What I Learned in the Liminal Space of Near-Death
Four weeks ago, I started to feel the tell-tale signs — a little tickle in the back of the throat and diminished sense of taste and smell. I’d had Omicron last January when everyone else had it, but it was nothing more than a minor irritation. This year — fully vaxxed and boosted — I figured I’d be tired for maybe a day or two, and then back to normal.
I’ve been in this body for 50-something years and have a pretty good awareness of its signals and protestations, but I have never felt anything like this. That night, the sore throat erupted into a brutal full-body combination of throbbing pain, nausea, and cold sweats.
As I tried to sleep, I couldn’t. I downed a bunch of Nyquil and waited for its magic to lull me into slumber. It didn’t. My fever skyrocketed and I became more agitated, tossing and turning and covered in sweat.
At about midnight, I started having what I can only describe now as physical hallucinations — a felt sensation of my body morphing through a sequence of different elemental states, melting and then spinning like an eddy at the bottom of a waterfall. Then the eddy folds in on itself, and I am rolled out like a giant piece of taffy which eventually morphs into a solid block of ice, which rises up into a tower, and collapses into a pile of glass shards, which scatter in a strong gust of wind, stacking up onto a cactus, then shapeshifting into a pufferfish that melts into hot lava. This goes on and on for hours.
I keep looking at the clock in prayer that this is all just a dream, and that time is passing in some sort of kairos time-out-of-mind reality. But the minutes just plod forward maddeningly in real time.
At a certain point, it occurs to me that maybe I’m getting ready to die, that these weird hallucinations are simply my mortal coil’s way of disentangling from whatever animating force holds me here in its grace, allowing me to live and love here on planet Earth. For a moment, I am relieved to finally have an answer.