Too close for comfort … But I’m sure there’ll be plenty of fish…

Too close for comfort … But I’m sure there’ll be plenty of fish…

It appears I may be harder to kill than I imagined, yet easier to kill than I might have liked. My week has been an unimaginable horror, crossing to the edge of life, peeping over, before ever so carefully leaning back.

I am fearless in the face of death it seems, but surprisingly helpless to do very much about it. Questions of control, fate and destiny abound in my head. Some of the ‘great’ imaginings for writers and the world in general, is how we will face and deal with our final moments, and what will we face when we pass through the thin veil of life. Would it be ok for you to sit back and let me share my experience with you? Please bear with me it’s been a long, tough week.

I suppose it is usually late in life, that those that do go there and survive, get to see what the experience is like. It is funny, but despite the fact that so many people experience this and come out the other side, we have very few definite answers. This fateful week, I have twice kissed the face of death and perhaps given my chosen path as a writer, it is something I feel compelled to put to paper.

There are two parts to this really. First is the experience in itself and the second is what conclusions I have drawn from my hands on experience as it were.

To begin with, I guess I imagined a few things as we all do. We work from knowledge gleamed from stories, parents, school, religion, the media, movies, so many sources and I like any other, had made lots of assumptions all of which were wrong.

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There would undoubtedly be terrible fear. Death has to be frightening right? Not so. Fear never even remotely entered the equation. I am not actually sure why that is, but maybe in the heat of it all there is no time to be afraid. I doubt that is all there is to it though. It is not that there are more important things to consider at the moment of death. Let’s face it, sounds like there is potential for lots to be scared of from what we  read hear and believe.  I just know that for me at least, fear wasn’t one of the things I had to deal with. In hindsight, that was the biggest surprise and perhaps for anyone reading this and indeed for me, a big comfort.

To say I’m a lapsed Catholic, is like saying Oliver Reid was a lapsed Pioneer and my second presumption was that I would maybe return to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the holy saints in Heaven, to save my poor wretched soul and keep me from the fires of hell. Definitely didn’t occur to me for even a Nano-second and to be fair, I really thought that some cowardice might sneak up on me and chase me back to the ‘auld faith in my last moments.  This was a big question in my head in the past.  I really thought I’d play the odds and try to lash in a couple of Hail Mary’s and a quick ‘Oh My God I am heartily Sorry…’ Maybe I was finally honest with myself when I needed to be.

There were no epiphanies, no moments of clarity, no ‘stay away from the light Carol Ann’ moments, no life flashing before my eyes.  Now it is here that I need to digress to help you make sense of what went on, because later on, after the trauma while I was in recovery, I did something unusual that helped me put things in perspective.

 

My lonely isolation in CCU was only saved by my trusty Kindle. I was too foggy to read something fresh, so I re-read my short story contribution to the You’re Not Alone Anthology by a group of talented Indie writers (and me as well).  It was appropriately written to raise money for the McMillan Cancer care a very worthy charity. I hate reading my own stuff but tired and bored as I was, I felt I could at least follow something short that I had written, without too much bother.

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http://www.amazon.com/Youre-Not-Alone-Author-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00Y5RCOOE

The story I wrote is called Babes and I cried re-reading it as I had done writing it.   I am repeating myself for anyone who reads my blogs, but I am an emotional writer. I had not read it since it was written, but it turns out that I was predicting my own reaction to the prospect of death. Who knew? Now maybe, just maybe that is the important thing, the key, the secret, the real truth about how we will all face this inevitable prospect.

You see for fans of my blogs, there are plenty of pointers in my case. I’m a dreadful melancholic. Never a mortiphiliac, obsessed with death, rather I have a sad soul at my core.  I am generally a happy man but beneath the surface, it lingers even at the best of times and there it was, waiting for me as I lay helpless on the table in Dublin’s Mater Hospital, crashing into oblivion…a great sadness came to me.

I am blessed with so much love in my life, that the thought of how my passing might effect those that I love deeply, really hit me.  Reading back over Babes, it was almost like I was making a premonition.

There was chaos, pain and people doing everything to save me. I calmly watched them as the light faded. I had no intention of just going.  I wanted to stay, there was fight in me that much I know, but I couldn’t control the forces that were overwhelming me.  It was beyond doubt that the arm of the reaper was bulging and our arm wrestle to the finish was one I would lose.

That is the meat of the story, the heat of the battle.  In those moments lie the pain and the sickness the opportunity for all the things I presumed would come but didn’t.  My feelings were clear and precise.  Having tested his strength, I knew death could beat me without breaking a sweat.  I saw it waiting there.  Giving up was not the option but my thoughts came from my natural soul. I was sad to leave my children, my wonderful Joanna, my family, my friends, even my beloved dogs. The cavalry arrived. An amazing medical team saved me and I will be forever grateful.

Facing a second trauma back in the ward which lasted much longer, I had  more time to think even as the pain began to completely overwhelm me and the darkness threatened again. Once more, I was unafraid, again no flashes, once more the real me, the melancholic held my hand and gave me that knowing look.

