GUEST POST by AUTHOR ERIC JUBB:
From Eric Jubb, author of Dire Wolf (Book Baby, 2014)
In Dire Wolf, author Eric Jubb writes about his own near death experience through the protagonist, John Johnston. Below, Jubb describes the strikingly real experience of reliving that trauma through a character in his writing.
As you might imagine talking about my near death experience is pretty hard for me. Perhaps the hardest part of having a near death experience is that most people do not believe you. Sure your wife believes because she was there, but mostly your friends and relatives simply do not know what to think. I had planned for many years to write a novel, started a couple of times but never really got going so gave up. When a plot finally coalesced in my mind I wanted my hero, John Johnston, to have to overcome personal tragedy and trauma in order to seem more like the rest of us. All of us have to overcome hardships and tragedy’s in our lives, it in part makes each of us who we are.
My personal odyssey with near death experience has transformed me in many ways. For me to tell the story of how it came to be in my novel, I must I think start at the beginning. I was forty-two, my father had just died and I was dealing with his estate which pretty much amounted to nothing. Like many guys I did not go to the doctor when I got sick a few weeks after his death. I ended up with an ear infection that hurt like hell, but I did not see a physician until the pain was pretty much unbearable. He gave me some antibiotics and some pain medication and I went home. I went to bed and woke some thirty days later from a coma. I had bacterial meningitis that had pretty well marked paid to my life. I don’t remember the pain or the life flight where my heart stopped beating. What I remember was the experience of being on the other side of the veil that separates us from death.
What I remember of this experience is in my novel, but goes something like this. The tunnel is deep. So deep that it appears to be without bottom. I suppose the dark doesn’t help. Luckily there’s a bright light at the top thatI’m climbing towards, or I wouldn’t be able to see the hand holds. I don’t know how long I’ve been climbing, but I feel a deep dread every time I look down. It’s strange; my muscles should be screaming in protest. My fingers don’t even hurt. In fact, I feel stronger with each new foot that I climb.Finally, the lip of the tunnel; I grab a rock and lever myself over the edge. The sky is really weird, almost like mother of pearl, but really bright. It’s not clouds, but gives off an ethereal light. I can hear some voices off in the distance, laughing and conversation. There’s a bench of exquisite design under a simple trellis. The bench sits on a rail landing of raked gravel with patterns in it. The patterns seem to change as I sit and stare at them. I pick up a pebble and throw it into the pattern. The gravel seems to form eddies around the stone, like water in a stream. Unbelievably peaceful. The tracks seem to start here, but go off to my right far enough that there perspective changes to a point in the distance. Such a beautiful place, I’ve never felt so at peace in my life. I have a feeling, though, that I don’t belong. As I look around, I see a tunnel off to my left that seems to call for me. The voice is very quiet. I can barely hear it telling me that the path will take me to where I need to be.
A day or two after I woke in the hospital, nurses and doctors kept comingthrough my room to just say hi. I eventually asked my doctor why they were coming. The answer was pretty startling. They were trying to demonstrate to the docs and nurses working in the cancer ward that sometimes medicine wins. Survival rates for the meningitis type that I had after seizures and heart failure were less than ten percent, yet here I was alive. As the song says, dazed and confused, but nevertheless living.
As I started writing my novel it occurred to me that the most difficult things in life to overcome and to deal with were not the physical limitations of our bodies but rather the mental issues we all deal with. At first I did not include the near death experience in the description of John Johnston’s injuries. But as I reviewed the rough draft of the chapter, it seemed almost natural to me to include my experience. As I wrote the experience out I struggled with the description of the absolute peace that I felt. In the end I left it to the readers imagination as I really feel that it’s beyond my humble ability to describe.
Was it therapeutic? For me perhaps, as I have been pretty gun shy for the last eighteen years since the experience. I can tell you that for me it was more real than any experience that I have had thus far in my life. Death has no fear for me as I have experienced it and found that there is a place for all of us to go when we die.
Eric Jubb spent over fifteen years as a helicopter pilot in the military. When an illness, including a near-death experience, forced him to resign his commission, Jubbreturned to the Montana wilderness he loved. Most recently, Jubb worked for a defense manufacturing company. He is an avid fly fisherman, lives in Polson, MT with his wife, and has six children and eight grandchildren.