Monday, July 28, 2014

Catholic Hermit Shares Death Experience

Today I am going to write about the death experience of 27 years ago on this date.

First I will share the forewarning, the presage, that His Real Presence gave about three or so months prior to the emergency back surgery.

It was early April.  I have the exact date in one of the journals I kept at the time, in which I wrote nearly daily, of my life and including encounters with God in dreams, visions and locutions and temporal occurrences.  But those journals are packed away now, and something like this one remembers as if happening this moment, anyway.

Yes, it was early April in 1987.  I lived in a small house in Southern California with  my three children, ages nearly 4, just 9, and nearly 11.  My back had been injured when in a car accident with my husband at the time.  The accident occurred August 22, 1983 when we lived in Pacific Palisades, CA.

The accident occurred late at night, as we had been to a Linda Ronstadt concert in LA, having been given tickets by someone my husband knew through his work as a school administrator in a prestigious district.  I did not know who was Linda Ronstadt at the time, and I really was not interested in such things, but I went along to please him.  As for me, I would have been as content staying home with our children, having a quiet evening.  We left a couple minutes early because my husband wanted to miss the crowds leaving at the end of the concert.

I had prayed a couple weeks prior to the event, the accident, that God use me however He willed.  I had been feeling strongly that somehow I was not living the lift God wanted of me.  I never said anything to my husband or anyone else.  I just felt that my life was going in some direction that was not His will.  My prayer was brief but heart-felt.

The accident occurred just three houses from the house we rented.  I won't go into more details at this time, but about four weeks later, my husband walked into the house at supper time one evening, after work, and announced to me he did not want to be married anymore.  My back and neck had been in pain ever since the accident, and life was never going to be the same.

So, about three years later, after a contentious divorce (that I had thought and hoped would go amicably but had not--not that I had not wanted it to be simple, but we cannot control how others will behave and choose), I woke up one morning prior to work, and it was as if I was coming out of anesthetic.  The air, the scent, was cool and that of an operating room or recovery room.  It was as if I had come out of a surgery, and I heard a man's voice.

Of course, I was on my bed in my room, with my three children still asleep in their rooms in our small house that I purchased with great difficulty, and moved into, six months prior.

But I heard this man's voice that I did not recognize, but somehow knew was a doctor's voice.  He said with an accent I did not recognize:  She is here!  She is with us!  She is going to make it!

That was all.  I wrote this in my journal.  I may have mentioned it to Dr. H. who I had been seeing for help, along with my daughters, in getting through the divorce.  But as for me, I had been visiting Dr. H. for a few months due to the awareness, finally, that my inner life and perceptions were unusual, and he had an uncanny gift with the paranormal, as God would have it all unfold.

I then proceeded to forget about the waking vision and locution.  I was suffering from increasingly painful back and neck pain.  I was very tired trying to keep working as a high school teacher in addition to caring for my beloved children, and at the same time dealing with the ex-husband who wanted  not to be married to me and was with other women all along and in yet anothe relationship, yet very much seemed intent on harassing me and making my life difficult.

A couple of weeks later, maybe more, on the last day of school prior to spring break, my back gave out so completely that I spent lunch break at the high school, on my back on the floor of my classroom.  For the last two periods of the school day, I tried to remain standing, but I announced to my students to do the assignments I had written on the board, and explained I was in such pain that I had to get on the floor.  Yes, it was extreme, but the pain was extreme.  The students were stunned but thankfully and compassionately obliged.

After the final bell, I made my way to my car in excruciating pain.  Somehow I managed to drive to a chiropractor who the school principal had recommended.  The chiropractor refused to treat me due to the amount of pain I was in. I somehow drove home, picking up my son from preschool, my daughters having walked home already from their elementary school.  They were to visit their father that weekend and did so.

By evening, I called the on-call doctor, and he met me at their office.  He asked me if I had been drinking, as I was so out of it with pain.  Yes, I said I had had a glass of wine.  He was not my regular physician and assumed I was more drunk than in pain and assumed I'd had more to drink than my honest reply.  I managed to make it home and to bed.  I remained in bed until the following Tuesday, when my regular physician who knew I was not a drinker nor a malingerer, and who also was a fellow church member (Lutheran at the time), told me he wanted me in the hospital for tests and rest.  Other church members and neighbors made arrangements to care for my children in their homes.  My daughters and a babysitter I'd hired had already managed my son's fourth birthday party, as I lay inside on the bed, suffering terribly.

