Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life. – Marcus Aurelius
Born just an hour before, my new baby boy slept soundly next to me in the hospital room when I got up to go to the bathroom. I had no idea that I would die and come back before I saw him again, and how that experience would transform me.
The nurse held my elbow as we crossed the room, neither of us realizing my blood pressure was plummeting. Walking past the picture window I noticed the February night sky twinkling with stars, wisps of cold air seeping in through the glass.
By the time we reached the bathroom, her distant chatter sounded soupy to my ears and the world felt like it was moving in slow motion. I tried to tell her but the words stuck in my mouth — my legs weak, gray splotches filled my vision. I remember my cheek brushing against her silky brown hair as I slid to the floor.
Then everything went dark. The kind of dark where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, like passing out but without that sickening feeling in your stomach.
Vaguely aware that the nurse had positioned me up against the corner of the bathtub, I could feel my head pressed between my knees. She was calling to me as if from across a valley. It was all swimmy, like the ocean, like surfing and suddenly being underwater. Yet even in the blackness I knew I wasn’t alone, and there was no fear.
The Great Unravelling
By this time my Earthly identity disappeared: my name, my spouse, my life, my parents, even my children — all forgotten, something like waking from a dream.
Moving quickly from one density to another, out of heaviness and into a lighter atmosphere, I began to accelerate like a rocket leaving Earth’s orbit, the darkness giving way to light. And again, there was no fear.
I began to travel through a brilliant tunnel that coursed with vibrant energy made of intricate webs of interwoven fibers glowing with life-force. Every particle, every tiny thread constructing the crystalline passageway was like a massive connected body. The sum of the body held the deepest sense of love. I breathed Love, it was like the air of this place. In and out, like a heart beating, breathing, all in impeccable order.
I traveled towards an enormous white sun.
Everything permeated intelligence: the light, the tunnel, the darkness, the diamond grid crystalline geometric structures all around and within the tunnel. That intelligence had a sense of infinite wellbeing. A sense of the highest consciousness. Utter safety. The emptiness wasn’t void but wired like a massive, gently shifting, multifaceted matrix—responding, adjusting, and ever-expanding.
God. Spirit. The Field. Universal intelligence. Prime Creative Energy. How do you name that which cannot be named? The feeling for me was that God was me and I was God. One unified being. No difference, no separation. Yet I had an energy signature, a distinctive expression of my own.
Maybe hours passed, days, years, or just seconds. Time evaporated.
I came to a threshold.
A great Spirit stood with me, who smelled like summer rain and felt familiar. This Spirit had a form, like a regal person, a silhouette against the brightest light but without clear features.
Meeting the Real Me
For the first time, I knew Who I Really Am. An extraordinary being, complete and perfect simply ‘as is’. Part of a thriving Universe of Love. I felt at equilibrium yet ecstatic. Satiated yet emerging. Rapturous yet grounded. A balance of polarities.
Telepathically we communed together. The language was full of images, colors, an orchestra of feelings simultaneously shared. The intimacy was indescribable— like having someone see directly into me with nothing to hide, and loving me completely, beyond judgment, seeing only that I’m perfect and whole. And I too could see into myself and into Spirit.
A flame within my heart center lit up, radiating magenta, now violet. It was burning and merged with the Great Spirit’s flame, too. Powerful passionate energy pulsed out from this shared heart flame between us in every direction in waves. Like being part of a rose gold sun, warmth filled everything. Wave after wave of pure energy poured through us, extending out to the edges of infinite space, like making love with our souls.
This Great Spirit gave me something, a memory, like a holographic image animated within my crown. Then I recalled ‘myself’, my children, my life on Earth, and many other faces, known and unknown, lives I had touched and would touch, lives that had touched mine and would touch mine. I didn’t recall my own name, but I knew I wasn’t finished on my Earthly journey.
Back to Life on Earth
Instantly I was moving back through the tunnel at high speed, returning.
I could hear someone calling from a trillion miles away, the voice getting ever closer. My name came back to me then. Like driving a motorcycle at 500 mph and slamming into a brick wall, all of a sudden I felt shocked back in my body. I opened my eyes, air forced itself into my lungs. Blaring lights hurt my head and the antiseptic hospital odor burned my nose. My skin felt icy cold and rubbery, unreal.
I looked up at the nurse and saw her face wet with tears. She told me I’d gone out, no breath, no pulse. She held me to her chest. Stroking my hair, she said, “Thank God, I thought we’d lost you.”
I wonder if it was her determination that pulled me back through the tunnel of light, as she called and called my name, pulling me back to Earth.
Words didn’t come for a long time. Finally, she asked me if I could speak. I looked into her eyes and said, “I want to do that every day.”
“Not on my shift!” she blurted out, wiping her tears away. She wrapped her arms more tightly around me and rocked back and forth as we sat huddled together on the cold gray tile in the middle of the night.
I thought of the new baby sleeping in the other room. I thought of the great journey he had just taken to be with us. I thought of my daughter sleeping at home and her long curls that bounced when she skipped and the little songs she sang to our Golden Retriever when she dressed him up for tea parties. I thought of my family, my loved ones, my friends.
Like liquid poured from a pitcher into a tall glass, I could feel my spirit coming back into my body. The shivering slowed. I moved my fingers and toes and looked around. My heart beat quickly in my chest.
It felt like a miracle.
Making Peace with Death
Since I came back, I have often imagined a world where everyone has slipped over to glimpse the other side of life, a world where each and every person knows beyond a doubt that they’re good enough just as they are — that they’re god-beings in human form. No exceptions.
I imagine a world where Death isn’t feared, and the wrapping is torn off of the gift of life.
I imagine that I may die again without warning, and not come back.
Death’s ever-present possibility can make me more willing to take risks, speak my truth, be more curious, and less resistant. When I’m lucky, Death’s awareness helps me catch myself when I’m taking life too seriously.
Since then I’ve sat in the peaceful company of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank: repelled down a two-hundred-foot waterfall; gone skydiving; swam with dolphins; ziplined through the jungle; climbed mountains with my three children; learned to ride a horse without any gear; worked in prisons and met presidents … and so much more.
You see, I probably would have done these things anyhow, but somehow I feel I appreciate them more knowing it may be the last time.
And more importantly, the appreciation isn’t about the doing, it’s about the being.
Being enlivened from moment to moment. Being present. Being with whoever I am with, whether it’s in a beautiful place with my favorite people, or standing in line at the store on a gray day.
The magic of ordinary days aren’t lost on me as often since I died: the raspberry sky at sunset; the sound of my children’s laughter; the warm embrace of my beloved; the feel of the river’s water rushing against my skin in summer; the smell of fresh bread baking; the sound of a makeshift drum concert on a city corner … the list is endless …
I find that when I slow down to the speed of life, Life feels overflowing with connection and possibility. For me, each day is another chance to live on Earth, if only for a while, and I hope that each day I get a little closer to living as if I were dying.
We would love to hear your thoughts and feelings after reading this piece. Have you had a similar experience? Does it give you comfort? Have you heard other stories like this? Have you ever felt as if ordinary days were magical? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below. We love sharing and exploring this wonderful life and death with you.
The UPLIFT Team
Dorothy Kolomeisky is the director of the Bet Lev Foundation and a member of Team UPLIFT.