April 16, 2017

A Cut-Rate Resurrection


"Why seek ye the living among the dead?" -- Luke 24 KJV

Beginning on October 13th of 2011 I spent eleven days among the dead and then was returned to life. Why and for what I still cannot say. What I can say is that, in some brief and infinitesimal way, I have had a small shimmer of resurrection shine upon my dead shadow and raise me back into the light. It was a tiny touch and yet it would seem that was all it took. This time. Next time I have no doubt it will require divine intervention. Perhaps it did this time. I have no way of knowing.

Nor can I say that I know what it "was like" to be dead because of my death I have neither shred of memory, nor the slightest sense of a blank space between one moment of life and the next moment of life. My mind holds only two instants; the one enjambed against the other.

In the first I am standing on the front porch of my house looking across the road at the playground sometime on the afternoon of October 13, 2011. There is the impression of small children running about in bright clothing. The sky is clear and there is sunlight from overhead. Shadows are small pools moving beneath the children. It is in the high 50s neither warm nor cold.

Then, in the very next instant, I am cold. I am lying in a bed covered with only a sheet. I am looking past my feet in a room ringed with drapes hanging on rails from a ceiling. At the foot of the bed a man in a blue tunic is sitting in a pose similar to Rodin's "The Thinker." His arm is bare to the shoulder and he has a Maori tattoo on it. I think, for a moment, that someone is speaking to me from the side, something about being in a coma. Then I am gone again.

Those are the two moments.

One is right next to the other.

There is nothing in between.

I lose track of what happens next and come to know it is not an instant between memories but eleven days and that I have spent that time in a medically induced coma after spending some unspecified number of minutes dead. It was nothing so dramatic as a crucifixion. It was simply a ceasing to be of which I had no awareness. What followed, as dramatic as it was for those around me, was a blank to me; something available to my soul only via hearsay. There were, it would seem, heroic measures involving tubes, machines, drugs, and methods of lowering the temperature of the human body and maintaining it lower for some days. For some minutes I was, it would seem, dead and for some days after that I was, it would seem, as good as dead. I was kept cold and under the stone of coma. Then, after eleven days, that cold stone was rolled away and I was returned to life. It was, I suppose, a kind of cut-rate resurrection. Yet it was mine and I was, and am, glad to have it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world.

I’ve spent no small amount of time wondering what it is I am to do with this “resurrection.” It seems as if I should do something; something more than I was doing before, something that is somehow “better.”

I ask about this "purpose" in passing in the daylight and more formally in prayer, but I have to date received no answer, no voice out of the whirlwind or the burning bush. I don’t expect such although I would not be utterly unprepared if it happened. I’m used to the mysteries of the universe or the tricks of the monkey mind at this point. Still, it would be nice to get a message neatly laid out, sent in from God’s great cosmic sign factory in the clear and in a crisp typeface. It would be nice but it is clearly asking too much. “Still not satisfied” is not a good attitude to have if one has been resurrected. As they say in meetings, “The attitude is gratitude.” I had that for a long time. It slipped away. Maybe I should try to get it back.

Or maybe I should not.

Maybe I should just drop all that and drop the searching for the BIG MESSAGE. Maybe, just maybe, I should try to see again what we always forget: the Here and the Now of the Miracle. Maybe, just maybe, on this day, I should strive always to recall that Christ is not just the Resurrection, but “the Resurrection and the Life.”

Today, resurrected, I sit here and look through my front window, across my porch, to the playground across the street:

“There is the impression of small children running about in bright clothing. The sky is clear and there is sunlight from overhead. Shadows are small pools moving beneath the children. It is in the high 50s neither warm nor cold.”

That was both then and [two/ three / four/ five / six years later] now.

There is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

Of the two it is the latter that remains the larger miracle.

October 13, 2013
Easter Sunday, 2012
Easter Sunday, 2013
Easter Sunday, 2015
Easter Sunday, 2016
Easter Sunday, 2017

Posted by gerardvanderleun at April 16, 2017 12:05 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Sir, thank you for another wonderful entry. Your prose really enhances the lives of all you touch. Here's my take on your questions. Supposedly, both Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison publicly asked if there was more to life, if this was all it was. I believe that you have been given another chance to accept the salvation bought for us by our lord and savior Jesus Christ. Assuming you've already done that, I think you are doing right now what God saved you for, in other words, refer to my second sentence. Thank you, sir.

Posted by: Big Mo at April 8, 2012 3:04 PM

Wow, what a story. Thank you for letting us know some of it. As they say, we may not know the purpose of it all until the fullness of time.

Posted by: Scott M at April 8, 2012 3:29 PM

At the risk of upsetting readers, just which almighty power said you were dead?