Once in the local hospital, after a CT scan, my doctor said he found a huge bulge in my lumbar vertebrae.  He hoped traction and bed rest and pain medication would help.  I called my parents who drove from their home in Arizona and cared for the children for the rest of the week while I was hospitalized.

I was unable to return to work for a couple more weeks.  My doctor made arrangements for me to see a friend of his, an orthopedic surgeon.  He took additional scans but declared my spine "normal."  He said he thought my pain was emotional, as he was aware of the hardships endured with my ex-husband's on-going harassment and my life as a single, working mother.

The pain continued, but I gutted it out, returned to work, only to collapse again.  I hop-scotched my way through the end of the school year with more absences than work days.  The principal put me on employment probation and gave me low evaluation marks.  Two years prior, in one of the most prestigious districts in the nation, I had received high marks.  The fear of losing my job only added to the stress, and I myself wondered how I could be in such physical pain if my spine was "normal."

My doctor had me visit yet another orthopedic surgeon.  He flirted with me, actually.  He reviewed the scans and said while I might have some back strain, I'd certainly never need surgery.  His remarks were similar to the surgeon I had seen following the accident.  That surgeon had done tests at Cedars of Sinai Medical Center, and had said the pain was probably just emotional due to the then pending divorce.

So, I had to try to accept that somehow the pain was psychological, yet I knew otherwise, at another level.  I had many dreams and visions during that time period, but I prayed to keep going for my children.  I even accepted a summer job teaching education administration graduate students at San Diego State University, but after two weeks on the job, my back gave out yet again, and I could not continue.  All through this time period I spent much time in bed or on the floor, and my prayers were to endure for the sake of my children.

Finally, when I reported to my doctor that the Lord showed me my lower back as a mass of burning embers, he sent me to yet another orthopedic surgeon.   That surgeon looked at the first surgeon's simple x-ray, ran a pencil down it, and declared, "This is no normal spine.  See how these vertebrae jut out over a fourth an inch?  How have you been walking for the past three years?"  He then proceeded to explain, in exasperation, that all too many doctors assume women's pain is emotional, when in reality women tend to bear far more pain than most men can begin to endure.

He schedule me for additional tests utilizing high-tech equipment at the time, requiring injecting dye into the spinal column and using imagery to better detect the situation.

When I was on the gurney during these tests (conducted in an operating room with me sedated but conscious), he had interns with him for a learning experience.  I could hear the men gasping and making exclamations as to how awful it was.  "There are pieces of disc all over the place!" I heard one say.  The surgeon came to my side and told me he was sorry, that he had not realized it was as bad as it was, and he would give me increased pain medication and was scheduling me for surgery within two weeks.  He added that if the medication did not help the pain, to call even if the weekend.

The next day, a Saturday, after a night of horrific pain, my dear children asleep in their beds in the next rooms, I called to say I could not bear the pain.  He told me to make arrangements for my children, to have someone bring me to the hospital on Monday, and that he was scheduling me for emergency surgery.

God sent people when I needed them most.  A near stranger, a woman who I'd recently met, helped me with the children.  I called my parents and made arrangements for my three children to fly back to Indiana to spend the next few weeks with my mom and dad at their lake home.  This woman drove them to the San Diego airport, and I prayed for my children to arrive safely, which they did.  I had to but endure the next two days and nights of sheer agony.  I was supposed to have given my own blood in the off chance I would need a transfusion in surgery, but the blood center would not take my blood due to the level of pain I was in.

The night before the woman was to drive me to the hospital, I had crawled to the living room and was on the floor, looking out the patio doors and into the night sky.  I was so alone.  Suddenly but peacefully, a light appeared and started to move, slowly making the sign of the cross.  It did this three times.  I looked about, trying to see if it somehow could be a star or some car light, but no, the smog hindered sight of stars, and my house was at an elevation above the street.  No cars had passed, and headlights would not be seen regardless.  At that time I was not Catholic and had never made the sign of the cross.  But with that light doing so, and three times, I knew it was God reassuring me.

In the morning, the woman came and drove me to the hospital in a neighboring city.  A nurse met me as I was being wheeled onto the surgical floor, literally holding a hypodermic needle in her hand, filled with morphine.  I said I did not want morphine, that I did not want to become "addicted."  She informed me quite firmly that people who do not need pain medication are the ones who become addicted, but that the surgeon had ordered morphine immediately upon my arrival, and that he wanted me built up and rested prior to undergoing the surgery.

Since I was unable to give blood, this woman made a call to her husband who happened to have my more rare blood type, and he and a friend who happened to have my blood type, each donated blood on my behalf.

This is enough for now.  That day was July 27, 1987.

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