The following is taken from my personal diary, as I wrote it down a few days after the incident. The experience happened during a very extended set of business trips. I had been ordered to continue working at a customer site despite having bronchitis, pneumonia, and a 104+ degree fever. The incident occured on Thursday, September 7, 1995, around 3:00 Eastern time, in an airplane going between Atlanta and Dallas. I had reached complete physical failure the night before. The only warm thing I had packed was a bathrobe and by that point the chills were so bad that I was walking around Hartfield airport in it. I couldn't hold down any food.
The "Don" mentioned is a co-worker. The "Janae" mentioned is my wife. The "Rachel"
mentioned is my 2 1/2 year old daughter.
Today is Saturday, September 9. It is about 5:30 p.m. I am recording this to put down all the events in order while I still remember them freshly.
Last week, ending 1 Sep, I was traveling with Don of ATC and Luis, Manuel and John to install two DCs, one in Aurora, Ill and the other in Dallas, Texas. There were technical issues, but that was no big thing.
Over the weekend, I went to church, sent out a bunch of QSL cards, talked to Argentina on my radio, and did other normal stuff. I expected a normal weekend on the road.
On Monday, I flew with Don to Newark, New Jersey. We met up with John and Luis. I was wearing the exact same shirt and pants as I had worn the week before to Dallas, but I began to feel extremely cold very quickly on the flight. By the time we reached New Jersey, I was shivering, and feeling pretty poorly. Don had the driver's side window most of the way down, despite my asking him to keep it up, and it was a long drive to Edison, made longer by several ... misdirections. By the time we reached the hotel I had fever and chills and felt horrible.
Ely called about 10:20 local time. I had to call him back. (He called while I was answering Ed's call.) I told him that I was too sick to go to the DC. I had a fever and chills. He said to go anyway. I ordered a burger and was able to eat it.
The fever broke about midnight, and I managed to look sufficiently presentable in the morning. I found the DC to be freezing to death, although everyone else complained of the heat. (It was about 87 fahrenheit according to a thermometer in the machine room.) By the end of the day, I was completely exhausted and begged to just go up to my room. This was maybe 7:00 p.m.???
From the room, I completed some business calls, and ordered a plate of pasta from room service. I could not hold it down, and I passed out. Maybe midnight the fever broke again.
We checked out of the hotel. I dressed heavier the next day, but despite that I was more tired. Dragged slower. More technical issues. We took a 6:00 flight from Newark to Atlanta, leaving the Edison, NJ DC about 3:50 p.m.
On the flight, I got pretty bad, chills, three blankets on me, throwing up. Very sick. Couldn't eat the dinner on the plane. The flight attendant talked to me some. She asked me what city I was living in. I didn't know. I said Sacramento, but I knew it was wrong and I didn't know the right answer. I was frightened.
Hartfield airport seemed like a huge, distorted nightmare. I like Hartfield. It and McCarren are my two favorite fields. This time, just walking from the gate to the shuttle seemed like bridging an impossible gulf. Don had run ahead of me. When I finally caught up with him, I told Don the story about the stewardess and not knowing what city I lived in. I apologized in advance, but said that I was really sick and needes some help. It was maybe 8:45 p.m.
The rental car was in my name. I couldn't carry my bags, we had to do some shuffling to get out to the car. My head hurt so bad I couldn't think. I couldn't focus my eyes. Light was very painful. Then the directions from Hertz weren't right, but fortunately I managed to pull myself together enough to tell him which way to go and we reached the hotel about 10:00. Checked in, bags in room, 10:20. A bottle of Nyquil and two bean burritos no cheese, 11:00. Managed to eat maybe 1/3 of one burrito.
Morning, felt better again. Ate a bagel, and a part of a second one. Got to the site 9:00 a.m.. It was a total disaster. There was a roof, but no ceilings in the offices, no electrical power, no networking, no telephone lines, and they wouldn't even be in until Friday afternoon. It was obvious we couldn't do anything there. I was so exhausted. About 10:00 or so, Don and John went off somewhere to make a phone call and when they came back we had permission to leave. We checked out of the hotel about 11:00 a.m. and went to the airport. I was so cold that I had to wear my bathrobe. We got a 1:40 flight out. I tried taking it off in the airport, but I gave up. I couldn't take the cold.
Got on the flight. They booked me in three seats, with nobody else. I lay down. While I lay down, I like zoned out. I could still hear people behind me carrying out a business conversation detailing how the specs in a project had been muffed up, so I know I wasn't dreaming.
What I saw was the following: I was in complete blackness. There was an exact square visible in the blackness. The square was not a tunnel. There was no reflection off of tunnel walls. As for size, I could not judge distance because there were no other details but if it were a foot away it would look about three inches by three inches.
At first I saw light streaming in the square, with bits of darkness. The impression was of immense speed and three dimensions, not like a flat TV image. The light was brilliant.
Then I saw a beautiful landscape. Two trees in a foreground, a large meadow, then a forest of trees in the background. Also, it was very brilliantly lit, brighter than anything imaginable. The trees were not evergreen. Definitely leafed, with big trunks. Not a California tree. Not a Georgia straight pine. I can see that image in my mind very clearly, and I cannot identify the picture.
Then that was it. I was back and awake and I felt much better. I told the flight attendant to find Don and to tell him not to leave me behind on the flight because I was very sick. I also asked for them to arrange a buggy for me at the gate. I was communicating and making sense.
I had two overall feelings after the incident. The first was that I should not have been there in the first place, and the second was that I had to be gotten back before I recognized anything. Note: there were no voices or angels or anything telling me this.
There wasn't much time at DFW to change planes. Again I had three seats, but I could carry out somewhat of a conversation with the people in the plane, some fabricators sent home because of a problem with some component having something to do with the Space Shuttle sinking in Louisiana, about their kids, about frequent flier programs, etc.
Janae got me at the airport. I felt pretty poor, of course. But we got out. She got me home and took my temperature, 104+. I knew it had been worse.
The whole experience has actually been very positive in my life. For a few seconds, I saw the other side. It has changed me.
* tremendous increase in my religious testimony, and my desire to go back there as a family.
* I do not fear death at all any more. I have seen it. I've been there. I fear pain. I fear leaving my wife and children so young, but I do not fear death. I know at one point I will look forward to going back.
* So many things that were of importance to me before just aren't. Almost every thing around me now is trivial. Material stuff is just junk. It all disappears.
* I don't live in fear. "What if I do that?" I now know that life is really short. Each day is a gift, and I am now living on borrowed time and it can end at any instant. I am now determined to live life fully and passionately, not just exist.
* I think I am a much better father now that I have seen the eternities. All those ideas I had about what I should be doing and how annoying Rachel was and how things should be structured have kind of faded. It's all just being the way it goes by itself now. I am doing things with alienated extended family relations that I could not have not done before. It has made me much more complete as a person.
I can't remember who, but somebody once said that seeing the other side for one minute is worth several readings of the Bible, or something like that. Well, it's a true statement. I learned a whole lot.
Death is definitely one of the most under-rated experiences in life. I now know. I've been there and done that. No, I didn't see a chorus of angels or even Uncle Walter. No, I don't have magic powers or anything like that as a result. But, I have been transformed into a MUCH happier and better person.
--------------------------- The section above was written in December of last year. Since then, I quit my job as a middle manager, took a pay cut and went to work for The Biosphere in the middle of nowhere because my wife wanted to raise our kids in a small town atmosphere. I just said the hell with my last job, the big bucks and the promotions and the business trips to the Hilton hotel aren't what is really important.
Feel free to e-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org
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