My Summer At Death's Door

Posted by Tom Mahon on Sep 19, 2011
7191 reads  

Dear Friends,

I'm happy to be home after 69 days in John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek.  I went in July 1st for surgery on my cervical spine, but then was hit by a cascade of complications resulting in the failure of my kidneys, liver, pancreas and lungs.  
For six weeks I was unconscious, and for nearly four of those weeks was on a machine doing my breathing. I have no memory of any of that (and don't want any).  I did not have any Kubler-Ross vision of a tunnel of light, but I did have a remarkable sensation upon becoming conscious again.  As a person of faith, I thought you might find this of interest.  
I awoke in intensive care and found I could not move my limbs, sit up or lift my  head from the pillow. (Six weeks being bedridden makes the whole body atrophy. Fortunately I am regaining use of my limbs.)
I could turn my head, tho, and I saw a row of broken bodies in the ICU, like mine.  And suddenly I felt flooded in a warm light binding all of us broken people; it was a flow of compassion shared by all of us (compassion originally meant to suffer with).  It was as if we were all bathing in an ocean of infinite mercy. The feeling lasted for maybe a half hour, and at least for now I can still recall it to mind.
Then, discovering I'd been in the grey zone between life and death for nearly a month, and therefore very close to facing my own final judgement, I realized how severe I have been judging some others in my life.  I realized that if my strict standard was applied to me, I would not fare too well.
So I determined to cut some slack to others.  In fact, I watched Dick Cheney on TV recently and my brain didn't explode.  His own brokenness is evident in his perpetual scowl and the fact he has had 6-8 heart attacks.
The take away is that we are all broken, and  that warm light of compassion that binds us all is available to all of us if we want it, according to the world's wise men and women.  It's a pity we spend so much effort running away from it.
I don't know if the insights of my life-transforming summer will stay with me, but at least for a few minutes I had glimpse of the Beatific Vision.  And in that vision I saw there is no room for anxiety, depression or despair.  

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Comments (11)

  • meghna wrote ...

    So so so heartwarming to read this. :-) thank you for sharing this with us dear Tom :-)

  • Ram wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful experience!

  • Viral wrote ...

    Glad you are ok, Tom. And thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your deeply valuable insight. Very inspiring!

  • Yoo-Mi wrote ...

    Thankful that you are OK and grateful for your insight. Your comment about Dick Cheney made me laugh out loud! :) And, give me pause... I need to cut a lot of people some slack... Thanks, Tom!

  • Arathi wrote ...

    hey there tom. what a beautiful insight. thank you so much for sharing. hope you are feeling better and doing well.

  • Prakash wrote ...

    Dear Tom - thank you for the beautiful insights and gems of wisdom from your life experiences!.

    Wish you best of health, please know that we are here to hold you in our deep space.

  • Madhusudan wrote ...

    Dear Tom, Thankyou so much for sharing this. Sending you lots of love, smiles and a big hug from India :)

  • Paul wrote ...

    Thanks Tom for your eloquence. You've taught me something valuable. Wishing you the best.

  • Nisha wrote ...

    Hi Tom, you seem to have been through an incredible journey. Thank you for sharing this powerful story. Ragu and I wish you much health and strength.

  • Alan wrote ...

    What a magnificent experience! And your words about Dick Cheney were priceless ("...and my brain didn't explode.") Your sharing will undoubtedly continue to resonate deeply. Thank you, Tom!

  • Richard wrote ...

    Thank you for sharing this. I don't think one can completely forget such an experience.