Why am I here?

I am by no means, a religious thumper of any kind...

Working in healthcare, I've had my share of conversations with patients that have been left stunned or horrified by their recent flirtation with death. Not only do they perceive the world through a radically different lens, but some are often left almost angry with the pressure to do something amazing with their life, simply because they lived. I have also worked with a generous share of veterans from various wars, most commonly WWII and Vietnam. These often sweet-spirited men are still left shaken by the deaths of their close friends decades ago, while they were somehow spared, and physically unscathed. However emotionally, they carry an immeasurable load. There are still others, that have experienced what's known as NDE, or near death experiences. We have heard the stories, or watched the reality shows- hungry to exploit someone's worst day ever. An individual tells an emotional story about slipping through the ice, or the last thing they remember is a MACK truck's lights barreling toward their car. These NDE's usually share a cluster of elements that are somewhat predictable. An event, a separation from their body, unconditional peace, and the choice to come back or not. Now, there are some variables in between. People explain almost heavenly dimensions, or creepy darkness, or even nothing at all. I am by no means, a religious thumper of any kind. I don't have any kinship to the idea of a particular afterlife. I mostly know that few of us live to tell the real story in the end. That being said, I've had my own scrapes with death. Much like my patients that exhibit a certain "deer in the headlights" look when talking about their mortality, I have also asked this question numerous times. Why am I here?

While I sat watching Roseanne reruns...

I always used to wonder why people would slit their wrists when attempting suicide. First, ouch! Second, it seemed like a pretty slow way to go- bleeding to death. I used to know lots of friends in or out of high school that engaged in self-mutilating behavior. While that's not (usually) with the intent of committing suicide, again- ouch! I honestly never had the desire to bleed to death. So it was much to my surprise when I began to hemorrhage, just hours after having a medical procedure done. This was following my horribly complex pregnancy. My daughter was about four months old, and I was living with my parents, still recovering. It was a rough year, but it was about to get a lot rougher. While I sat watching Roseanne reruns (gosh, I love that show), in a reclining chair and drinking a caffeine free Diet Coke, a hot rush of liquid basically exploded in my chair. I'm thinking what? I'm a grown woman. I'm potty trained for goodness sake! But no, it was blood. Like a friggin damn broke. For anyone that has had a baby before, you know they give you those monster pads in the hospital that could basically soak up an entire lake. Yeah, I went through like five of those bad boys in twenty minutes. It was time to go to the hospital.

Of course, I would have to be alive to do that...

My mom is blind, so my dad drove me to the closest ER. I guess they have a lot of methods to stop bleeding. Cauterization, something involving silver...honestly, things were getting fuzzier by the second. Nothing was working. Basically, the doctor had an "oh shit" look on his face from his side of the stirrups. I remember someone explaining to me that I needed to have emergency surgery, and it was possible that I would have to have a hysterectomy. In my delirious state of blood loss, I begged them to do what they could to keep me in tact. I was only 28, and was hopeful that I would have a family to grow one day. Of course, I would have to be alive to do that.

I'm talking about uber peace...

I was wheeled on a gurney to the creepy basement of the hospital, where all surgeries go down. As staff prepped the surgical space, the transport folks left me alone in the hallway...bleeding out. They had given me several of those warmed white blankets they give you in the hospital- I think they have a special blanket oven for them. It was a good thing too, because hemorrhaging makes you exceptionally cold. As I laid on the gurney, in the basement hallway that looked everything like a scene out of a horror movie, I thought a few things. I thought about how much I loved my daughter. How much I wanted to raise her. I remember thinking that maybe I wouldn't. Maybe I wouldn't live through this. I wouldn't get to see her grow up, or do her hair someday- when her infant mullet had turned into legitimate little girl hair. I remember wondering if my parents would live long enough to help care for her, or if her dad would have to figure it all out on his own. As I was going down this morbid rabbit trail of possibility, I was overcome with a peace that doesn't exist in this world. Any comfort that exists on this plane, doesn't begin to skim the surface of this peace. I'm talking uber peace. Not only that, but there was a light, a golden-white ball of light (not the florescent lighting from the hospital ceiling, I assure you). It bathed me. Now you don't understand. My daughter is the air I breathe. I love her so infinitely, that I would give every organ in my body to give her life. In this state of peace, I had this absolute understanding that she was ok, she knew my love, and she would turn out just fine. This is usually the scene when someone dies.

Perhaps I decided to stay...

I don't remember anything after that. I suppose that someone swooped my unconscious body from the creepy hallway and stopped my bleeding. I was surprised to wake up. If there is a conscious decision to submit to the light, I had peacefully made it. I suspect some things went on in some realm of consciousness that I don't understand- before I woke. Perhaps I decided to stay. Or I got a flash of the future, and I was bound to prevent her dad from making her listen to Korn during his workouts (unsuccessfully, I might add). Either way, I was here. I was getting that shot at raising my girl. I would like to tell you that this was the last brush with infinite light, but it wasn't. There were two more hospitalizations that year. However, I'm saving those stories for my upcoming book. 

Whatever universal source could offer comfort...

So what's it all about? Heck, I had been saved from several brushes with mortality, seemingly hell-bent on kicking me off of this planet. Yet here I was, alive and in color. Why? Why am I here? Much like the patients I serve daily, I was a ball of grief for months. I had a hard time conceptualizing what was to become of me. After five hospitalizations within the year, and a legit run-in with the actual "light," I was flailing. A lot of time was spent crying, reflecting, and pleading to whatever universal source could offer comfort or guidance. I guess when you're blanketed in vulnerability, that's when all the magic happens. As with all of my major life shifts, when I give up control- things fall beautifully, and effortlessly into place. It's a lot like a trust fall. You know, when you stand with your back to a crowd of trusted people, and allow yourself to fall backwards, knowing if these people don't catch you- you're going to fall to the ground, likely suffering a broken coccyx. Leaning into your true purpose is a lot like that. Believing that something is going to catch you. While it would have been handier to be given an owners manual at birth, itemizing my path clearly, via color coated algorithms, I remained befuddled for the majority of my young adult years. Until this. Being a patient, being close to death three times in as many months, and experiencing the love that parenthood teaches us so selflessly. It was becoming more and more clear to me, that these radical (and scary) experiences needed to be used for the greater good. My path became glaringly obvious. I had to counsel people in the medical setting. With my experience enduring pain, vulnerability, complete loss of control or pride, I had to support those that were caught in the same spiral of the unknown.

Singing a foreboding lullaby...

Almost twelve years later, I sit in the office of my budding private practice. I did the work, got the fancy letters, waded through the muck, and found myself thriving as a counselor. When I sit across from someone frightened and lost, I know their fear. I am intimately familiar a variety of distressing emotions. They have made their way through my calendar years like a siren, singing a foreboding lullaby. I wouldn't trade it though. Not for the most fruitfully predicable storylines. What are you here for? Maybe it's to open a cupcakery that brings smiles to the masses. Or you are here to offer sage advice to a caregiver when you're 97, and they go on to discover the cure for ebola. I don't know why you're here, but trust that it's for something beautiful. Embrace the trust fall. Lean into the unknown, because frankly- you're a big deal, and I'm glad you share this world with me.

AM