At the time of writing, it’s Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian calendar when Our Lord rose from the dead. A feast day of hope and renewal. A time when we remember that he died for our sins and his resurrection the sign and the hope that, we too, will live on after death in the Kingdom of Our Father. This weekend particularly, this is very much on my mind as the death toll from Coronavirus is set to exceed 10,000 souls. Almost a thousand people a day succumb to this horrid disease.
In November 1974, a few days after Bonfire night, I was hit by a car when crossing the road on my way home from my grandparents, whom I visited and had tea with every day after school, and who I can safely say I loved more than anyone else in this world, then and now. I don’t remember getting hit, but I do remember seeing a car quite a distance away under the old “Skew Brig’ in my home village of Laurieston in Falkirk. I thought it was safe to cross, but there was a car in the dip of the hill going at speed which I didn’t see, and he obviously on this dark dreary , rainy November night didn’t see me either, and he was going too fast. I’m told his name was William Guthrie. He was drunk. Witnesses who saw the accident say I was hit and hurled up into the air, and as I came down my dufflecoat caught on the car, and I was dragged a few feet and landed near the local chip shop. It’s silly but that made me laugh when I was told afterwards. They said to my parents that I was conscious and talking- but I do not remember any of that at all.
What I do remember quite vividly, despite this being 44 years ago, was that I woke up in the ambulance. Suffice to say, not inside my body. I became ‘conscious’ and was observing, calmly and quietly the scene before me. If you imagine the ambulance driving forward, my physical body was lying on a stretcher or some kind of bed, to the rear of the ambulance, my feet facing the front as it took me to Falkirk Royal Infirmary . I was asleep, with my head resting to the left, and long hair, lying to the side. I’d blood on my face, and was tucked in with a red blanket and black belts keeping me strapped in. I saw I was being watched over by a man, probably in his fifties, wearing a navy blue ribbed sweater with a belt around his waist, and black trousers. He was facing me with his back to the front of the ambulance, his right arm outstretched holding onto a rail of some sort, above his head, as one would find on a tube train. He was simply watching over me as I slept. Me, on the other hand, that is the consciousness that is me, or I, whatever, was also watching- but I was in the top left hand corner of the ceiling, and looking down on the whole thing. I was 10 years old, however, the me that was the observer, was much older. If I close my eyes and think, what I am now, I am me, still, and I was as I am now, then, the same consciousness. There was no panic, no fear, just a calm observance and I had no more concern for my physical body than I would have if I’d been observing a stranger at a bus top.
I got a bit bored with what I was seeing, and I observed the two windows on the back doors of the ambulance, and I ‘zoomed’ down so that I was at eye level so I could ‘see’ what was outside. I saw a car following us, and in it was my dad, in the passenger seat. I recognised the car, as it belonged to a priest that my dad used to borrow it from once in a while . His auntie was the priests housekeeper. It was a green Fiat. I wondered who it was that was driving Father McCanns car. He was a stout man in a black suit and looked a bit dour. My dad on the other hand, was at the time slim, with ‘Brycreemed’ slicked back hair, and he was wearing his favourite shirt which was a metallic blue, mad of shiny material. He just looked out of the side car window and he didn’t seem to see me.
If you imagine a ten year old having been in a road accident, and suddenly seeing their parent, you may imagine tears and the need for reassurance. However, whilst I recognised my dad, I couldn’t have cared less. I was not ten years old in that consciousness, but so much older. There was no sound I remember. It was like looking at CCTV without audio. I’d no emotions either surrounding my dad, or me in the ambulance.
Bang! Suddenly I was awake, being wheeled furiously through grey double doors, with people on either side, like you see in films, all I could see too were ceiling lights passing before my eyes. I was so angry as I’d gotten a fright, and was not happy at being bashed on a bed, and woken up, and moved from calmness to chaos and noise. I progressed in to a large room with lights. I just wanted to go to sleep and for all these hands to leave me alone. They examined me from top to bottom and I was then sent for X-rays. I must’ve fallen asleep again.
I awoke later, and found myself in a single bed, side ward, with the door to my right. An old nurse who looked like she was in her sixties in her uniform and cap was knitting quietly. She was there all night. I didn’t for a second even consider where I was, or ask. I just wanted to go to sleep. The nurse kept waking me up, and taking my blood pressure. Every so often after I’d fallen asleep she’d take it again and wake me up and I was getting angry. Ive never forgotten that lady, as she never said a word to me, Just went back to her knitting, but she must have done this all night I thought. Ive no idea how long. I fell asleep again.
