Has anyone surprised you after their death, e.g. receiving an organ from a donor, a sizeable inheritance, or a visit from a friendly ghost?
On January 19, 1979, a big part of me died when my 26-year old brother Danny died due to complications arising after heart surgery. Back in 1979, imaging techniques were not like they are now. The doctors did not understand the morphology of Danny’s heart, and his ticker quit ticking because the pacemaker electrode was placed outside of his heart instead of its intended destination within a heart chamber.Looking back on this story, I instinctively knew that Danny’s death was an inevitability, although to me he was invincible. On the cold January night about a week or two before he died, I remember seeing him put on his jacket and head out the door on his way to the hospital. I was a 15-year old kid, laying on the carpet in front of the TV, watching some show at the time. My 6 foot 2 inch brother seemed extra large that night as he towered over me in his blue jacket as he turned towards me and said he would see me later.The details of his medical condition could fill a text book. He was born with a condition known as dextrocardia situs inversus totalis. This means that his heart was on the right side of his body and other organs were reversed, too.When he was born, he was supposed to die quickly. I guess God had a different plan for him and allowed him to stay with us for over 26 years. Although I spent many days of my life in Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital during his illnesses, I never got tired of laying down with Danny when he got sick. I would place my head on his chest and listen to his heart beat a-rhythmically at over 220 beats per minute. At times it sounded like he had a percussion band inside his chest.With each episode of tachycardia he experienced, additional damage was being done to his heart muscles. The previous January (1978), Danny spent nearly a month in the hospital trying to recover from one of those episodes. The ventilator they used on him caused him to remain hoarse until he died a year later.Now getting back to his heart operation, I was sure Danny was going to survive. The doctors had installed a temporary pacemaker through his groin, and that electrode hit its target. With the aid of this pacemaker, Danny seemed stronger than ever, even though he had to be bedridden during this time.After a team of doctors were assembled and the permanent internal pacemaker was produced, the big day of the surgery arrived on Jan 19, 1979. After his surgery was over, I was relieved. I was able to visit him in his hospital room after the surgery was over and he had reawakened. We talked for a couple of minutes before I told him that I was going to be back to the hospital in a little while to see him. He said, “OK, I’ll see you later.” Those were the last words he ever spoke to me.I had to walk several miles home, through several feet of snow to pick-up radio control airplane equipment that I had ordered. Sometime during that cold and lonely walk, where no cars were driving down the roads due to the snow pack, Danny died. I didn’t know it at the time but I would soon find out when I returned to the hospital.I realized that Danny had died when I finally understood why my family, the nurses and the doctors were all crying in unison. When the truth hit my brain, it went into that high-speed recording mode and my primitive brain took over. I hit the floor, convulsing while I hyperventilated uncontrollably. While the nurses got a bag to place over my face, someone helped pick me up and put me in a chair as the nurses told me to hold my head low and breathe into the bag.After I emerged from the state of hyper-ventilation I was in, I managed to see him in his hospital bed. What I remember most about the moment that I saw him was that he died with a smile on his face. He died in peace and his pain was finally gone.After Danny died, I switched beds and started sleeping in his bed. Three nights later, Danny visited me in our bedroom in the middle of the night. His audible voice came into my bedroom and awoke me. As I sat up in the dark room, we had a conversation as my eyes strained to see his body. Although I’ll save most of the story for later, he told me that he had permission to talk to me because of the grief that I was suffering. He told me to believe that he was in a better place, a beautiful place, and to go on and live a happy life. He said that we would talk again if I never told anyone about this encounter.This event and the other situations I experienced at that time, had a very profound impact on me. My vision of life was completely re-written. I went from being a kid that played multiple sports to bring satisfaction to my Mom and Brother, to a kid that realized the impossibly thin edge that exists between life and death. I saw life passing in seconds, like a sun ray glimmering on a wave in a lake. To this day, I grieve over the loss of my brother and I look forward to the day we get to reunite.P.S.I didn’t tell this story to anyone for many months. Eventually, my immaturity as a 15 year-old coupled with the unbelievable nature of the after-death contact from Danny was too much for me to bear. I ended up sharing this story with my good friend Steve.Since that confession, Danny has never contacted me again. I broke the rules and have paid the price, although I was blessed to have my personal religion solidified for my lifetime.I know that many readers of this story will not believe it, but that is OK with me. I probably wouldn’t believe it either if someone told it to me. However, this encounter was the most profound event of my life and I know that it happened. Those minutes I shared with my deceased brother are with me every day that I live and have given me peace and solitude as I pass through space and time in this wonderful life.