(An excerpt from my soon-to-be-released book)
In this life, I have almost died twice. I say almost died, because I never went into the light, the way people often describe. But I was out of my body and aware of what was happening around me as a spirit this first time. It happened when I was about 5 years old, and it remains a vivid memory.
I loved raw potatoes, and would always beg a chunk of potato from my mother when she was cutting them up to cook for supper. I received my chunk of potato and was happily munching away in our living room when I heard the back door open and what I thought was my father’s voice. I thought he was arriving home from work, and started to run out to greet him the way I always did when he came home. I stubbed my toe on the end table leg in the process, started crying, and inhaled the potato.
The chunk of potato was large enough to completely obstruct my airway, and I found myself unable to breathe. I ran out to the kitchen and started motioning to my mother. Someone (I think my oldest sister) called the doctor. Yes, this was when they still made house calls. Then my mother tried everything she could imagine to get that potato out of my trachea: slapping me on the back, shaking me, turning me upside down. All was in vain (this was also before the Heimlich Maneuver was popularized).
My mother, when recounting the story, says I turned red, and then I turned blue, and then finally I turned black and went limp like a ragdoll in her arms. And then she really panicked.
Me, on the other hand, well — I found myself sitting on the kitchen table watching my mother as she held my limp form in her arms on the kitchen floor. I observed dispassionately, curiously, without fear. I remember feeling a little sorry for the people on the floor caught in the throes of this drama. Finally, my mother, in a last desperate attempt to save me, stuck her fingers down my throat and pushed that bit of potato down into my lungs.
Suddenly, three things happened at once: my body took a huge breath and coughed like crazy, the doctor walked through the door with his bag, and I started to say to him from my perch on the kitchen table, “You’re too late,” because I knew that I was dead — except the words came out of my physical mouth. I had been pulled back into my body by the breath, like a pop and then I was there, and now I was alive again.
The doctor replied with a genuine smile, “No I’m not. You’re still here.” And I smiled back and said nothing further. He checked me over and assured my mother that the potato in my lung would eventually dissolve. He praised her quick thinking and decisive action, and took his leave.
I never mentioned the out-of-body experience and the certainty that I was dead until much later in my life. In doing some work with a colleague, I came to realize that this was the first “opt-out” I was given, a chance to leave this life before it became difficult, as it would in the next few years.