What Is It Like To Lock Horns With Death?

I have been working on my own blog post about this experience, but I still have not completed the finishing touches.  My husband recently started his own blog as a masculine parallel to our family journey.   

As a show of support, I want to feature his account of his near death experience here.  I will then follow up with my account.  You can find his blog here.  

“Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as ravens claws.” – Jim Morrison

Today I am going to share a personal experience that I believe has, and will continue to have a profound impact on me and my personality as I move forward on my journey.

My wife and I are in the process of reconciliation after 8.5 years of a slowly devolving INTJ-INFJ death spiral. This process has been tremendously painful and the only way we were able to put on the brakes was through legal intervention. After about 5 weeks of separation, we discussed our wants, needs, the reality of what happened, how it happened, why it happened, who owned what parts of it, and how we could move forward to repair ourselves, our relationship, and our family. As part of this journey, we decided to take a camping trip over the Memorial Day weekend so that my wife could visit with family and friends who were instrumental in her ability to get by during our separation. It also served to get us out as a family, doing something that we all enjoy.

Everything started out pretty normal – we took off on a Friday afternoon and we were going to meet my father-in-law, who had my stepson, at the campsite. There was a bit of anxiety about the trip on the drive out, but we talked about it and everyone relaxed again. This was going to be the first time that I had seen my wife’s family since getting back together, and they were none too happy with me about the situation that caused the separation to start with. I was determined and set my intentions to repair relationships, show that I could relax and loosen my grip, and prove that I truly recognized my part of the dynamic that resulted in the separation to start with. We got to the campsite, set up camp, started a fire, ate, and talked. The kids were put to bed around 9:30pm or so, but the littlest one was a ball of energy and wanted his mom to lay with him while he tried to go to sleep. This left me at the picnic table by myself for a bit while I finished unwinding, got some water in me, and mentally prepared to lay down. After about 15 minutes of this, I turned out the lantern and stood up to head into the tent – that is when I knew something was going on.

When I stood, I was off balance and unsteady on my feet. I had only had 3 or 4 beers, but figured that I may be struggling because of an interaction between the alcohol and my medicine – I had just reduced my dosage of Trileptal from 900mg/day to 600mg/day. Thinking that I was just a little tipsy, I started around the picnic table and into the tent. Getting the zippers open on the tent was near impossible and I could see my stepson looking at me quizzically from within. I finally got in, and crawled over to my side of the tent to grab something for my wife and then go lay with her and my son. 

Once I laid down next to my wife, I knew it wouldn’t last long – looking out the window, the clouds had taken on a regular matrix-like pattern. The trees were black shadows in the foreground, but I quickly realized that I could easily make them appear and disappear just by willing it. This was too much for me to take laying down, so I got up and sat on my knees. I started taking deep breaths and rocking back in forth – that is when it got really interesting.  

I started having visualizations, vivid ones, and not the flashes that I’m used to getting, but full-on movie style clips playing in my head. These were not hallucinations as I was quite aware of what I was seeing with my eyes, but it was as though I was seeing through two sets of eyes simultaneously. Once I realized what was happening in my head I came to the conclusion that I was having an intense spiritual experience. I told my wife, who was a bit concerned by my behavior, that I was grounding…HARD.

I continued to rock back and forth, visualizing roots traveling from every piece of my body that was touching the ground and traveling deep into the earth. Eventually these roots hit what I can only describe as hot magma, and the magma would travel back up the roots, through my body, and I would throw my arms up towards the sky to release the energy. This was INTENSE.

I have tried many hallucinogens before, but nothing even came close to what I was experiencing. The power that I could feel carousing through my body was indescribable. I would alternate between stroking my wife’s side as I rocked back and forth to touching the ground, all the while I was still rocking back and forth with sweat running off me. During all of this, my son was on his hands and knees circling me again and again. I also realized at this point that if I looked around me, I could make the tent walls disappear and see clearly everything around us in the forest (The next evening, I verified from outside the tent that what I saw was indeed what was around us and, to my amazement, it matched up perfectly from what I remembered). 

My wife and son were glowing a soft blue light that was tangible to me – I could feel the warmth and softness of it when my hand entered it. My son stopped in front of me, put his hands in a praying pose, then reached out to me. I touched his hands and when I did, he immediately laid down. I began rubbing his side as I was already doing with my wife, just a slow easy loving stroke back and forth. As I worked through this, it felt like the energy was growing more and more intense and I was struggling to let it all go. I eventually realized that I was getting WAY too hot and sweat was running off me like someone was pouring a bucket on me. 

I crawled to the tent entrance, albeit poorly, and managed to get out into the open air. From that point, I crawled around the tent and back to the picnic table – I knew that I needed water in a bad way. About the time that I made it to the table, my vision went. I told my wife that I couldn’t see anymore and I think that was the point at which we both realized that this may be taking a bad turn.

Being without vision, I felt my way around the table in search for water. Once I found it, I realized that my body was failing me – my motor function was almost non-existent and I couldn’t get the top off the bottle, or lift my head well enough to drink. It was then that my hearing started fading in and out. My wife asked if I needed to go to the hospital and I responded in the affirmative, telling her that I was going to walk down the hill to the car so we could go. It was clear after trying to take one step that I wasn’t going to make it. My legs weren’t working, my arms weren’t responding so that I could hold on to anything in an effort to stay vertical, and my mind and body were almost completely separated. I was fully conscious mentally, and was able to speak clearly, but my body would not respond to the signals that my brain was sending. 

