When I was fourteen I spent two months in an intensive care unit with pneumonia. I was a teenager, I didn't think about death yet, a month into the illness I was only getting worse. Because of my underlying condition of muscular dystrophy I had suffered from pneumonia many times and despite the prediction that I would not live past age five, I had survived. But this time was different; the doctors seemed resigned, my mother dreaded visiting me.
I spent a lot of time alone in my room with the machines buzzing, whirling and beeping. As the pneumonia took my strength, I begged for God to heal me. There came a day a few weeks into the illness when I could sense a darkness in the room with me. I talked to myself out-loud to try and break it's spell, but the darkness only came closer. It hovered over me in bed. I told the nurses about it they said it was the fever. Soon it was laying over my chest. I fought it back. I pushed at it with my hands.
I started to be able to see the dark mass as a black monster with white eyes, and several red hands. I had always felt a naturally open link to the spirit realm but had never had any experience with evil spirits. I was sure this was death. I asked my spirit guides for a concrete sign: if I was going to get better they should move a particular get-well card to a new location if I was dying, I named another card for them to move.
For a couple days I watched my Hallmark cards expectantly as the black demon pulsed above me and continually plunged into my lungs. Then one morning a non-english speaking cleaning lady came to disinfect my room. She smiled and pointed to the get-well card I had assigned the meaning that I would get better. She said, "Pretty." I agreed. She took the card off the wall and brought it over to me. She indicated that she should tape it to the railing on my bed so that I could see it better.
I expected to get well instantly, but my health only continued to decline and the monster of death, as I had taken to calling it, grew larger and more vivid. Finally one night all my alarms sounded, I could not take another breath. A hospital code was called and my room filled with people trying to force my body to life. Instinctively, I searched for a light and found it was everywhere.
When the doctors revived me I was overwhelmed by confusion. I gasped for breath under the oxygen mask thinking, "When I know death is not scary or bad why do I fear it the instant I regain life?" Also, in the light I had danced with a dark being who called himself my "protective healer" and who seemed to be celebrating my successful healing. While this all seemed natural in the light, upon waking in ICU my first thought was, "Healing? I was dead!" Further, I realized my "protective healer" was the same being I had been sure was my enemy, "the monster of death".
How could I fear death now? How could I push away a devoted healer? For a long time I blamed myself and was ashamed of my fear. Eventually, I came to understand we all have certain emotions that are simply human simply life there is nothing wrong with fear (for example), including the fear of death. It is natural to want to fight a situation, illness or emotional problem which comes into our lives and causes suffering. No one wants to suffer and no one should suffer needlessly. At the same time, we can continue deepening our awareness of the healing offered through suffering. We can see that our darkest times often become our greatest healers and our most perfect teachers of compassion.