Death, nearly.

“I long to be where they are,” my husband says. Not in a depressed or suicidal way at all, just a deep yearning. Reverence. (Spoken by a man that I have never heard use the phrase, “long for …” in our near 2 decades together). It’s a response I have become used to getting from him when he hears that somebody died.

He died in 2015, and he got the rare opportunity to come back.

A longer story of what happened that evening can be found here. And, as a soundtrack to your reading, a link to the version of the Gayatri Mantra that I was listening to at work all that day, unknowing of what was happening (somehow cramming myself full of spiritual fortitude for what was about to take place).

Since then, there have been many times when he’s struck by the same sincere solemn tone. I have been right there next to him enough to feel like I have some image of what it must have all looked like. We have all seen it here on earth. Those undeniable moments when Mother Nature forces pause. The sun penetrates the sky and clouds sending rays of clarity, light, radiance and magnificence over the scene in front of us. If we have been lucky enough, maybe we have found ourselves in one of the sparkling beams of sunlight and felt transcendent in that moment. For my husband, it’s too much to take in sometimes, I think.

I suppose that once you have crossed that veil, been in the presence of the Holy One and then been pulled into the tangible, 3D world again, it becomes easier to move back and forth freely. If I ever wondered if we could step between realities, I have seen for myself all the proof I will ever need. This ‘life’ we live out in this particular ‘body’ is not as concrete as we have been led to experience and believe. Clearly, we do not need our body to exist. And, we can come and go and come back again.

People often ask what his religious background was. Was he a spiritual man before he died? I’d have to answer – no. He was raised devout Greek Orthodox. Our life is a bit like ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding.’ He had a very religious backdrop to his upbringing but he was not a spiritual man.

Now? Now, he knows that something much bigger than him will decide when his time is up. He knows he must have been sent back here for a purpose. He knows that he will die again someday and tells us often that we can’t be sad for him when that happens. “I know where I am going.”

When my husband woke up after his life-saving surgery, the last thing he remembered me telling him was, “Hold the best image of our 3 kids in your mind.” Then the nurse saying, “This is going to hurt.” They intubated him, bagged him and we waited. We both rode in the ambulance. I was in the front with driver frantically making phone calls and trying to reach people. He was in the back, losing pulses, dying. He thinks this is when his soul first left his body. This was when his near-death experience began.

When words started to come to it all, he began with recounts of ‘riding a beam of light’ and what he saw during his surgery. He was inclined with his feet higher than his head. There was lots of blood. Surgical gloves. Conversation. Sounds. It all made sense, but there was a very real question if he actually ‘saw’ it, dreamed it, imagined it, or experienced it all from a reality we don’t typically move in.

“I was upside down with my arms up but looking down and seeing s#*t. It was bizarre. I remember asking one of the doctors, ‘Did I see you in there? I think I remember you.”

His extraordinary medical team was very receptive and understanding, caring intently to listen to his experiences and memories. Then the very clear words were spoken. All of the things he ‘saw’ in surgery did happen. His memories were spot on. But, his eyes had been taped shut during the entire processes. He did not see it with his human eyes.

During the late-night hours as the full October moon passed across the big windows and my husband lay in surgery one floor beneath me, I had a very clear moment, sitting in a conference room nursing our 5 month old. I felt him standing behind me clear and obvious as an ice cube down the back of my shirt. In my head, I started yelling at him. “What are you doing here? Go back downstairs into your body where you are in surgery. Please. If I can feel you here, you are not where I need you to be. Please, please go back into your body.” I thought for sure that I had lost him.

When I’d seen him last, he was blue, lifeless, swollen and being pulled out of the back of an ambulance. The man that I drove to the hospital that evening was hard to be married to and parent with. He was judgmental. He was closed off. He wasn’t particularly happy. The man that woke up the next morning was grateful, confused and open. He quite literally had been born again. He had been resurrected. Nothing could ever be the same. And it hasn’t been.

When you start looking into the near-death experiences that are on record, they all seem more similar than different. The generality of what one experiences is hugely similar despite religious/cultural backdrop. They all reflect the basic nature of what Chris encountered as well.

“I was riding on a beam of light. I felt like I was either being pulled by a light wave or riding a light wave. It was very bizarre. I didn’t have extremities and I couldn’t move around but what I could see was experiences. Friends. Family. Life. Just flowing on this light wave. This was all in that 3-6 o’clock orientation around me if you were looking at a clock. Down and to my right. I was being pulled or it was going … I saw a movie of my life. Aunts. Uncles. My grandparents. I saw everyone on this light wave with me. All on this light wave. This is so vivid. Just like I am talking to you. Just like we are sitting here minus my arms, my legs. Being on that light wave and not feeling anything. It was wide. Like an exhale. Like a muffle.”

Interesting, were some of who and what he recalled. Old friends and girlfriends I’d never heard about before. Memories with his cousins and siblings growing up. It struck me how lovely and amazing it is that all of that experience, all those people who he loved and who loved him came forth in a way that wasn’t the clear obvious. People had left an imprint on his soul that he didn’t regularly call up in his everyday life. A reminder that we never know the importance we play in somebody’s life. Perhaps we can’t know during this earthly life the souls that have shifted and directed our course. Maybe it isn’t until we have the awesome retrospect of death that we can clearly see who impacted us the most.

“The light got brighter and brighter until it just was everything. It was so wonderful. So peaceful, like the deepest sense of coming home I’ve ever known. It all felt so familiar, so comfortable. I loved it there. I knew that it was where I came from and where I belonged. I stood in front of 3 orbs of light. There was communication but not in words or phonics that make sense here. Then, I started to feel myself being pulled backward. Almost like somebody was grabbing on the back of my shirt and pulling me back, away from this light. It felt slow. Sad. It got darker, the light further away from me.

Then I woke up. I hurt so bad, my chest was killing me. I was strapped to a bed. Tubes in my throat and neck. I couldn’t move. Trudy (the ICU nurse) was over by the sink. She asked me if I was OK and I gave her a thumbs up. She asked me if I could move my toes. I did. She came and put her hand on my shoulder and told me that I should rest. I was going to be alright, she said. I just closed my eyes. What the f*@!k just happened”

And he woke up. Swearing relentlessly. Full of gratitude. Entirely different frame of reference.

Whenever I find a way to share his experience with somebody that may benefit from hearing about it, I can see the peace and comfort that it gives. This is why he has agreed to share it openly. It is one of his new gifts to give. Even better, when I get to watch people receive the story from him… This unassuming package of a handsome middle-aged dad, meeting people at the grocery, at the pool, in the neighborhood. Somehow he invites near-strangers to share their deepest secrets, experiences and fears with him.

There is something very reassuring to people about this man that died and came back. I think it comforts people to hear where their loved one may have gone or hear where they are headed. And, to hear that this lovely man with a wife and children who adore him quietly awaits the time when he is called back. It gives a different perspective. Death doesn’t seem like anything bad at all when you talk to him about it. It’s a homecoming. It isn’t ours to control, ward off or fear. It just is. And it is good. And it has a timing that isn’t ours to know, control or be afraid of.

“Enjoy the time we have now. It is very important. It is about so much more than this. If everybody would experience what I experienced there would not be bad people on this planet. People need to know there is more to it than here.”