The medical community might say so, but I've never seen any of that august profession walk on water.

That power over the Resurrection and the Life was, at last look, not assigned to those mortals.

Since you were not entombed, didn't turn to dust, one must suspect your hiatus was momentary; human time really has no meaning.

The Dao does understand these tings: "FATES"

Posted by: Peccable at April 8, 2012 4:04 PM

Thank you.

Posted by: leelu at April 8, 2012 4:24 PM

Thank you for the inspiration Gerard! Happy Easter!
Life is your destiny and that more abundantly. Divine mystery is the fun part.

I'm thankful you're atill with us. :^)

Posted by: USS Ben at April 8, 2012 4:37 PM

Good to still have you around....Happy Easter my good man.

Posted by: Thud at April 8, 2012 5:19 PM

My Message doesn't come from the Great Beyond, no burning bush, no hosannas reigning down. It is the simple message Big Mo expressed ... you enhance my life and for that I say thank you.

I have seen a change in you since your death and return. It is both subtle and in-the-face. God has given you a talent, a voice, you have always used it well and now you use it even better. I feel soul now in your writing, much more so than the cynicism. You touch people and that is no small feat.

Posted by: Sara at April 8, 2012 5:52 PM

I was thinking that you have been through two life changing events a decade apart, like bookends. Your experiences during 9/11 and your death experience and new birth. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but it seems that the one started the spiral and the other ended it. So maybe the message is that it is time to move on, have new faith in yourself and your fellowman, new beginnings without fear. But then what do I know?

Posted by: Sara at April 8, 2012 6:23 PM

This is great. Wonderful.
I would find it more relaxing,however if you could please find a less dramatic way to be inspired.
Just sayen

Posted by: flannelputz at April 8, 2012 6:35 PM

I see resurrection as the gift and redemption is the miracle. Judging by you writtings you have been given both.

Posted by: Wayne R. Byard at April 8, 2012 7:55 PM

It is good to come here, Lazarus and read this on the day when death and the grave lost both its sting and victory. I think about my impending death almost hourly, sometimes with eager anticipation, and at other times with dread. Today is all Joy. Peace and joy be yours, today, too.

Posted by: Jewel at April 8, 2012 8:31 PM

I finished reading your essay and felt compelled to respond. Then I read all of the wonderful posts of others and felt I had nothing new to add.
The feeling to respond still lingered, though, and I think it is because you have given me a gift so I must tell you about a somewhat similar experience.

Mine was the experience of the resurrection of a loved one and it was profound. The way that life changed was in the fearlessness of proclaiming love of Jesus and love of God and love of all creation. This person died only about a month after, but the lives touched during this fearless time were touched forever.

You have been given a much longer time in which to make an impact on those around you and you have this wonderful gift of writing in which to do so. We cannot keep the keen edge of new love any more than we can keep the keen edge of life changing events. Humans are just too human to live on the edge constantly.

Continue your beautiful essays. I too have seen the changes in your writing and am grateful to be part of your community of readers.

Posted by: Graceia at April 8, 2012 8:33 PM

Happy Easter, Gerard.

Posted by: rickl at April 8, 2012 9:50 PM

What Sara said. 9-11 cleansed you of the sixties, Gerard, and your resurrection reset you for the future. So go!

Posted by: Raincityjazz at April 9, 2012 2:45 AM

Peccable - The metaphor of people being brought back from the dead is often used by newspapers, for example, in cases of cardiac arrest. Sometimes it's a better fit than others; Gerard's experience of going out like a light and then going into a coma for 13 days is perhaps closer than most. The occasional case where someone drowns in freezing cold water and is brought back hours later is perhaps similar.

Of true resurrections (someone who would unquestionably be regarded as completely brain-dead in modern times) there are very few recorded in the Bible; two I'm sure of (Lazarus and Jesus Himself) and perhaps others - I'm no Biblical scholar.

I think that it's worth noting that any major hospital is probably the scene of multiple resurrections every day, if one uses the old criterion of someone with no heartbeat being dead. One of the unsung miracles of modern medicine.

I think it's interesting to speculate on the position of someone who, sometime in the future, is put into cryogenic suspension that preserves the structure of the brain. Is such a person alive or dead?

Happy Easter, Gerard. May you see many more.

Posted by: Fletcher Christian at April 9, 2012 3:36 AM

Thank you for that - a perfect Easter read. Wishing you all the best.

Posted by: goldenwest at April 9, 2012 3:51 AM

Gerard didn't die because God never lets anything bad happen to me.

