Dancing with Death

Near death experiences. I’ve had a few. I often reflect on my life and am reminded of the many close calls I have had and why I survived. Thankfully, I never actually died – I was spared for some reason. Too many times has Death looked me in the eye, only to check his watch and wink at me as if to say, “Not just yet, my Dear.”  Why? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I now have a wonderful life with loving, caring, and productive adult children. I have been blessed with four grandchildren; with each I have a deep and loving bond. I have a caring and dedicated husband, who has been by my side for almost thirty years. My adult life has been very blessed.

But with all the brushes with Mr. Death, I have to wonder why I have been spared? I see lots of people who are just as happy as I am suddenly suffer tragedy. There are auto accidents, illnesses – well, you get the idea. I just never figured out why, in all the times we’ve met face-to-face, he never scooped me up and took me away to my next adventure.

I have a healthy respect for Death. I understand it is part of our life journey and nothing to fear. So, why am I still here? Some of these extraordinary events actually happened to me, and to this day I am still scratching my head, wondering why I survived? I suppose we all have close calls, but the few (of many) true stories below were just too close.

Fed-Ex Near Death Experience:

I remember driving along a feeder road in Houston, Texas with my two young children, ages three and five, safely secured in the back seat. We were singing songs and I was trying to keep them entertained until we returned home. Two energetic kids in a car will either drive you insane or make you want to pull your hair out, so I did what I could to keep them happy and in a good mood for the 15-minute drive home. I had reached an intersection and continued through it. Suddenly, I heard screeching tires right outside my driver-side window. Terrified, I glanced over and saw a Fed-Ex truck just feet from my car door. He was so close, in fact, that I could hear the packages inside the truck tumbling to the truck floor. I felt my skin grow cold! I’m still unsure of who would have been at fault had this event taken a different ending, but with my distracted mind, I can only assume… Thankfully, I was not hit. Had this gone another way, he would have slammed into me dead on at a force that would have surely killed me and at the very least injured my two young babies. I survived unscathed. Why?

Near Death by Gallstone:

In 2009, I was on my way to a training class for a job that I had recently been hired. I was excited at the opportunity and was a perfect fit for the position. But I woke up feeling queasy…again. I had been experiencing off-and-on abdominal pain, but brushed it off as a virus. I pushed through the nausea, figuring it would ease up once I ate something. When I arrived at the training, I found myself in a room with several other new-hires, so it would be easy for me to relax a bit and wait for the uneasiness of my tummy trouble to pass. I had coffee. I tried to have a breakfast roll. Nothing was working, and the pain only began to worsen.

My problem quickly began to deteriorate, and within an hour I had to excuse myself to make it to nearest restroom, where I began vomiting. I figured that once I got that out of my system, I would feel better. But it continued, happening about every 30 minutes, and before long it was one heave after the other. I was excused from training and tried to drive myself home. After about ten minutes, I knew I had to pull into the nearest Urgent Care. They took me in immediately, drew blood and called an ambulance. The vomiting wouldn’t stop. Thankfully, a medical center was right across the street. Fresh blood was drawn at the hospital and I was soon caught up in a whirlwind of exams; ultrasounds, CT Scans and MRI Scans.

Within about an hour, and after all the testing, I was face to face with a surgeon who said the P-word:  Pancreatitis. He explained to me that my lab values had reached extremely critical levels, particularly my liver function tests. My amylase (an enzyme, found chiefly in saliva and pancreatic fluid, that converts starch and glycogen into simple sugars), was at 13,000+. They were unable to get an accurate count because it was off the scales. Normal range is 25-115. Lipase, (a pancreatic enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of fats to fatty acids and glycerol or other alcohols), was at 3,000+. Again – off the charts. Normal range is 73-393. I was pretty sick. My pancreas was dying, and so was I. As my doctor confirmed, “You can’t live without a pancreas.”

I was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit, where I was placed on intravenous antibiotics for five days, until the infection in my pancreas was cleared up enough to undergo surgery. Apparently, I had gallstones. One of them had popped out of the gallbladder and blocked up the flow of whatever fluids are supposed to flow through to my pancreas, which had become enlarged and infected as a result. Thankfully, the antibiotics worked, and the surgery to remove my gallbladder, (five days after I was admitted), went well. I was home after a week of being hospitalized. Initially, my doctor doubted that I would recover from such a drastically sick pancreas. But I did. Why?

Near Death by Explosion – Mr. Death’s Most Impressive Stunt

This last story still blows my mind.

It was one of the winter months, January I think, when I woke one morning to a cold house. We keep the heat at 68 degrees F at night – just enough to keep the chill away. But that morning, the house was cold. I felt the vents, the unit was on, but cold air was blowing out. We assumed the pilot light had simply gone out over night, and it would be an easy fix. Except neither I nor my husband knew where the pilot light was in our attic furnace.

I called one of our close friends who was familiar with furnaces and knew exactly what to do. We lowered the attic door and ladder for him, and he ascended into the cold attic and approached the furnace. After a few quiet moments, he came back down, explaining that he was unable to light the pilot. “By the way,” he asked, “who turned off your gas valve?” My husband and I looked at each other with wide eyes. Neither of us had been up there, and neither of us knew where the gas valve was even located. Michael explained that the gas had been turned off, and it took quite a bit of effort to turn that valve. It would not have been able to move on its own. Someone would have had to physically turn it. We were both a little unnerved. We thanked Michael and he left, still shaking his head in disbelief.

From there we ended up calling out a furnace repair person. He arrived the next day and made his way to the attic. After a good while, he came down with a mutilated piece of furnace equipment – the “furnace grate,” he said. Apparently this piece is where the gas flows through, where the flames sit, and what is responsible for heating our home. The look on his face was pure bewilderment. He showed us the grate, which had a gaping hole blown in the center, with metal shards sticking straight up instead of lying neatly in a deliberate and “normal” pattern. He said to my husband with quiet resolve, “Sir, I can’t explain how this happened or how, at the very least, your young children and small animals are still alive.” It looked like there had been an explosion, but we heard nothing all night. The dogs didn’t even stir.

Sometime during the middle of the night while everyone was deep asleep, there was an explosion in our attic strong enough to bend solid steel into shards of scrap metal. The gas had to have been on to ignite the explosion. And sometime during the night, probably around the time of the explosion, the gas valve had been turned off by an unseen force. I can’t explain it. I can’t even wrap my head around it. But that explosion happened during the time the pilot light was burning in order to ignite an explosion so strong as to bend that metal grate. There should have been a massive BOOM! not only in our attic, but through all the gas lines in our home, and into the kitchen and laundry room. Our water heater should have also exploded. Our house would have likely burned to the ground during the middle of that night. I, my family and my pets would all have met Mr. Death in one fell swoop. But we didn’t.


I may never know the answer to these questions, but I am extremely thankful I have been able to carry on with my life. I have survived to watch my children grow up, witness my grandchildren thriving, and along the way I have been blessed to offer peace and healing to countless people. But I still have trouble believing that I was spared simply because of who I am. After all, I’m just a gal living my life and helping people along the way, as opportunities arise. I’m just me. And I know one day Mr. Death and I shall meet for a final time. I only hope I’m allowed to live out my life to the fullest before we meet again.

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