It was perfectly clear to me what was happening. I was dying. Yet at the time of my death there was no
fear, no struggling, no desperation, no confusion and no bewilderment. Yet as I sit here reading my wife’s account of my death I am filled with terror. In the middle of the night, during the Labor Day weekend, I went into anaphylactic shock.
Waking up in the middle of the night, having great difficulty breathing, I realized that I was in trouble. I
woke my wife and told her succinctly, “we have to go”. She understood immediately. She jumped from
bed, put on a few clothes, grabbed her backpack, and helped me as we stumbled in total darkness toward the parking lot.
In the car I fought for my breath, for my life. I withdrew into myself. I knew that I was in the process of
dying. I watched it happening. There was no fear; the experience itself was too compelling. During this
period of time, which was probably less than 10 minutes, all of my attachments to this world dwindled to nothing. Susan’s voice was distant, remote, removed from my experience. I could hear her talking to me and then I could no longer make sense of the words. “Hold on”. “Holeone”. Hooooooo”.
As I sat there struggling to breath I watched the dashboard in front of me lose its definition. The lights lost their brightness. Everything turned a dark grey, and then black. My body began to feel very heavy. I could feel the weight in the middle of my back. I let everything settle down into my centre, not struggling with this feeling of heaviness. I responded weakly to Susan, partly because of the physical state that I was in but largely because I was totally absorbed in the process of dying. My head felt huge and heavy like a boulder. I felt my body toppling. I could not tell in which direction I was falling.
`Call no man happy until he is dead’ wrote unhappy Aeschylus. `Death is nothing’ opined the much more contented Epicurus. `Death is not an event in life. `Death is not lived through’ wrote the early Wittgenstein. Woody Allen, following similar logic perhaps, insisted that he was not afraid to die, adding `I just don’t want to be there when it happens.’
Author: Tem Horwitz