Suddenly I felt dozens of needles shooting searing pain into my body. I had been weeding kudzu from the woods on our property and disturbed a wasps’ nest, and the wasps had gotten inside my clothing. I beat a hasty retreat to my home and removed my clothes as expeditiously as possible.
The worst was now over — or so I thought. I began to feel decidedly odd. Pins and needles stabbed every inch of me. I began to shiver uncontrollably. My face began to swell and blister. I began to feel dizzy and queasy.
As we drove to the emergency room, my vision faded so that all I could see were bright fuzzy shapes, much like the façade of Rouen Cathedral in Monet’s impressionistic depiction of it in full sunlight. I began to gasp for air and my heart pounded at an accelerated and accelerating rate. It was beating faster than it had ever beaten even after the most vigorous treadmill work out — much faster.
I Was About to Die
I was now completely convinced that I was about to die. It was only a question of whether the cause of death would be the impending heart attack or suffocation.
It was then that I had the experience that will forever change my life. As I realized I was on the point of death, a great sense of peace and resignation came over me. I was ready. I was being lifted up by supernatural hands.
My rational self was very much aware that my wife was beside me, driving the car, and that my children were in the seats behind us. My rational self would have screamed in panic at the thought of leaving them to fend for themselves without my protection as pater familias. How would they cope without me? Yet no such thoughts could assail the sense of being uplifted in supernatural hands, taken to a level of peace and acceptance that I had never theretofore known.
Realizing that we weren’t going to make it to the hospital on time, my wife dialed 911 and arranged to meet the ambulance halfway. I knew what was going on. I could hear every word. And yet I was somewhere else, held aloft by mystical hands which I’d never felt before. It did not feel odd. Or strange. It felt entirely natural. I was fully at home in those hands. I felt safe. Nothing could harm me, not even death. What was passing away seemed almost trivial by comparison.
I Could Hear the Sirens
My wife parked the car and I could hear the sirens of the emergency vehicles in the distance. I felt her hand on my palpitating chest. She prayed intently for the intercession of St. Philip Neri, whose prayers, we were convinced, had helped heal our son of the hole in his heart. Immediately my heart slowed down, I could see and breathe more easily. When the ambulance arrived, the worst of it was over.
Anaphylactic shock almost killed me. It also brought me back to life. I will never be the same. How can I be? I have felt the hand of God and of his angels and saints lifting me into His Presence.
I now see as I have never seen before. “I stumbled when I saw,” says Gloucester in King Lear. Now that I’ve seen, I have less excuse than ever to stumble.
Joseph Pearce is Senior Editor with the Augustine Institute and the author of books on many Christian literary figures, including Shakespeare, Chesterton, Belloc, Lewis, and Tolkien. He tells his story in Race With the Devil. He edits the St. Austin Review. “I Was Going to Die” is a shortened version of an article published on The Imaginative Conservative.