What Goes Through Your Mind During a Near-Death Experience? Probably Not What You Think.

Near death experiences (NDEs)… This term probably paints a picture of a panicked individual, maybe conscious, maybe not, or maybe somewhere in between. Panicking is a natural physiological response to adrenaline, and some experience a generalized panic at least for a second. You’d probably think everyone stuck between life and death thinks about all the things they haven’t done. In my experience and in the NDEs of the people I’ve spoken to, the things they haven’t done actually take the backseat to how their families and friends will be affected by their death.

Yes, that whole life-flashing-before-your-eyes phenomenon is real. I’ve experienced it many times before. I live with over 20 life-altering conditions. The conditions themselves are not considered life-threatening, but the neurological, cardiac, respiratory and metabolic complications are life-threatening and have nearly taken me out a number of times. In fact, according to medicine, I shouldn’t be alive. But what medicine says doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is what God says. I’m sure many chronic illness warriors who have cheated death a number of times can relate.

I got a little sidetracked there. The point is yes, when I had my first NDE, my life flashed before my eyes as I was being artificially ventilated, and at newly 16 years old, I worried I wouldn’t get to drive a car and get my license, attend my junior/senior prom, graduate high school, go to my dream college, see my younger brother grow up and graduate high school, have my dad walk me down the aisle to marry my Prince Charming, have a family of my own and live into old age. Depending on the age of the individual, the life goals may be different, but the foundation for all of this is still the same. Almost everyone still has things they want to accomplish in life.

One thing many people don’t mention is that they are most concerned about how their loved ones will cope with their loss. Nowhere are these feelings more prominently than now, as I lie in the neurological ICU on the verge of needing intubation. Whenever I find myself in precarious situations like this, it’s not about me. I worry about my mom, dad, aunts, cousins,  grandma and close friends. Parents often tell their children, “I don’t know what I’d do without you.” “I couldn’t live if something happened to my *insert family member here*.” Patients with conditions that have caused them to experience NDEs think about these situations often because many times we are walking the thin line between life and death. I think in some ways, the sick individual gets the “closure,” but the remainder of the world has to figure out how to move on and remember.

Everyone, healthy or not, old or young, will experience death some day. Some may have NDEs. Please know, the point of this article isn’t to be depressing. After the recent loss of a fellow warrior and friend, I thought about our last conversation and felt this was a myth that needed to be debunked. Death is often portrayed as such a selfish, “all-about-me” experience, when in fact, that’s not the case for everyone.

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