Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Near death experience and writing

Being a pedestrian hit by a car means multiple injuries and critical condition, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Well, okay, 99.9% of it is, but there are a few bright humorous moments.

I know I’m lying on the ground in the middle of the road. “Where are my kids? Where are my kids?” I open my eyes and see my son bending over me.

“It’s okay, Mom. We’re right here.”

“Where’s my purse? Where’s my purse.”

I can’t see my daughter, but I hear her say, “It’s okay, Mom. I have it right here.”

So, you see, I have my priorities in the right order.

In the emergency room, I say, “I wear contacts.”

A nice young intern hovers over me. “It’s okay, we took them out.” He holds a contact lens case a couple of inches from my eyes. “See, I have them right here.” Maybe he’s not so nice after all. Or, maybe I’ve been babbling a little too much?

Weeks later I’m transferred from the trauma unit to the rehabilitation hospital. I lie in bed with casts from the top of my legs to the tips of my toes. My right arm has been so badly dislocated that it’s useless.

A nurse comes in to tell me I’ll be going to physio and occupational therapy. Physio first. I’m taken to a room that looks like something out of the Spanish inquisition. Weird contraptions on the walls, with belts and straps and hooks that menace the helpless patient.

“Mrs. Jones, what are you doing here?” says a bright young thing I recognize as a former junior high student.

“Sandra, what are you doing here?”

“I’m your physiotherapist.”

I look again at the instruments of torture. “Oh, God, I hoped you liked me.” Turns out we get along just fine.

One evening the tall skinny nurse’s aide who is my favorite staff member offers to give me a shower.

“How can we do that?” I ask gesturing to my casts. Not a problem for her. She wraps both my legs in green garbage bags, wheels me on a gurney to the shower room, proceeds with a shampoo, and sprays the top half of my body. Never has a shower felt so good.

She dries me off, combs my hair, and removes the garbage bags. No problem with the first one, but when she pulls the second one off, she’s left holding the bag and my cast. We stare at my leg. She quickly slides the cast back on. We don’t tell a soul, but we hardly dare look at each other after that afraid we’ll burst into laughter.

And one last … what shall I call it…? … incident. I’ve progressed to walking casts, and am sitting on the edge of my bed naked. I’ve given myself a sponge bath and am about to get dressed. I hear a sound behind me. I turn to see a young window washer grinning from ear to ear. There’s not a heck of a lot I can do. I smile and wave. He turns beet red.

And for the 99.9% of bad bits. They do not need to be relived.

What has any of this got to do with my writing? Not a heck of a lot. Or, perhaps, everything. At some point in the emergency room, I saw myself walking back across the street wearing different clothes. My spiritual friend said that I was bringing myself back from the brink of death. I didn’t see lights or tunnels or angels, but I did experience an incredible calm and I am no longer afraid of death.

If you asked me, I’d say I was an atheist, yet my novels are all about deities. If you asked, I’d say I don’t believe in heaven, yet my novels encompass a heaven. If, before I began writing, you’d asked me what I would write, I never would have said novels about gods controlling Earth, gods interacting with humans, gods trying to set things right.

I don’t know if my stories are shaped by cultural conditioning or if somewhere, deep inside, I do truly believe. Perhaps I’ll never know. That’s okay with me. I’ll continue to live my life as I know it should be lived and I’ll continue to write. What new novels might bring will likely, once again, be a surprise to me. 

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