Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley speaks 

The final curtain


“A Near Death Experience.” Ever had one? There actually is such a thing. Been there—done that. Well, I did—and it ain’t a picnic. About two months ago I developed a cough that would not go away.

We complacently kept the same primary medical practice after our Doc retired. The “new” doctor hired by the practice almost killed me—seriously. I complained during a routine visit of a constant cough. He told me to go to the drug store and get some cough medicine. Didn’t help.

Cough persisted. Got so bad I could not sleep. Two of our children were here for the weekend (Thank God). That Friday night I told them that I was really sick—I mean to the point where I could not breathe well.

Friday night in the ER at a large local hospital? Chaos. I asked my son to call 911 so that we could get an ambulance and get right in. Turned out to be the right decision: Perforated lung, pneumonia, some heart problems, etc.

I was in the Advent Altamonte South Hospital for three weeks. In the first 36 hours it was, believe it or not “Touch and Go.” No—seriously. I heard, through a haze, talk of trying to keep me alive. That dear reader, will get your attention.

As I lay there, contemplating the worst—at that point you do not think of the next time you will jump in the pool—some thoughts began to materialize.

“I am about to be 89 years old... how much time have I got altogether?”

“This is going to cost my family a fortune... for what? A couple of extra years?”

“So... what would it be like to just to ‘let go’?”

I do not believe there is anything “on the other side.” I believe done is done. A life is lived for better or worse and what you leave behind is what you leave behind. I believe that dreams of an “after life”—a heaven or hell—are pretty much just that—dreams. Sorry, when that curtain goes down the show, for better or worse, is over. This column is not designed as a religious discussion, just a personal experience. But I do know that “taking one’s life”—however it is done—is a sin and not acceptable under Jewish law.

So, lying there in pretty much a stupor from the drugs I was being fed, I wondered—how do you just let go? There is no formula. I was awake enough to hear the voice of my daughter Robin.

I opened one eye and croaked to her: “Robbie...is it worth it?”

She shouted back at me: “Of course it is!”

Well, think about your life. Under the same circumstances, would you just “let go”? I know! Unless you have been there—at the brink—it’s academic.

In my case, it was a matter of things unsaid—old wounds that had to heal... and a change in my overall behavior. I am not a drunk or embezzler. I am not nor have I ever been a sexual predator.

But, I have a sharp tongue, can be insensitive, mess up priorities. Things like that do not sound that serious? Would you give up the chance to rectify some of even the little things?

I am lucky in that I have been forgiven for most of my “trespasses” by those close to me. BUT: Lying in that drug induced fog I began to think of the simple things that are a part of everyday life and what I would do differently if I could.

So, here is the challenge: One night soon, in the dark—without the drugs or the actual challenge facing you: What would you do? Would you want to get back to a real life and like “one more chance” or just let go?

I would put the odds at over 100 to one you would not let go. Not let any chance at life slip away. You would face the challenge, promise to be a better person and fight to get back to where you were or better: Where you would like to be. I did just that.

I think that is why, we Jews in all our wisdom frown most mightily on giving up the greatest gift: Our lives. I didn’t. I am on the other side of “well” now and most grateful. Eighty-nine? Piece of cake!


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