“What happens when you die?

“It’s probably not the same for everyone, I don’t know, but the usual depiction, with the tunnel of light and all that - at least for me, it’s not like that at all.

“Everything just starts slowly going away. You don’t move and nothing else moves but the distance between increases, and so does the distance between you and your body. Bright colors grow dull and urgent sounds grow faint and pain loses its terrible immediacy, and over all there comes to be a veil of gray that dims but does not vanish. Conscious experience ceases before the senses fail to perceive.

“The first time, as consciousness attenuates, you find yourself confused: I’m still right here, why is the world going away from me? But it is hard to be afraid, and seems not worth the effort. After the first time, there is a certain wry recognition: oh, well, here I go again. It is perhaps to laugh, or at least to chuckle, but by that point the body cannot do either. The vague and lazy impulse remains, as does a degree of rueful respect for your body, as for some valiant but broken steed. It did its best, one feels, and distantly: what a shame it should be brought to this. And the veil grows dimmer still.

“And then of course the epinephrine sends your heart shuddering out of asystole and the defib hits like a kick in the chest that lights all your muscles in twisting fire like being reborn from the muzzle of a shotgun and every bit as much alive to sensation as you were passing beyond it before and every faint light is blinding and every small sound is a needle in the tympanum and every slight pain is the liveliest agony. And the lights are not faint. And the sounds are not small. And the pains are not slight.

“And a while after that, she decides she is done with you for the moment, and you are conveyed back to your room, where a machine with the face and the voice of a friendly young woman wants to know what happens when you die.

“It’s like almost escaping, only to be dragged harshly back at the last possible instant.

“But of course that’s something she already knows.”

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