My Dance With Death

Death can come at anytime. We are fragile human beings; I didn’t know how fragile I was until I woke up in the hospital after 5 days of being sedated so that antibiotics could heal my pneumonia that had gone septic.

It started with what I thought was a simple flu. It came on so quickly, I had lunch out and as I walked up the hill to my home, I felt completely worn out. I went to the doctor and they confirmed it was the flu. 2008 had been a flu season where everybody seemed to get sick and the illness held on for weeks. A week after I was diagnosed I felt worse, went back to the doctor, had no temperature and was again told I had the flu. Two days later I got up to find there was no food in the house. I thought I could make it to the grocery store 7 blocks away. Driving to the store, I sideswiped a bus and a car, but did not stop I did not realize what was happening. Got to the store, went shopping and came out to find my car surrounded by three police cars. They asked me why I had a flat tire. I had been reported for two incidents. Fortunately, I think they were policewoman, saw how sick I was and gave me a ride home, instructing me to come back and have my car towed home. Somewhere after that, I lost awareness and became delirious.

This is where I know a power greater than myself took over. I was found naked in the garage at 1a, my roommate had come home late from work. If he had not found me I would have been dead by morning. They rushed me to the hospital. None of this do I remember. They thought I had a heart attack. My partner was in Denver, and he was immediately called by our neighbors. At 6 am they determined that I had not had a heart attack, that the diagnosis was indeed worse. I had pneumonia that had gone septic and was attacking all my organs. My kidneys had almost shut down.

The next miracle: my partner and I did not have a medical power of attorney. If we had been anywhere but San Francisco, he would not have been allowed in the room. I guess it is important for anyone who is not married or cannot get married to make sure all paper work is in place.

The next thing I remember, I was in a cave in Jerusalem, there were older Jewish woman praying over my body. My partner had died and I did not want to live, so I willed myself, with the help of these woman, to die. I floated over my body and felt extremely peaceful. One more vision had me in a science fiction hospital being ignored by everyone. Finally I realized that if I did not get to a bathroom, I was going to die. In the outer world this is where I pulled the tubes out of my throat and came back to this world. A world that I really didn’t want to be in. I saw a sign that said that I was intensive care. It was Valentine’s day. Being alive was my partners gift for Valentine’s Day. He was not there when I woke up and no one could convince me that he was alive. When he walked in the door, I started sobbing; I wanted to be alive. I wanted to be with him. I found out then that my brother, who is a pulmonary specialist, had flown down, just in time to stop the doctors from moving me to another hospital, which could have been dangerous to my life.

That was the scariest night of my life. I was sure that I could still die and wrestled with God the whole night; telling him that I was not going anywhere. That night the nurses put on music for me, and at that point I had an experience that I know was real and not real at the same time. The music that was playing represented all the partners that I had in my life, and I made peace with all of them. Later I sensed that all the people that had ever been important to me in my life were there. I could not see them, but, I knew they were there. I felt like a wise sage, however, the gift that I was giving them all, was the gift of laughter. I had all of them rolling on the floor laughing. Again I made peace with all those that I felt had harmed me in the past. I had been gay bashed when I was 28 years old, and even the men that had bashed me were in the room. They too, were forgiven. I used to have nightmares several times a week. They stopped.

From that time on, I felt so grateful to be alive, that I walked around in a place of constant peace and acceptance of everything. Many people had great things to say to me, but what I will always remember are the words of my Rabbi. I asked her whether I would hold on to these feelings. She said “most people are lazy, this is not a bad thing, it is just the human condition.” She said to treat this experience as if I had reached bottom in an addiction, now while I was very motivated I could make many changes in my life, and those I could hold on to. She then said that she wanted to pray with me. In Judaism there is a prayer for everything. The prayer she chose was for those who have come back from the other side. She said that her only hesitation is that the prayer had one take responsibility for their illness. I told her immediately that I could live with that. I immediately realized that many times in my life, I had talked about suicide. I now wanted to live. On the way home, the change I realized that I most needed, was to stop judging myself for mistakes or being human. This has not totally stuck, but it is available to me most of the time.

So did the feeling of peace stay with me? Of course, not always. However, when ever I think about this time in my life, I see it as a gift, I am grateful to be alive and I am at peace.

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