So, seven years ago, I was dying.
In the middle of a very active, involved, engaged, healthy life, I was struck down in one fell swoop with stage four liver disease. And life changed overnight. I was on a transplant list, and it didn’t look good. At all. Things started changing. Things started changing physically. I was sort of tortured physically during this time, and things started changing emotionally and mentally.
Because when the liver fails, the brain fails.
I started to be able to do less and less. I couldn’t drive, take a shower alone — ’cause I could fall down and hurt myself — and I couldn’t even read, because I couldn’t concentrate. So for the first time in my life, ever, I would just sit and do nothing.
I’d never had that experience.
I had a boyfriend once. He fascinated me to no end because he could sit in a chair and just look, looking off into the distance. I would sort of pace around like he was some sort of crazy anthropological mystery, and I would question him, asking, ‘What do you do when you sit there? Are you planning things, or working out problems?’
And he said, ‘No, I’m just sittin’ here.’
I couldn’t get over it. I admired that so tremendously because it was so out of my wheelhouse. And them, when I was sick, I found myself just sitting endlessly. What happens when you are that sick, and you know you are dying, is that little by little you let go of your grip on this life.
And I’d always had this, like, vice-grip on life. I was going to just take life and shake it around and make it do things and throw it up in the air. Like a cat, you know? Just kick it behind me, but all of a sudden, that was all over.
And I just sat.
And my grip, my grip started to lessen.
And I remember the last time the paramedics came to rush me to the hospital out of my house, and the EMTs asked me three questions.
What’s today’s date? Who’s the president? And what’s your date of birth?
And I couldn’t answer one question. I knew that I should know, but I couldn’t access the information. And by the way, the president at the time was Obama.
I ended up going into a coma, and then after that I had this near death experience. I’ve never talked about it, in depth, ever. Not in seven years. For one thing, I couldn’t find words big enough to encompass it. I couldn’t find a way to accurately describe it. And I also thought it might be one of those things like when someone who has kids tries to explain the miracle of childbirth to someone who doesn’t give a s—t. You know?
“Oh my god! It’s like nothing you will ever experience in your life and all of a sudden there’s this little being in the world and it’s like your heart is outside your body!”
And the person you’re telling is like, “Yeah, uh, great. Are we goin’ to lunch?”
So, anyway, I sort of had this experience where I seemed to be outside of time and space, and I was shown three things. Number one, I was shown a movie, going at hyper-speed, just [makes a hyper-speed sound]. But yet I could see every piece of it. And what this movie was, was everything in my life that I’ve ever worried about, that didn’t happen, where nothing terrible happened. I saw all the years I’ve wasted worrying about things that never happened, or if they did happen, it was no big deal. Or if it was a big deal, I handled it.
WEST SIDE STORIES
This true story by Mary Carouba was recorded live on Dec. 5 at the Mystic Theatre, as part of West Side Stories’ annual Grand Slam competition. It was the year-ending blowout of Petaluma’s popular monthly showcase of spoken word performances, hosted by Dave Pokorny. Each month, willing storytellers are randomly selected from the audience to tell a tale based on a theme – this month’s theme: “Time Flies” – and the audience selects its favorite. The next West Side Stories show will take place on Jan 2, and the theme will be “A New Day.” For tickets and information, visit WestSideStoriesPetaluma.com.