Cancer scared the pants off me too, but that was different. Death may have been leering menacingly at me from a distance, but it didn’t have me by the throat yet.

Some people say they’d rather go suddenly, but not me. I want to see it coming. There are things I want to do before I die. Adventures to be had. Loose ends to be tied. Goodbyes to be said. So I guess I’d rather die of cancer than choke on a peach pit.

How about you? Do you ever think about how you want to go?

5 comments to Near-death experiences

  • My mother passed away when she was younger than I am now, which seems to make me think about death more than the average 50-something. Her death was sudden, so I try to keep all those loose ends tied up, just in case. But if I had a choice, I would like to have about six months warning, so I can destroy the evidence.

  • SM

    I have watched / helped my father die over a 3 month period with cancer, my sister over a year with cancer, and my mother over 5 years with altzheimers. The next person had better drop dead. I don’t care who, even if its me.

  • Abby, that’s a very good point. I need to clean the house, do the laundry, and burn my old journals before I go.

    SM. Aah, I hadn’t thought about this from the perspective of anyone other than the person who would be dying (essentially all of us, someday). I can definitely see how, after spending 6+ years of your life taking care of sick people, you would prefer that the next death not be preceded by a period of dying. Thanks for your comment – I liked it.

  • I was on a picnic with my family when a quartet of old (really old) people came into the park with lawn chairs. Two of the women and one of the men decided to walk by the river leaving one man sitting in his chair. They were gone for about half an hour and when they came back, the man in the chair had died. He was about 10 feet from us and we hadn’t noticed. We couldn’t see his face. The friends were upset and yelling Call 911 but his wife was very calm. I remember so clearly her saying “why are you so upset? He was 83 years old and this is his favorite place in the world. He died peacefully”.

    That’s how I want to die. I want to slip away while doing something I love, like watching the boats on the sparkling river.

    Of course, I want to live a healthy interesting life up to that point and not be a burden to anyone……I’m not asking for much.

  • Nat

    I reckon dropping dead has it’s advantage… though I like the idea of just drifting off in my sleep. Peacefully…