Witnessing my Dad’s passing a few weeks ago revived a memory of when I was also on death’s door. As a 30-something mom, I ran myself ragged managing a spotless household and successful international marketing department. My almost two-year old was ferried to daycare three days a week, and my (now ex) husband and I were tag team parents. He had Tuesday’s and Thursday’s off of work, I had Saturday’s and Sunday’s. I worked days. He worked nights. We slapped hands on the threshold door some days, taking turns coming and going.
Christmas season was fast approaching. My Type A personality was extremely organized, so all the holiday presents were bought and wrapped during Thanksgiving weekend. Our home was polished, vacuumed, and ready for hosting the family dinner. Santa was prepped for stocking stuffing and homemade cookie eating. And, I had found the perfect dress for the office party – short, black, and form-fitting. I imagined myself shining with sequins, manicured and charming…ever the marketing rep.
Only problem was, after picking a playmate for my son after work and getting the kids involved in an activity, I sat down in the easy chair for just a moment before starting dinner, closed my eyes, and…could not get up. Exhaustion hit quick like a cement truck I didn’t see coming.
I called my friend to pick up her daughter, sat my son in front of a video and crawled upstairs to sleep. The next day, I could hear Rice Krispies in my lungs. After a few days of a 104° fever, I made a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon. Before leaving home that day, in between dozing and coughing, I had two visions. The first was a Life Review. It was like watching a train car rush past, from present day backwards in time, only each train car was a snapshot from a milestone in my life. They clicked as quickly as a camera’s shutter, but during each fleeting moment, I was fully immersed in that memory, including smells, tastes, background noises, with every sense engaged and as fully present as I was when it actually happened. It was surreal. And yet the realest thing I had ever experienced.
Then, I met Jesus.
“Are you sure you’re here to see me? I don’t even believe in you.” I quipped. His response was telepathic, but as we looked eye to eye, I understood without words that he was indeed here to see me. We faced a doorway together, where there was obviously a party going on behind the door with laughter, many voices, and ice tinkling in glasses. He said (in that nonverbal way of his) “Behind this door are all the people in your life that you have helped more than hurt. Open the door.” I complied, and was met by all the people I loved – my son, my husband, my parents and sisters, everyone I’d cared about at some point of my life. “Even him? I broke up with that guy years ago.” Jesus said “Yes. By leaving for the reasons you did, you helped him more than you hurt him.”
To our left was another door. “Behind this door are all the people in your life that you have hurt more than helped. Open the door.” Nope. I felt my chest fill with dread and did not want to go there. “You have to open the door.” he insisted. So I did.
There was only one person in that bare, cold room, naked and shivering in a fetal position in the far left corner. I walked over and saw it was…me. “You are the only person that you have hurt more than you have helped. Do unto yourself as you have done unto others.”
Wham. That realization slammed me between the eyes and I was instantly back in present day, in my own bedroom, sweating profusely. I went to the doctor’s office, was immediately sent to the hospital (do not pass Go, do not collect $200) and languished for several days while my 30-something doctor worried about why every antibiotic he prescribed had no impact on my illness. I could see the panic in his eyes as he contemplated the possibility of losing a young mother. The pneumonia raged on, and physical therapists came into my room several times a day to whack on my back and chest in an attempt to loosen the thick yellow secretions I was coughing up. When an older, dark-skinned woman came in from PT, I started crying. I was already bruised and exhausted, and could not bear the thought of being whacked on one more time.
She said “I’m sorry, honey, but I have to do this.” I replied “I know you do. I’m going to cry, so don’t just don’t stop.” She did the treatment, which resulted in racking coughs and gobs of phlegm. Then, she did something new. She pulled out a bottle of massage lotion and tenderly massaged my back, quieting me down. It was the first time in my life I felt “mothered” with compassion and tenderness.
The next day, my fever broke. The sweating stopped. The coughing diminished. And I begged my doctor to let me go home to rest. A day later he agreed, if I promised not to lift a finger and to stay in bed for a week. I promised.
Dad picked me up at the hospital and drove through a blinding blizzard 30 miles in the wrong direction to the only pharmacy still open on Christmas Eve. Then he drove for nearly two hours to the house I grew up in where the rest of the family had put together a Plan B holiday dinner. As I snoozed off and on in my childhood bunk bed, I listened to the sounds of the people I loved in the next room, complete with laughter and ice tinkling in glasses. My toddler was laughing, and my husband was relieved that I was out of danger. I gave thanks for all them, and for the fact that all my gifts were bought and wrapped on time. Still Type A (sigh). Then it hit me. It was nearly Jesus’ birthday, and I had received such a miracle.
A few years later, I divorced, left the corporate world and became a licensed massage therapist. An older, wiser mentor asked me “So when did you crash?” “What do you mean?” She went on. “Most massage therapists are wounded healers. Because they’ve gone through a traumatic experience themselves, they are able to compassionately help others.” I thought about it before remembering my near death experience, meeting Jesus, and the words that continue to have an impact “Do unto yourself as you have done unto others.” From that day forward, I have learned to make a stand for my needs, to make health a priority, to balance giving with receiving, and to love myself. My personality has turned into Type C…cat-like. Lots of naps. Preferably in the sunshine. Playtime. Mealtime. Me time.
In the days before Dad left his body, my youngest sister and I massaged his tensing limbs, eased his fears and discomforts, and consciously midwifed his passing. Witnessing this passage was such an honor, and as transformational for me as my own near death transformation decades ago. I continue to look to Jesus as a teacher and healer, and am so grateful for the thousands of opportunities I have had in guiding others towards their own healing. And for my own.
Think: Is your life in balance or off kilter? Is your own health a priority? Consider your physical health, mental health, emotional health and spiritual health.
Say: If there is something that you need in order to achieve better balance, write it down. List your minimum daily requirements.
Do: Clearly communicate to those around you what you need in order to not just function, but to thrive. Happiness is your birthright.
Share this post with three or more of your friends. If it has been helpful to you, it may be what someone else also needs to hear right now. And, it will help me launch my upcoming first book. Thank you!