Jerry and I recently drove our friend Lee (on right), with his wife Karri, to a doctor’s appointment. In the crowded waiting room Lee started describing to someone how he had died and gone to heaven (Lee’s Heaven, yesterday’s post.)
He was filling in details he hadn’t mentioned to us before–“I saw my grandfather. A voice said, ‘Come closer! Come closer!’ and I was saying, ‘I’m dying! I’m dying!’ Jesus was on the left in a shroud of gold. I heard someone call ‘Code Blue!’–” when a large man sitting across from us in the waiting room spoke up. “That happened to me, too.”
Lee was still caught up in his own story so I waited until he was through and turned back to the stranger across from us. “You died?”
“Yes, I died too. Twice.”
His name is Brian Dean. It was June 23, 1982. Brian was 17 years old, at the wheel of his father’s Datsun pick-up at 2 AM, on the way to marlin fishing off Baja de Los Angeles. He and his father both fell asleep and the next thing Brian knew he’d slammed on the brakes, locking them up, the truck rolled, he went through the windshield–and was rising painlessly up through the clouds into brilliant light.
“Then I put a hand to my head, felt blood and thought, ‘I must be alive.’ At that instant I was back in the drivers’ seat, in my body.” Excruciating pain set in–his femur had been forced through his pelvis–and he claims he made medical history a week later as the first American to receive two stainless steel implants and 11 screws.
Next to me Jerry commented wryly, “I don’t think I’d like to have my 15 minutes of fame like that.”
Five years later, Brian told us, he fell asleep at the wheel of a Toyota truck, mesmerized by the reflection of his lights in the mirror-like surface of the tanker truck in front of him. “The road turned and I didn’t. I hit the corrugated metal guard rail with its railroad ties, hit it straight on and went up like a pole vaulter. I broke my leg in three sections. My cousin was with me and the rail came one inch from his crotch. They had to remove him from the truck with the Jaws of Life.”
At this point Brian was called in to see the doctor. The petite woman who had been sitting quietly beside him now introduced herself as his wife Paula and she took over sharing Near-Death Experiences about people she knew. “My friend Petra died during surgery,” she said. “She saw a beautiful place, a garden with lounge chairs and a river in front, peaceful. She did not have a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order so the doctors brought her back. She told her husband, ‘Next time don’t let them bring me back. It was wonderful!’”
Then she told us, “My sister had lupus. She was on a respirator in ICU for a month and a half. The doctor said her lungs would collapse and she was so scared. Next thing she knew everything was white. She saw both sides, a dark side and a light side, and when she came back she was so shaken by the dark side she talked to a priest about it. (We had been raised Catholic but she had lost her faith at a secular university.)
“She passed away two years ago from cardiomyopathy connected with relapsed lupus. But this time she was totally at peace.”
Both our men had seen the doctor by this time and were back in the waiting room. They compared notes and found out they each have a follow-up appointment on March 29, just half an hour apart–“and it’s my birthday!” Brian exclaimed, pleased. The four of us exchanged contact information and hugs and planned a reunion in that super-charged waiting room again in four months.
“I’ll bring a cake,” I promised.