Posted by: Marie | August 15, 2009

(126) A glimpse of the other side

Post #126
[Private journal entry written on Saturday, April 11, 2009]

The sun is just now coming up . . .

I had an interesting evening last night. At an extended family reunion dinner at a restaurant, one of the elder members (in his mid-70’s) of the family choked on a piece of meat.

He was fighting altitude sickness (he lives at sea-level and we were at about 7,000 ft / 2,134 meters), his blood sugar was a bit off (he is diabetic), he had been drinking quite a bit and his dentures don’t allow him to chew meat well. So, no big surprise that he choked on his food.

On the Grass by Martin Chen

On the Grass by Martin Chen

Several of us cousins have medical backgrounds (two nurse midwives and two former EMTs), so we all jumped in and worked on him. One of my cousins attempted the Heimlich maneuver on him — no luck. So, she turned to me and asked me to try the maneuver (I am quite a bit stronger than she is) — he was unconscious by then — I thrust really hard several times (hard enough to lift him up off the chair a few inches) — that dislodged the food and he started breathing again.

We laid him out on the floor and maintained his airway until the ambulance crew arrived. The paramedics were able to get him awake and alert again within a few minutes. Despite everything, he survived – and none the worse for wear after a few hours in the ER.

My reaction to the situation was so automatic — my emergency training kicked in (I was a fire fighter and EMT in my early 20’s) and I didn’t even think about it, I just did what needed to be done. So, when everyone started calling me a “hero” and thanking me for saving his life, I didn’t know how to respond. There were many people who stepped up and played a role — it just happens that my part was the part that dislodged the food.

Anyway, the experience has brought me to a contemplative place – this question keeps running through my head: “What if he didn’t want to come back to life?”

I don’t know him (he is not directly related to me and I hadn’t met him before last night), but I kept getting an “energetic read” from him during the time I was working on him that indicated he didn’t want to come back. I could feel his spirit standing in the doorway between “now” and “forever”, resisting a return to the now.

Clearly, it was not my place to make the decision to allow him to die – if he wants to leave, he’ll have to do it on someone else’s watch.

I keep replaying the sensation I experienced while touching that ethereal doorway to the other side . . . for a few moments, it was right there in my hands . . . I could feel it . . . tantalizing . . . peaceful . . .

This morning, in the quiet, I find myself bothered by invasive thoughts . . . if it had been me instead of him, would my soul have fought to not come back? Would I have been glad for the legitimate excuse to exit this world? Maybe so. It would be a good way to go . . . .

I’m not sure what to do with this. The whole experience has left me tremendously unsettled and unable to sleep.

But, I have to pull myself together . . . I have another family gathering and 300 more miles (483 km) of driving to do today over a couple of mountain passes – and it’s snowing heavily. My family is depending on me to hold it together and get them home safely.

I’ll have to process this later.


Editorial note: At the time this happened, I was very aware that Dr. Barb wanted me to keep the content of my journal and our therapy sessions positive and upbeat. However, she had just indicated she would allow negative stuff directly related to “The Courage to Heal” book into our process. So, that meant there was a chance I might be able to process some negative stuff with her help, although I was questioning to what extent. I was sure she would keep it reigned in very tightly.

I believed my unsettling response to this event would not fall inside the parameters of “allowable” therapy content. I felt I could not share it with her. And, I couldn’t tell my family because it would freak them out to know I was feeling fragile – after all, I’m “the rock” who holds it all together for my family. So, I just did what I often did . . . I kept it to myself. I told no one.

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  1. What an experience!!

    That really sucks that you had no one to process this with, especially all of that esp feelings that you had, on the other hand, maybe this path you were taken on is what makes you so strong and will benefit you in ways you can not yet imagine.

    Here’s what I do know, my therapist would have found delight in the challenge of treating you!!
    Yeah I know this cuz you remind me of myself I can be so bold…

    • Hi, Vicki –

      That is a good way of looking at all of this . . . that the difficult stuff prepares me for what is yet to come . . .

      Thank you for believing I’d be a delightful client! I’m glad you are embracing your boldness!

      – Marie

  2. You should have brought it up anyway. I wonder what she would have done – I mean after awhile you’d think she would lighten up and realize you needed to talk about anything that came up.

    • Hey, Ivory –

      Yeah, one would think she’d realize at some point . . .

      Thanks for stopping by and hollering! It is good to hear from you!

      – Marie

  3. Hi Marie,

    I look forward to watching your process of opening up – to the extent that you can share this with the world (or the blogosphere anyway).

    • Hey, Evan –

      It is a little weird to have this experience displayed on my blog . . I guess the phrase “I told no one” no longer applies, LOL!

      – Marie

  4. The will to live is incredibly strong. In so many harrowing circumstances, people push on, even when they can’t understand why they would want to. So, one must assume in these situations that the person wants to be saved.

    I think most people in your shoes (heroes) feel unsettled and contemplative after such an amazing and scary experience. Give yourself time.

    In any event, it’s wonderful your learning kicked in and you were able to save the old person. I bet he is feeling incredibly lucky to be alive.

    • Hi, Sandy –

      What you are saying seems to be true . . . on all three accounts!

      Thanks for chiming in on the discussion!

      – Marie

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