I told my wife that we needed to call 911 immediately, I needed help in a bad way as this was going downhill fast. I asked for ice, quickly, and my stepson came out and obliged by placing ice on my neck in an effort to cool me down. My wife took charge of me and gave my stepson instructions to keep his younger brother and dog in the tent. As I leaned over the table, trying to maintain my consciousness and some semblance of control over my body, my wife stayed on the phone with 911 and continued dumping ice over my body in an effort to keep me cool. She stripped me down to my underpants and was as cool as a cucumber – the benefit of being married to a therapist with good crisis intervention training. 

Afterwards she told me that when she would put a handful of ice on me, it would melt almost immediately. As time moved on, I started losing hope. My fight to keep breathing and maintain consciousness started to feel bigger than I was. We were in a remote area, with limited access and I didn’t think that I could hold on any longer. My wife asked my stepson to go find someone to help.  She knew that I was getting bad as I was telling her goodbye and asking her to pass messages on to the kids if I were not to make it through this. My stepson came back with some of our neighbors who were able to provide support through their presence.

Finally, the forest service showed up to get me to the ambulance. I told them everything pertinent that I could think of, what I ate, what I drank, what medications I take, anything that I could think of. The first guy, who was smaller than me, told me to put my arm around him and walk down the hill. I believe that I actually laughed in that moment as he was not aware of the fact that my body was only standing because I had locked it into a self-supporting position before I lost all control. After continued urging, I agreed, and he lifted my upper body. It took about 10 seconds for him to realize that I was in much worse shape than he had originally assessed, and it was going to take more than one of him to move me. Thankfully someone else stepped in and they carried/dragged me down the hill together. I remember them apologizing over and over about stepping on my feet and just laughing again, telling them that I couldn’t feel a thing anyhow and only knew that they did it because they told me. I got loaded up into the back of a pickup truck, and that is when my vision started to return.

Riding in the back of the truck was interesting as I slowly started regaining some motor control and was able to move my arm. I talked, made friends with the army of help that had shown up to lend a hand, and was transported to the ambulance. Once they got me on the stretcher, I started to experience confusion. This was a most inopportune time as they wanted to know which hospital I wanted to go to, who to call, etc. I couldn’t come up with anything for them and they refused to call my wife so that I could get her to help with the questions. I eventually went with what felt to me like the suggested hospital and treatment, was loaded up, and the next phase of this craziness began. Other than all of the needle sticks, and general questions, I started to come back into myself in the ice cold ambulance. We finally started moving after information was gathered and phone calls were made. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, I was pretty much back to normal. When we were about 10 minutes from the hospital, I started noticing tremors again. The technician who was sitting with me started asking if I was alright. My control over my body started to fade and I started convulsing. I was still mentally aware and able to talk, but just before we got there, my throat started to tighten up and it became difficult to breathe. They rushed me into the ER where the final stage of this experience was played out.

I was taken to Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, KY. When I was ushered in, they started taking blood and ordering up tests. I was completely immobilized from whatever was affecting me and convulsing all over. Sweat was pouring off me again and I advised them that I was about to go through whatever this was again, so if they wanted to see it in action, then they should stick around. 

The staff there were less than friendly with the exception of 1 or 2. I tried to make jokes as my body did the herky jerk, to converse with them, but was often ignored. At one point I started crying and the attending nurse literally turned his back to me and continued doing his paperwork. A CT scan of my head was ordered and I was shuffled out, then back in, with little more than a few words spoken by the nurse. I, on the other hand, figured that I’d either annoy the hell out of them by talking so much and making “dad” jokes about everything, or they’d start responding. I think I just annoyed them. After returning to my room, I was pretty much left to lay there and go through this by myself. My wife was busy trying to get the kids to her mom’s house before coming over to the hospital. Finally the doctor came in and told me that they think I reacted to something in the beer, but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what that may have been. My favorite Western Kentucky diagnosis – mystery disease. For the 6 years that I lived in Western Kentucky, unless I had strep throat or an ear infection, I had mystery diseases. Too bad they aren’t free.

My wife showed up about 30 minutes after my last episode and they released me. She took me to Walmart in my soaking wet shorts from the campsite and a t-shirt from my tech bag. I grabbed some flip-flops, lots of food, water, coconut water, and a blanket. My beautiful wife took me to her mom’s house and I was able to sleep for a couple of hours before the kids got up.

This was the beginning – I will be following this up with some revelations that I made about myself during this ordeal, some of the fallout and other revelations made because of them afterwards, and whatever else may come from this as time goes on. I will save all of that for subsequent posts, but I want to say this here:

I truly believe that if it weren’t for my wife, I would not be here today. I have little doubt that if she hadn’t gotten me to help where they could administer IV fluids, get my electrolytes in check, and get me cooled down, then I wouldn’t have made it. The way in which she was able to handle the situation was amazing. She never once made it about her. She was totally focused on getting me help, keeping me comfortable, and making sure that her needs and fears weren’t expressed so that if I were to pass during this, I could go with as little attachment as possible. The last thing that she told me before I left was that my work here was not done as I had revealed previous visions that I have had about our future together. That was enough to help me hold on until I emerged from this victorious. She showed me in this trial what unconditional love is.


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