“Don’t be afraid your life will end. Be afraid it will never begin.”
– Grace Hansen
This isn’t a morbid post. I promise.
Have you ever thought about what happens when you die? I hadn’t thought about it until it happened to me – twice.
I mean I literally died. That’s not to be confused with the teenager who, “like ohmygod like totes literally died when One Direction split.”
Obviously, I was resuscitated so my story continues.
I’ve spoken to tens of thousands of people over the years in large group presentations and one-on-one. There are always a multitude of questions but one of the most frequent is, “What did it feel like when you died?” Or words to that effect.
At this point I should probably go back and explain a little of what happened.
In 2005 a rare form of the Streptococcus-A virus caused my brain to haemorrhage. I was a fit and healthy 24 years old with a successful corporate career.
One by one, all of my organs shut down and I was put in a coma for three weeks. Two heart attacks, collapsed lungs and other things that I can’t even pronounce (like Disseminated intravascular coagulation – DIC) meant that machines kept me alive for two months.
The head of the largest intensive care unit in the southern hemisphere said that I was “by far and away the sickest person there.”
Hospital staff prepared my family for the worse, warning them that my life support may have to be turned off if they couldn’t find a brain signal. Either that or I would awaken as a “vegetable” and not recognise anyone.
I only know all of this because of detailed recounts from family and a seemingly endless stream of hospital paperwork.
The truth is I don’t remember anything that happened. Zip. Zero. Zilch.
I have roughly six months of amnesia (memory loss) from both before and after my brain haemorrhaged.
I don’t remember dying and I don’t remember being brought back to life.
So in answer to that original question, it felt like… well… nothing.
That might not be the answer you wanted but that’s the truth.
There were no white lights, angels singing or bearded men to greet me. I didn’t fly through the clouds alongside a cherub with a harp.
The point of this post is not to make a religious statement and discount an afterlife. Different people have had different experiences over the years and this is mine.
It’s a fairly uneventful story, to be honest. But it has brought me peace. If anything, knowing ‘what happens’ when I die has made me less fearful of death itself.
I no longer fear dying but I do fear dying without having truly lived.
I spent over a year in hospital (the first time) and to-date have had many operations and procedures including a number of amputations, heart surgeries, a total hip replacement and more. You can read the full story here or learn how I stayed grateful during my first year I hospital in a piece I wrote for Huffington Post, here.
My life today has challenges but I’m grateful for what I have and what I can do, albeit limited.
For some reason that I doubt I will ever fully understand, the universe, God (whatever that means to you) or some higher power decided that the tireless work of brilliant medical professionals would not be in vain.
So that’s it. That’s what it felt like when I died. Nothing.
But like I said earlier, I’m not trying to be morbid. If anything I hope this encourages you to do something with your life before the nothing. Make your life mean something. Something that you will be proud of. Only you can know what that something is.
Something with purpose. Something with meaning. Something that serves more people than just you.
There’s nothing better than that.