Posted by: Sippican at April 9, 2012 5:53 AM

I wish I could add something eloquent, but I seem to be short of words at the moment. Like all the others, though, I'm awfully glad you're still with us, Gerard. As to your purpose, now, it may not be clear to you or anyone else, but never fear: you are already doing it. And I suspect that so long as you continue to ask that question and listen for the answer, you will find your deustination.

Posted by: Julie at April 9, 2012 8:47 AM

"Why seek ye the living among the dead?"

Isn't that a proper question to ask ACORN?

Posted by: Don Rodrigo at April 9, 2012 9:24 AM

Wisenheimers! I'm surrounded by wisenheimers!

Posted by: vanderleun at April 9, 2012 10:09 AM

Perhaps you might do better to think about why others enjoy having you here. Maybe God loves us, too!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh at April 9, 2012 10:31 AM

Glad you're still here!

Posted by: Teresa in Fort Worth, TX at April 9, 2012 3:03 PM

Happy Easter, sir. You might find St. John of the Cross helpful on these points where God is obviously working on you, but you can't tell what the heck He's doing because He's working behind your back. :) The Ascent of Mt. Carmel and its sequel, The Dark Night of the Soul - take a look, see if it helps, don't worry about it if it doesn't.

Posted by: Maureen at April 9, 2012 10:35 PM

Man, Gerard, we are SO glad you made it back after those 13 days. Nobody frames the discussion quite like you ... we need you!

Posted by: edaddy at April 18, 2012 7:25 PM

Another year of Grace, Gerard! Glad we can share it with you.

Happy Easter!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at March 30, 2013 5:07 AM

"Still, it would be nice to get a message neatly laid out, sent in from God’s great cosmic sign factory ... “Still not satisfied”..."

Still not satisfied? Well, there's your message, Gerard!

Drink deeply, my Friend. Your heart knows the work laid out for you.

...and as a friend once said to me "Try to not do too much" so that you can enjoy the 'Gift of pure Being'.

Posted by: cond0011 at March 30, 2013 7:29 AM

You are having your BONUS life and we are all the better for it! You are living your purpose already, you are provoking thought- a rare thing these days. Thank you for all your writing and mischief!

Posted by: pinklady at March 30, 2013 7:40 AM

"God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught, I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it – if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends: He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me – still He knows what He is about."
- John Henry Newman

"Don't wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day."
- Albert Camus

"Every day is a good day to be born, every day is a good day to die."
- John XIII

Happy Easter, good sir. And thank you for what you do.

Posted by: M.P Ryan at March 30, 2013 2:21 PM

What a beautiful piece of writing, and a compelling story. I think you're on the right track at the end there, focusing on Life. Don't look for the big message, just appreciate that God gave you more time to bring the unique gifts that you bring to the world, and go do more of that, one day at a time. That's all you need to know. That's all any of us need to know, isn't it?

Happy Easter, Gerard. I'm glad you're still here.

BTW, you might be interested in an incredible book I read recently, "Proof of Heaven" by a neurosurgeon named Eben Alexander. He nearly died and was in a coma for a week, and had the most incredible experience while the neo-cortex of his brain showed essentially zero activity. The title explains his conclusions. An amazing read. Recently I blogged a long quote explaining more of the story from Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club on my Tumblr.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at March 30, 2013 5:07 PM

I'm so glad you're still here. Many wishes for a Happy Easter.

Posted by: Susan in Seattle at March 30, 2013 9:41 PM

I rarely get to read things on the day they were written, but I am glad I got to read today this essay you wrote on Easter. I have linked to you here: http://bobagard.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-resurrection-and-life.html

Posted by: Bob Agard at April 6, 2013 8:25 PM

Upon his resurrection Christ did his thing and now so are you. Acceptance, gratitude and sense of mission and destiny without the Burning Bush or cosmic sign since the resurrection is the obvious marching orders. Your back so do what you do best, but you already know that. My one and only direct contact with my Higher Power went something like this: "Hi Wayne I am extremely busy but keep doing what you are doing," Please keep doing what you are doing.


Posted by: Uncle Wayne at October 13, 2013 10:01 AM

"A Cut-Rate Resurrection" my hairy buttocks. I don't care how much technology was the good doctors Frankenstein used to bring you back, miraculous is still Miraculous.

Happy 2nd birthday.

Posted by: pdwalker at October 13, 2013 11:17 AM

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” - Oscar Wilde

Love you G.

Posted by: Sushisistah at October 13, 2013 11:42 AM

Easy Peasy, Mr. V.: Read the Word, it's in both a clear and crisp typeface.

Having experienced what can only be described as a near death experience I, too, kept looking for the big sign. As it turned out it was there all along in the Bible. That's where you'll find God.

"Leaning on the Everlasting Arms."

