I want to share with you a Near Death Experience that my partner Ian had several weeks before he died.
Ian lived with Neuro-Endocrine Pancreatic cancer with Metastases to the liver for over 9 years. When he was diagnosed, he was told there were no effective treatments available for him, and to come back for palliative chemotherapy when the pain got too bad. He wasn’t a man to take this diagnosis lying down. He was stubborn and determined. The fact that he lived for over nine years was regarded as nothing short of miraculous by medical staff.
Three weeks before he died, Ian began vomiting blood. The possibility of this happening had been lurking on the periphery of our life for over two years. We had been told then that he had developed what was essentially varicose veins of the esophagus due to the portal vein carrying blood from his liver being slowly blocked by a tumour. His body, in its immense wisdom and capacity to reinstate balance reacted by diverting blood through other veins in his body which weren’t designed for such a large flow, and due to the extra pressure, caused varicose veins to form on his esophagus. We had been told that one day they may burst and Ian would bleed out and die. This was something that took me quite a while to come to terms with. I had a phobia myself about vomiting in public, and knowing that my partner may at anytime begin to suddenly vomit blood and bleed out, challenged one of my greatest fears. I eventually managed to find peace when I truly understood that life unfolds perfectly. Everything happens at the right place at the right time for our higher good.
This particular day, Ian had awoken in the morning, and rushed to the toilet to vomit – a large blood clot. One of the varicose veins had begun bleeding during the night. He came back to bed and went back to sleep. He had the most amazing capacity to put things out of his mind. Initially I was infuriated by it. He would go back to sleep while I lay awake worrying. Eventually I learned to let it go, accept whatever was happening, and go back to sleep myself. He awoke an hour later and vomited again – this time the blood was fresh. I managed to talk him into going to the local emergency department. He hated hospital, and was always very reluctant to go.
They checked him over and decided he needed to be sent by Flying Doctor to a Perth hospital – 170kms away. They gave him medication to help control the bleeding. I called my sons to come from work to see their step-father before he left as we knew it might be the last time we saw him. We said good-bye and he was taken away to the ambulance for transporting to the airport. It was arranged that I would go home, pack a bag for him and myself then travel by car to Perth and meet him at the hospital.
I was driving alone to Perth when I suddenly realised that I was completely calm and peaceful. The only thoughts going through my mind were that life was unfolding perfectly. Everything was happening in exactly the right way at exactly the right time, and all I needed was to be open, and trust that everything was perfect. It felt wonderful to be in this state where I felt no stress, no fear, and it enabled me to be completely present. I had spent the first 45 years of my life in varying degrees of anxiety, and I knew that if I had been forced to go through this even a few years earlier, I would have been experiencing a great deal of stress and pain. Now, I just felt peaceful. Peace is very under-rated in our culture for some reason. Not many people find much value in seeking to have a peaceful mind, however once you have experienced it, you never want to live any other way.
On arriving at the hospital, I was pleased to hear that Ian had survived the trip. He was soon reviewed by doctors and it was decided he would be operated on to try and stop the bleeding. I can’t remember why, but the operation didn’t happen for several days. The hospital room had a large window with a window seat, and this was where I slept for 5 nights. It was a new hospital, but for some reason, it had been built with no facilities for the families of country patients to stay. Ian tended to become very agitated if I wasn’t close, so it was better for everyone if I stayed in the room.
The operation was not a success. Within 12 hours, Ian began passing blood. A lot of blood. It was decided to give him a blood transfusion, he had the first bag, the bleeding continued. He had the second bag, the bleeding continued. They put the third (and unbeknown to us, the last) bag up. Ian was very cold by this time. Lying under a pile of blankets. I was reading to him from A Course in Miracles, and I remember the room as warm and dim, and very very peaceful. I looked over at him at one point and he had a big smile on his face. He opened his eyes and looked at me, and said “don’t mind me, I am in a place of unconditional love”. This from a man, who had great difficulty in accepting he was loved. He told me later that he left his body and was looking at it lying on the bed from behind.
It was around this time (he told me all this later), that he saw angels around him, and he said to them “Go to Bunnings (a large hardware store), and get some epoxy resin, and I will trowel it onto these veins to stop the bleeding. He was a carpenter by trade and felt that he was more skilled than the angels at working with epoxy. He visualised himself doing this.
The bleeding stopped.
The Doctors were astounded, they couldn’t understand what had happened, and decided to send him back to Bunbury via ambulance with a paramedic as soon as possible. I followed the ambulance in my car. Ian was taken straight to the Palliative Care Unit, and they told me afterwards that from the clinical reports from the doctors in Perth, they were expecting him to be unconscious and near death. Instead, he was talking and joking with the staff. He told his Palliative Specialist that he was going to stay a little while to recoup, but he would be going home. He did. He came home for a week, and the day before he returned to hospital, he insisted on climbing the ladder to help the boys clean the gutters of leaves. The next day he vomited blood again, and returned to hospital.
I stayed with him in the hospital, and helped him to shower in the morning, He was quite weak. About 2pm, he asked me to help him to sit on the side of the bed, then he stood and put his arms around me, resting his head on my shoulder. His whole body trembled with the effort. I didn’t realise that this was his goodbye. I helped him back into bed. He turned his face away from me, and I knew in that moment, that he was going to leave his body soon. He had made the decision. He had never wanted to be in a state where he needed physical care. He was fiercely independent, and I believe he decided it was time to go. I went and said to the nurses, ‘he is going to die soon’. They felt it was unlikely, but came and felt his pulse,and agreed that he had in fact taken a turn towards death. He was barely conscious from then on, and died peacefully at 7.30pm that evening.
We had a deep soul connection, him and I, and when he died, I still felt the connection. I have never felt separated from him. Death has no meaning to the soul. Love transcends death. The bonds are never broken. You move on, but they are never broken. Grief can stop us from feeling the connection. Our beliefs can stop us from feeling the connection. The connection is still there.
We are in eternity now. Life continues. Death is just a return to our natural state of being – in spirit. The body has gone, but the essence, energy and consciousness of the soul continues forever. A week after Ian died, I was walking on the farm, and it suddenly felt as though time stopped still. It was completely silent. And in that moment I understood that Ian was ageless, and so was I. I knew us as eternal beings, and I realised that even if I lived another 40 years on earth without him, it was just a blink of an eye in eternity. There was nothing to mourn. Yes, I missed him, but we had been soul companions forever. We would be together again. Everything was exactly how it should be. Life was unfolding perfectly. I was full of joy and peace.
Our beliefs about death and what happens afterwards will either cause us to suffer or rejoice. It is a choice. I believe that embracing death – both Ian’s and my own, has taught me how to live. It has taught me that only love matters. It has taught me not to take life so seriously. Not to get sucked into the stress and rush and anxiety that pervades the planet. It has taught me to live today, I may not have tomorrow. It has taught me to love life more, appreciate what I have, love nature. Embracing death has taught me not to be attached. To love, but hold loosely. Embracing death sets us free.
Let’s stop trying to ignore death. Let’s stop hiding it away. Let’s stop the solemnity and glumness of the funerals. Let’s celebrate life while we live, and then, when we die, may others celebrate our life and be glad they knew us.
Joy and Love and Peace are everywhere – just a change of thinking away. Seek them everywhere and you will find them…..
Ian Haslam 17/05/65 – 17/03/15