I entered the hospital about midnight on December 24, 1967 in labor and suffering from respiratory distress. In the delivery room, I was given a facemask that impaired my breathing even more and because of the Demerol I had been given I was unable to speak up and tell them the mask was suffocating me. I reached up and tore the mask away from my face. Someone then took my hands and strapped them down to the side of the table so that I could not do anything to prevent the repeat of the gas and mask. In that period of time I knew that I was going to die and being an Atheist I had hoped that the agony of suffocation would end quickly and I would finally and permanently lose consciousness.

Instead of losing consciousness, I found myself surrounded by a noise so loud and painful that it was like a giant freight train circling my head. At a deep level, I knew that this was going to be my “eternal” condition. I was acutely aware of being alert and in a place of such darkness that my hand placed in front of my open eyes was impossible to see. There was no light of any kind anywhere. There was nothing in this dark, loud (chaotically noisy) place but my thoughts and me. I was alone and in agony but I had what I would call expanded knowledge. It was like all the mysteries of the Universe made sense to me and what we call important here in this life is mostly insignificant and superficial in the grand scheme of things.

I sensed no one (good, bad, human, animal or spiritual) in this place but me and I knew that I would be spending eternity here alone and without peace. I also knew that I would be here for eternity and that I belonged here. The suffering was intense and I was totally miserable. As I was thinking about my state and condition a thought came to me that was more like a question posed by my mind. It was: “What have you ever done in your life that was totally selfless?” A deed or action done that didn’t have a selfish motive. As I thought about that question I realized that I had always acted to please myself. I had never said a kind word or done a kind deed that wasn’t motivated by personal gain. As I fully comprehended how selfish I was I felt a deep regret even remorse that I hadn’t ever done one good or kind or selfless thing.

My condition changed with that revelation of regret. I can’t remember just what or how things happened but I remember coming to with an IV in my hand (IV’s were not routinely given to delivery patients in those days). I was packed in ice to stem the flow of blood that was great. The greatest thing for me was that I could breath, no coughing or respiratory distress what so ever.

Because of the terror of my “near death” experience and because that term was not even coined in those days I remained silent about my experience. My universal knowledge began to slip away immediately and as each day passed into another all I remembered was the terrifying knowledge that there was a reality beyond this life that for me was, for want of a better word to describe it, hell.

I purposed to search for the meaning to life and also to find if there was a spiritual reality or realm or even God. I feared childbirth and more importantly death. I also purposed to do at least one good thing for someone else that was totally with out a selfish interest. In fact I looked to do anonymous acts of kindness. Forty years later this is still a challenge to me.