What I Learned From My Near-Death Experience

We thought life was a journey with a serious purpose at the end, success, money, heaven, fame - but we missed the point

Does near death become her?

This is something I’ve pondered in the last year after a near-death experience. Following an operation, for unknown reasons and no one’s fault, I developed a DVT, culminating in a pulmonary embolism. Emergency doctors told me in no uncertain terms this was life-threatening. Like us all, I’d thought of death often but never looked it straight in the eye.

So how do you feel when you get told you might not make it? I felt remarkably calm (probably helped by the copious amounts of morphine) but just heart-wrenching sadness that I could be leaving the people I loved most in the world - especially my two gorgeous daughters. I didn’t think of those who had hurt me, disappointed me or let me down or that I’d been richer, or thinner, or done more with my life - I just knew I wasn’t ready to leave this place we call Earth just yet.

I have had two profound spiritual experiences in my life. The first was at the height of my alcoholism where I got down on my knees on a beach in Hong Kong and begged the God (of my understanding) to end the pain I was feeling and to help me stop drinking. The second was in the chapel of the hospital. The first day I was able to walk, I went and sat in there for what seemed like hours. Being a hospital chapel, there was a book where relatives had written about the loved ones they had lost. I wondered why I had been spared this - when there were so many more deserving cases than mine? It certainly makes you want to be the best version of yourself.

During that time and the subsequent months of recovery I saw that, fundamentally, people are good. The kindness and care I was shown from everyone will stay with me forever. If I could bottle that feeling you have after coming through a near-death experience, I would make millions (and more importantly, solve the meaning of life). I saw the best in everything and was so grateful for my life. But it doesn’t last, sadly. Of course within a few months that rude black cab driver pissed me off, I was irritated by the little things like the fact nobody apart from me seems to care about the kitchen floor being clean, etc.

But a few things have stuck with me: If you are in the wrong, apologise and make amends. And life is too short to hold grudges, forgive and move on - resentment only hurts you. But it’s ok to walk away from toxic people or situations and don’t feel bad about it.

Try your utmost to be a good and kind person who isn’t judgemental. We all have our struggles - so remember: “Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said now? Does it need to be said by me?” Your life might not be perfect (and damn tough at times) but try and find gratitude in the small things. When things are tough, remember this too shall pass.

I always thought the next job, the next man, the next house, the next country would bring me happiness. But it doesn’t. Wherever you go, there you are. In other words we take our problems with us. Face up to yourself first and the rest will follow.

Enjoy the journey instead of always focusing on the next thing that you think will bring you happiness.

I think Life is not a journey by Alan Watts sums this up beautifully. Our existence and the physical universe is playful. There is no necessity for it. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have some destination it ought to arrive at and it is best understood by analogy with music: “You play the piano. You don’t work the piano. It differs from travel - when you travel you are trying to get somewhere. One doesn’t make the end of a composition the point of the composition. If so the best conductors would be those that played fastest or only wrote finales. We thought life was a journey with a serious purpose at the end, success, money, heaven, fame - but we missed the point - it was a musical thing - we were supposed to sing and dance while the music was played.”

And, perhaps most importantly be good and kind to the people that love you and you love back. Perhaps we only have this lifetime to spend with these particular people.