So is that the truth of our lives at death? Do we all feel and experience our finality, on the basis of our true nature. I know I faced my greatest darkness without any soul searching, in the midst of the chaos of others filled with angst, fear and panic, as they tried to save me. I was who I am in my soul, a man with a heart filled with sorrow for whatever reason.  It was not the worst thing I could have felt and in many ways, it is a comforting thought for me now.

Unfortunately, I may have to go back in the future to face the surgeons again and unlike before, I will have some fear, but it is not the fear of death, only of the memory of pain because that is still a little fresh.  But I handled the pain before, so I know I can do that again. I only hope I don’t have to.

My conclusion I guess, is that there is nothing to fear in death except who you are in life. What will come next is beyond our control. How we face our death, will be how we have faced our life. When you think about it, most religions kind of get that bit right, in a general sense anyway. We cannot protect those we leave behind, they will mourn regardless.  I have already learned to be a man more at peace in my life, to smile more and enjoy the small things.

In all honesty, writing this has been an epic chore for me, what would have taken me fifteen minutes has taken me hours, but that’s not a whinge just a statement of fact due to my current weakness.  I only say this to make the point, that this is what I do. This… is who I am. I am a writer and maybe I can’t whip up something like this, quite as fast as before right now, but I can still be who I am, because I want to be that man.  Be your best self no matter what, look for the  smiles in others and share a few of your own, trust me even an old melancholic like me likes to see a smile.

Already this week I have discovered the sheer joy in a scaldy cup of weak hospital tea and a couple of soggy pieces of cold toast. Ah… the simple things in life… Best to find the things that bring you happiness, treasure them and never, ever forget that and this is from the horses mouth, there’s nothing to fear. Never waste time worrying about what’s to come, it’s coming one way or the other. None of us are getting out of here alive. You’ll go as you are and if you alright with yourself, I reckon, everything will be alright with you. Don’t panic, if it turns out we all get reincarnated as dolphins, I’m sure there’ll be plenty of fish.

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21 thoughts on “Too close for comfort … But I’m sure there’ll be plenty of fish…

  1. Thank you for this important insight Patrick, and for opening up as you have. Since the end of my military career, which I survived physically unscathed, I have had four operations. You have been to a place I’ve yet to visit with regard to being in that condition, under those circumstances.
    I’ve known fear, but it wasn’t fear of dying – because as you said, it’s the thought of those we leave behind. My worst moment in the first Gulf War was writing ‘that letter’ to my wife and to my son, who was then 8 years old. I sat in a tent, crying as I composed what might be the final message either of them might have read from me.
    Once I’d handed the letters over to be taken on the mail run, I remember going outside and staring across the miles of open desert. To whoever or whatever was listening I said aloud, “Right, lets’ get on with this f…g war.”
    In your piece above, you’ve demonstrated in an admirable fashion that it’s not actually life we love – it is the people we share our life with. I believe the more we grieve for those we love, when it’s us that’s in the not so good position, then it shows clearly if we’re selfish or generous with our feelings.
    Great piece my friend, and now we all want you to make a full and speedy recovery, and write us another great story. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you for opening your heart about such an intimate experience, for there is no doubt that death is perhaps the most personal of journeys, even tho’ it’s not unique. As you have expressed, for me the painful anticipation of my own mortality centres in the grief I know it will cause those I love. And those who know how to spell bereavement with our souls will always fear that. For me, my faith teaches me that death has been conquered, so the grief it holds is not lined with despair, but hope. And that amazes me and surprises me and sustains me, each and every day.

    I am so glad you are feeling better after your experience, that underpinning your emotions lies peace. Long may that continue. Praying a speedy and full recovery will be yours.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Patrick that is an amazing blog, thank you so much for sharing it with us. I think deep down we are all a little fearful of death – and I am most anxious to find out if we do live on in some shape or form as I have so many unanswered questions to ask. Why are teeth such a bad design? Why don’t we turn blue when we lie? There are a few more, but I hope none of us will be in a position to ask them for many years yet. Get well soon Patrick. We need more books from you.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I’ve always been fascinated with the purpose of our existence and what really happens after our bodies leave this world. I’ve read many reports of NDE and have an open mind. Love this post and so happy you’re still with us. I’m sure everything feels totally surreal at the moment.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Wonderful piece.

    May you heal and presevere!

    From here, I’ll let your own fine words speak for me as well 🙂

    “Having tested his strength, I knew death could beat me without breaking a sweat. I saw it waiting there. Giving up was not the option but my thoughts came from my natural soul. I was sad to leave my children, my wonderful Joanna, my family, my friends, even my beloved dogs.”

    “Be your best self no matter what, look for the smiles in others and share a few of your own, trust me even an old melancholic like me likes to see a smile.”

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I just cried reading this. I cried for you, a man I’ll probably never meet, but one whose words moved me so much. The impact of your recovery reaches far beyond your close family, as part of your indie author family I am so thankful to be sat reading this post. The post itself is a thing of beauty but the implications of its existence are a cause for great relief and celebration. Love to you and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A fantastic blog post just like reading one of your own books Patrick! I’ve faced down the grim reaper a couple of times,I know there will be an ultimate showdown one day but I’m too young to go yet, and so are you! Look forward to Christmas sir!

    Liked by 1 person

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