The next time I woke up I was in a different side ward with a huge dressing on my abdomen. When you are ten years old they don’t tell you ANYTHING! I wasn’t aware of anyone explaining what was going on, except there was a gradual realisation that I’d been hit by a car, and that I’d had to have my spleen removed as I had been bleeding internally. There were no MRIs or CT scans in those days so I guess taking my BP was the only way they’d have known. I received visits by aunties and uncles with gifts of chocolate and comic books. My favourite was the “Shiver and Shake’ and this comic is now forever ingrained in the memory of my road accident and my recovery. I still have the Christmas Annual for 1974! Two other memories are forever ingrained also. The nurses having to put in a catheter whilst I wasn’t allowed out of bed, and eventually when they took my stitches out, and what seemed to be a rather large paper bag out of my wound, which was a drain. It itched like hell and I was told not to touch it, but I couldn’t resist just trying to relieve the itching with my fingers under the dressing. The stitches were like hard spiders legs across the scar. I stayed in hospital another week then was sent home. I knew I’d lost this thing called a spleen, but Id no real idea what this meant.
Eventually I learned that I can live without the spleen but I have reduced immunity and prone to bacterial infections. Until this last week Ive never had to take the now obligatory low dose broad spectrum antibiotics that is now recommended for splenectomy patients. I’m taking them now as a precaution as if I got covid-19 I’d have a ‘very bad outcome”.
After my accident I didn’t really think about my ‘out of body’ experience until my brother and I were watching a documentary on the subject a couple of years later. As I watched, I said to my youngest brother that the same thing happened to me. Of course, he went and told my dad, who was next door in the kitchen making tea, that I was telling lies. My dad came through and questioned me about what I was watching and I told him what had happened the night of my road accident. He then asked me further questions, and I asked him who the man was that was driving him in Father McCanns car behind the ambulance. He looked a bit strange and then explained that, a friend of my mums, Mrs Kennedy, had run up to the house and asked if all my mums children were at home. Mum of course said that I was still at my grandparents. She said to mum that she thought, I had been hit by a car and was being taken to hospital. Immediately my dad ran out of the house without his jacket down to the street, where I had been put in the ambulance – but they wouldn’t let him see me. He explained who he was, and one of the policemen who’d been summoned to the accident also, had offered to drive my dad in Father McCanns car to the hospital. They then followed the ambulance . It was because of my description of PC Spence driving, what my dad was wearing, and that they were indeed directly behind the ambulance that made my dad believe me.
When my ‘consciousness’ or whatever it was, soul, spirit, popped out of my physical body, I was not in the least afraid. It was simply a calm, peaceful observation, with no ‘pang’ or regret at being out of ‘myself.’ My body I understand is not ‘myself’. I do firmly believe that there is life after death, and that our soul, or essence of our true selves moves on and becomes part of the ‘whole’ , God, or “All that is”.
So, that’s why I’m not afraid of dying, although I am anxious in this current awful Pandemic because I don’t necessarily want to end my living. I want to play golf into my eighties, and paint and read and take long walks with my dog. I know if I die, that which is ‘myself’ wont give two hoots. I will move on and continue to exist. However, I forget the ‘before’, as we all do, when we are born. And then I dare say, we are allowed to ‘remember’ in the hereafter.
I only ever talk about my Out of Body when I’ve had too many glasses of wine, but I recall it as if it were yesterday, and friends are accepting that at least they believe, that I believe, that it happened. I explain it to them in the way of what would happen if one of them had a car accident. What is the first thing that they would do if they pranged or were pranged by another car? They’d get out of the drivers seat and go have a look at the damage. Is their car repairable or is it a write off? I believe this is what happened to me. I’d obviously by the time I was in the ambulance been bleeding internally for some time. I’d have died if I’d not been taken to hospital and treated in time. “Myself’ that which is me, that makes me unique, that is, my soul, simply popped out to have a look at the damage, and thankfully decided that I wasn’t a goner yet. I could go on about this experience all day. The main thing is, is that we continue. We go on.
William Guthrie, the driver of the car who knocked me down on that dark November night, was suffering according to reports by the police, The reason he had been drinking was because his wife had left him, and his business, a small garage of which he was the sole employee, was bankrupt. He’d come to the hospital to see me but was refused by the police. I’m sure he would have been charged with drunk driving. It was the last straw.
I was told a few days later that he committed suicide.
I didn’t think about William Guthrie until in my forties, when I recalled the night to a new friend I’d met who was very spiritual. She asked me if I’d ever prayed for him. To my shame, I never had. I was only 10 when it happened, and life went on.
Years later, I was somehow led to books on Angels and it was suggested that all of us should ask our Guardian Angel their name, and, “William’ was the name that inexplicably came to me. I’ve only just recently made the connection. I believe William went to a better place, where he ‘healed’ and is now either an angel looking after me as ‘karma’ or he’s In Heaven where he is being looked after.
My worry about Coronavirus therefore is not about dying , but whether I will fight hard enough to stay here.