I don’t have a big almost death story. Because I don’t remember the death part. I only remember blacking out - which I am not quite sure is a good thing or a bad thing. I feel like Tony Soprano when he alludes to the whole ‘fade to black’ end of life bit. But, then, he is Tony Soprano so I am not sure that’s the best idea to conjure when thinking of death and the after life.
Earlier, I sat on my porch with a friend. And she asked me the question. The question I hate because I don’t have an answer. Not even a little bit of an answer. “What is it like to die, even if just for a few minutes?”.
Lordy, I want to give a whole lights and magic and flying on birds and seeing my old pets and grandparents kind of answer. My answer though, “I have no idea, all I saw was black. I only knew when I was alive.”
I think of this often. I only knew when I was alive. I think of it often because I try, so very hard, to be alive each and every moment. I try to remember that day as the day I woke up, instead of that day, I almost died. And then, I think of this story. I remember it because I woke up to this story. This day. Riding on a scooter. In Italy.
The wind tore threw my hair and my tight, brown skinny pants clung to the legs that grasped the scooter between them. The heels of my shoes were huge and could barely fit the pedals. My hands wrapped around Marco’s stomach and I had the sense to think and remind my eighteen-year-old self to think and to pay attention. I remember, more than the salt water air and the warm, but cool night...I remember, I sat on the back of a scooter with my arms around the stomach of my Italian boyfriend, in Italy, on the water, after a day in Rome. After a day I looked up and saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and assumed it would be just meh, but, instead, I was rendered silent and my eyes looked up for hours and days and minutes as I just tried to absorb the awe and wonder.
And you know what? This scooter scene is what I remembered after my whole fade to black scene. I remembered life. I remembered living; I remembered reminding myself to live. I woke up from my accident still riding on the back of that scooter in skinny pants and huge heels. I woke up and I was still living.
Very few people know this story because it embarrasses me. This isn't a story about the after life. That part was all dark to me. But, the waking up, oh I remember it.
I remember the night I brought home my puppy. I remember the night I went to my first baseball game after my accident and my friend carried me all the way down to the good seats. And he secured my wheelchair and carried me up and down anytime I needed or wanted anything. And he explained the entire game of baseball to me. And I listened because he was explaining it. I remember the day I picked up my car. Not because it was a new car, but because it meant freedom after so much entrapment. I remember the football games with Ashlea and Kyle and Justin and Brandon and Natalie and how I just felt twenty years old. Not a paralyzed twenty years old, just twenty years old. I remember laughing and the kids I used to babysit and studying for exams and writing papers well into the early mornings with these joyful girls and boy. I remember grilling lamb kabobs at dusk and late night walks with my dog that turned into early mornings because I ran into a friend and we just couldn’t stop talking. I remember flying to New York City to feel loved by the only older sister I’ve ever known and I remember the smell of the wreckage at ground zero after 9-11. I remember the night we got stuck in my driveway in heels and sparkly dresses because it was snowing and some cute guy at the party kept telling us, it wasn’t snowing as hard as it looked, it was just the lights. I remember long walks at the river and the huge hills and the coaching it took to master those hills. I remember laughing over homemade dinners and gushing over dinners out and downtown. I remember watching the rain steadily fall and listening to her calm, yet ominous presence and talking about hurt and pain and loss and love.
I remember the living.
I don’t have an almost death or after-life story. I just have a life story. I woke up and remembered living. I woke up still remember the living.
We worry so much about the after life. About how we will be remembered. About what people will say. And these things are important. What is more important, though, is how we live now. What is more important is what we pay attention to now.
I do not have a grand story. I have a story filled with a lot of really fantastic moments and some really hard moments. And it's in all of the moments I finally woke up and started living. It wasn’t the promise of an after life...it was the truth, that right here and now, amongst the weeds and the dirt there are some pretty amazing wild flowers and trees and sun and lots of life to be lived and a scooter to ride, in Italy, along the water.
End of scene.
Fade to light.