When I was 14, I was pronounced dead in an Emergency Room at a hospital in Monterey, California. A doctor was in the lobby, explaining to my mom that I had gone into a Type 1 diabetic coma and they had lost me.
A nurse burst through the doors and yelled at the doctor, “We got him! We got him back!”
The doctor ran back into the ER and as the IV of insulin and saline and the intensive care from the team of caretakers took hold, I came back to life, awakening from a coma the next day, my mom by my side.
“Thank god!” she said. “I’ve been praying all night. Thank god you’re alive.”
In a moment of clarity I have rarely felt since and don’t recall ever having felt previously, I said, “It wasn’t god. I chose to come back.”
But I didn’t know the whole story.
I didn’t know that while I was slipping in and out of consciousness the day before, in the hotel room bed where my mom had taken my younger brother and me (how we got there is a whole other story!), my mom decided to take my brother to the pool while I slept. She sat in a lounge chair next to a woman while my brother swam and played.
They struck up a conversation.
“What are you doing here?” the woman asked my mom.
“I’m getting away from my husband with my boys for a while,” my mom answered, neglecting the part about how she hadn’t told my dad where we were, and that she was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and had openly talked about walking off into the ocean and never coming back.
“Where’s your other boy?” asked the woman.
“He’s upstairs in the room,” my mom said, adding, “he’s been sick.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” replied the woman. “What’s wrong with him?”
“I think it’s just a bad flu,” said my mom, leaving out the tremendous pain I had been having in my ribs, the twenty pounds I had lost, the sickenly sweet odor coming from my skin, my insatiable thirst and utter lack of appetite.
When I told my mom it was me, not any god, that wrestled myself from the great deity Death, I did not know the whole story.
I didn’t know that the woman by the pool turned to my mother and said, “I’m a nurse, would you like me to take a look at your boy?” When my mom led her into the room, and the nurse saw me, I must have been a sight because she wasted no time in exclaiming, “Get this boy to a hospital…NOW!”
I didn’t know that had that woman not offered to help, just then, just there, just in time, I would have died in that hotel room in just a few more hours.
I remember the bellman from the hotel picking me up and loading me into his car when I lost consciousness. I didn’t know that he was pulled over for speeding on the way to the hospital. I didn’t know that the patrolman took one look at me lying down in the back seat writhing in pain and said, “Follow me!”
He led us, siren blaring, lights flashing right to the ER doors.
I didn’t know he had radioed ahead and a team was waiting for us and wheeled me right into the caretakers on duty that day.
One of them was one of the leading endocrinologists in California, who happened to be making teaching rounds there. He was able to diagnose me instantly and get to work on saving my life.
I didn’t know that while I was fighting for my life, pitted against a disease that had already ravaged my body and nearly extinguished my spirit, a series of circumstances and people seemed to be there, all of them just in the nick of time.
Had any one of these happened even five or ten minutes later, who knows?
I didn’t know most of these things until I was taking care of my mother 40 years later and she told me the whole story.
Do I believe that God, or the Divine or some sort of conscious entity or entities conspired to save me that day?
Honestly, I don’t believe that. It seems egotistical to me when so many others die every day who surely deserve life as much as me.
But what happened, happened. And I am full of gratitude and wonder at all the human angels who were there that day, helping to keep me alive. Was there some god, as my mom believed until she passed away a few years ago? Or was it my personal choice to return from another realm?
I don’t know, and maybe that’s not even the right question. But now I feel forces, people and even Mother Earth rooting for me to deepen into the gift of life I have, and give back in return.