What It Felt Like to Almost Die
My near-death experience taught me not to fear those final moments
I remember the very instant the blood clot careened into my heart.
The palpitations were like nothing I’d ever felt, and the taste of blood filled my mouth. Milliseconds later, like a ricochet of bullets, the clot exploded in my lungs. I fell to the ground, gasping for air, each breath more shallow and pained than the one before. I am dying, I thought with a clear certainty that I’ll never be able to explain. My systems were shutting down, one after the other, and my body instantly knew what my mind could not refute.
I did not feel fear or panic as one might imagine. Instead, I became laser focused on survival. As I lay sprawled out on the pavement with my dog by my side, my attention became fully devoted to reading the symptoms overcoming my body and figuring out what to do next.
This is the first time I’m sharing what it really felt like to almost die. The experience has always felt too personal to talk about. I’ve written about an awareness it brought me, but that hardly scratched the surface. I just haven’t been sure if I could tell the full story in a way that sounded believable and sane, and more importantly, that honored the weight of the experience. For the last nine years, this has eluded me.
But each year that passes, I see friends and family struggle with the loss of loved ones. I can’t help but feel that my near-death experience gives me insight that might alleviate the pain of imagining the final moments — what might have been going through their minds, whether they made it to the other side in peace. So at the risk of sounding absurd, condescending, or irrational, I’m going share what it felt like to almost die — and why I believe you need not worry about those final moments.
Realizing that I was dying was like being pushed into a pool. You have no thought but to hold your breath and start swimming. It was the most out of control I’d ever been in my life, yet the only option was to succumb peacefully. I could hear the percussion of my heart beating wildly, recklessly. My breath only reached my trachea now, its pathway closing in rapidly. My palms spread open to the sky, just as my dog moved to stand over me. I am here…