I died on January 11, 2000. My heart stopped and my lungs quit functioning. There was no heartbeat and no air going into and out of my lungs. There was no time; no past, no present, and no future. I was not aware that I existed. I was gone.
Twenty-five minutes later my heart was restarted and my lungs inflated. And, I was taken off of a heart/lung bypass machine. Three hours later I became conscious and a breathing tube was taken out of my throat. I had been unconscious for five hours while undergoing open heart surgery to repair the mitral valve in my heart. I was totally unaware and I only knew that I was alive when I woke up.
This has happened again in 2013 when I had a five hour operation to rebuild my broken arm from a bike accident. At stage 4 anesthesia there is no awareness. A total blank. This is unlike sleep where one dreams and there are at times some sense of awareness.
Based on my personal experience, my belief is that when I die, it will like going into a deep sleep and not waking up. My body will be gone. I will no longer cast a shadow. I will no longer exist. So, there is really no need to be afraid of being dead. I just won’t exist. Just like my parents, Frances and Lee, my brother Gordon, and my son Brian, no longer exist; and my deceased friends and billions of other humans in the past.
Being born is waking up having not gone to sleep. I will be in the same place as I was in March 1941 prior to my conception. No place. And of course, there is the mystery. Who knows if there is life after death? No one knows and if someone professes to know, they are coming from their own personal subjective experience.
Now how about the process of dying. That I fear. I used to joke that some idiot is going to whisper in my ear on my deathbed “This is going to be a growth experience.” I now know that it is. Some die quickly almost instantaneously like my son Brian who was killed in an auto accident. But many die slowly. And for those who do, it can be a transcendent experience.
I have been reading Grace in Dying by Kathleen D Singh. She was with hundreds of individuals who were dying and found that almost all of them moved through phases of chaos, acceptance and then surrender leading to peace and transcendence. I hope to do that and to rise above the suffering when I am dying.
I know that as one approaches death, material things fall away and relationships and connection with others emerge to be the most important. I do believe that we are born to love, and that love is perhaps all that ultimately matters to us.
What is your take on dying?
Life after death? Continued consciousness?