Posted by: AbigailAdams at October 13, 2013 12:38 PM

"His words, soaring above his circumstances,
set his troubles in a context large enough to contain them." ~Derek Kidner
I like the part where you starting living/writing (again).
: )

Posted by: DeAnn at October 13, 2013 1:13 PM

He is never done with us.

Posted by: elr at October 13, 2013 2:07 PM

As a surgical then cardiac care nurse, I have seen this reality.
Many still don't listen

They forget.

They continue to trod the old path.

Posted by: Grace at October 13, 2013 2:15 PM

the commenter peccable walks the old path.

dead is when intervention is needed to sustain earthly existence.

You know

Posted by: Grace at October 13, 2013 2:39 PM

Maybe you've already written something that's changed somebody's mind in a way that's profound for them or maybe you will in the days that remain for you in this life. That's something, Gerard. And in thinking about some of your own life experiences, surely there must be one or two that really made an impact, events or conversations or even thoughts that you learned from or felt and experienced deeply. I say that such things are what matter--they only have to matter to you. The fact that you can write or say or do something for someone else that means something powerful to them is kind of like the icing on the cake.

Posted by: Kerry at October 13, 2013 6:35 PM

I remember this story and I always love hearing it. I'm glad that your life has resulted in more time spent here on Earth. I have enjoyed your writings, pictures, and blogging.
Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He is the only way. This may offend people. But I would rather offend them than see them go the wayside. I am glad you are around for a while longer. Keep the faith.
God's peace & God bless.

Posted by: Arlene at October 13, 2013 6:37 PM

I am glad that you are with us and I can call you my friend. It is strange how God puts people in our lives when we need them the most, and that goes both ways. Until I read this post I had know idea what 10-13 was to you, we will not forget.
Your new friends G. and J.

Posted by: Geoff C. the Saltine at October 13, 2013 8:54 PM

Happy re-birthday. You have touched many lives.

Posted by: Scott M at October 14, 2013 12:52 PM

Once we have been to the Edge of Life, things don't seem the same.
What once was important becomes trivial; what once we overlooked takes on significance and value.
We realize that we have more to look back upon than forward to, yet we caste our eyes on the horizon.
"I can't wait to see what happens next" may well be our mantra.

Posted by: chasmatic at April 5, 2015 6:19 AM

Wonder of All

We hear the falling iron chains
When you set your children loose
And you’ve sealed death’s ghastly tomb
With granite truth on truth

With humble divine power
You laid your flesh in pain
To give a bloody birth to us
And you would do it all again

But we still can’t understand
Your perfect grave of grace
And amazing in with all the stars
Your love that takes our place

Oh faithful God of all
In our twilight book of sin
You conquered with your innocence
All true freedom loving men

We struggle in this evil world
With eyes in tears we sing
Oh just to gaze the peaceful waters
Of our returning King


Posted by: Denny at April 5, 2015 8:25 AM

Happy Easter, Gerard!

Glad to see you made it around one more time.


I think over again my small adventures, my fears.
These small ones that seemed so big.
For all the vital things I had to get and to reach.
And yet there is only one great thing.
The only thing.
To live to see the great day that dawns.
And the light that fills the world.

~Old Inuit Song

Posted by: cond0011 at March 27, 2016 5:44 AM

I read a lot online, Gerard.
Too much of the news is ugly, and sad. So,
I save American Digest for last, as its usually uplifting, and never fails to touch the soul.

Happy Easter!

Posted by: 1ab2 at March 27, 2016 2:07 PM

I'm reading AD this Easter morning. Thanks for the blessings, Gerard and readers. Happy Easter!

Posted by: Casey Klahn at April 16, 2017 5:27 AM

We come here because you put your heart and soul into your work,Gerard. Great work,great heart. Thanks,and Happy Easter to you and all those who come here.

Posted by: Nori at April 16, 2017 2:08 PM

Happy Easter Sunday to you, Gerard. And to all who believe the Lord lets us live our own lives and remember the things important to a Life well lived. The fact I remain touched by this every year is reason enough for me that you are here. You help me remember that Better Men have passed this way before, and I need only strive to be half as worthy as they, and I will still be living a Life well lived. I love reading you most ever day. God Bless, Gerard. Press on, sir.


Posted by: Subsunk at April 16, 2017 6:15 PM


A near death experience, maybe even a prognosis of death, can be a liberating thing. Living life fully in each moment, restoring wayward relationships, truly touching other encountered souls; life is too brief and precious for the trivial any longer. Make it count. And you do Gerard.

Posted by: Steve S. at April 16, 2017 11:17 PM

Thank you for your years of service, love you and the site

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at April 18, 2017 9:01 AM