Yesterday, I saw the very sweet film “Heaven Is For Real;” a movie about what happens when a precious, innocent, and untouched little boy has a near-death experience. I could immediately relate, as I too had a close brush with death. Only, when it happened to me – I was far from innocent. It was 1999, I had spent the last decade as a very sexually promiscuous gay man and would-be porn star. At that point, my life had really spiraled out of control. For, on that very night, I willingly took part in an extremely sick pornographic scene which included everything from extreme physical cruelties to desecration. Then, I don’t think I could have fallen any lower. Everything I touched was filled with darkness; the day was like a perpetual night. In my eyes, the sun was always in total eclipse. I had been falling down this pit for years, and now – it seemed as if I were reaching the bottom.
Later that night, I started to endlessly vomit enormous quantities of blood. I didn’t understand where it was all coming from. Suddenly, I got worried. This was an odd feeling for me as I had been beat up, been infected with STDs, and had knifes put to my throat – yet, all those times before, I never once gave anything a second thought. But, on this occasion, it was different. Anxious, I went to my parent’s home and told my mother what was going on with me. Right away, she rushed me to the hospital. I waited for only a brief few minutes as I was spewing blood all over the neat, shiny, and white hospital lobby area. Inside, I was given several large clear plastic bags which I immediately filled with bright red blood. For those few minutes, my entire body was being turned inside out. My head was spinning and I couldn’t retch any longer. There was nothing left inside me.
With all my strength gone, I collapsed backwards onto the hard hospital gurney and stared at the ceiling. Some male nurses rushed over to me and hooked my chest up to an EKG machine. I knew things were not going well; but I really didn’t care anymore. Next, everything in my perception seemed to flatten out, become a little blurry, and all sound faded gradually into the background. In my mind, I thought: This is what it must feel like when you die. I wasn’t scared at all. I just resolved to it, and said to myself: Okay; let’s simply go with it. Because, for the past few years, I had been longing for death. I thought about suicide, but never summoned up enough gumption to pull the trigger. Then I decided I would go out in a glamorous flash of gay sleaze: by becoming infected with HIV, being chocked to death by an overzealous partner, or being murder by an insane gay park pick-up. To my great disappointment, I had come close, but an endless promise of sleep always evaded me.
This night, I thought: finally, it will end. At last, the struggle, the suffering, and the unceasing quest for a little micro-second of peace will be over. Then, when I knew I was dying, I started to sense that I was being pulled from my body: head first – almost like a tube of tooth-paste. I looked out over the room and could tell that my eyes were now flouting just slightly over my face. I could see everything. Little by little, my shoulders began to be pulled out from the barely living shell underneath. Again, I was not afraid: for, it was curiously pain-free and soothingly trance-like. Then, from the corner of my eye, I could see my mother sitting on a stool at the foot of my bed. I looked at her, and I could scarcely make-out that she was praying. Then, hot anger rushed over me. I thought in my disembodied brain: How dare she pray for me. Because, I knew she was praying to Jesus; and, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with Him. I cursed. If it was out loud, I do not know. Afterwards, everything changed. The narcotic effect of death forever left me.
Quickly, I became acutely aware. The languorous wash of nullity that previously swept over me was gone. Oddly, I could make out little beings jumping about all over the room. They defied any outline of shape or form, but were more like a ripple of movement upon the air. I didn’t know why, but they startled me and I could somehow make-out that they were there to harm me. At first, I noticed them looking into every curtained cubicle around the entire emergency room. They would peer in at each patient and then move on. When I rampaged against God, they immediately noticed me and took a keen interest. On each side of the bed, they huddled about. I hated them, as they were taking some horrible glee in my sudden anguish and discomfort. At the same time, my being was continuing its slide out from my body. Now, about mid-chest and up was flittering above everyone; at the near center of the bed. For, I was high enough to see the top of each nurse’s head.
Right away, the room changed: it got darker, the wall behind my headboard disappeared and an enormous mouth seemed to take its place. The orifice opened wide and breathed a hot, moist, and stinking vapor upon the back of my neck. I struggled, and I could see the nurses rushing back and forth. Next, I felt a large metal hook pierce my shoulder; just to the right of my spinal cord. With that, the pulling on my consciousness became even stronger. I was being suspended over my body; it was as if I were a butchered piece of meat hanging in a slaughterhouse locker. I had been killed, drained of blood, and this was the time for disemboweling. And, the pain was excruciating. It was as if every cruel and sadistic sexual bondage scene I had ever taken part in was instantaneously replaying: I was being pierced, tattooed, whipped, beaten, and dog-collared all over again. However, this time, there was no rush of endorphins, no climactic release, or ecstatic blast of sexual pleasure.
Although I had lived through all those various tortures in my real life – they had never shocked me. But, here, right away, I was petrified and I thought: I don’t want to die like this. This is not the way it’s supposed to be. And, I fought against it; only, I knew I was losing. Out of the gloominess and desperation, a strange thought overcame me: Jesus! Could I call out to Jesus? I abandoned Him long ago; He will not help me now. Anyway, I really don’ think He exists. It all happened in a matter of ticking moments, and I called out to Him: Jesus, Please help me! In a flash, the darkness left, the demons disappeared, and I dropped back into my body. I looked around, and I knew that I was alive. But, I didn’t know who I was, or where I had been, or what had just happened. Everything seemed new and strange. I couldn’t move a finger, but my eyes endlessly darted from side to side, trying to take it all in.
I knew I had narrowly escaped hell, but everything else that had transpired over the previous years seemed a distant memory; for a while, I didn’t even believe it was me who had done all those things. I vaguely understood that Jesus saved me, but I only called out to Him in a frantic outburst of terror. In my dilapidated state: He was just slightly less frightening that the devil. Over the next few months, I whimpered, cowered, and crawled around a little image of Jesus that existed in my mind. Gently, He scooped up the bits of left-over denuded flesh, that was me, and rebuilt a human person. Through it all, I distrusted, rebelled, and complained. But God was patient. Then, slowly, I feared Him less, and Loved Him more. And, I knew that He Loved me.