When Death Comes Creeping

The very last moment before death is an intriguing one. The impending and devastating event that follows is incomprehensible to our conscious mind, yet we still attempt to rationalise it, to reason with it and to understand it.

As a seven-year-old child, death crept up on me in a mere moment, when the mundane routine of my little life turned into an experience I could not begin to make sense of.

It was a bitter December morning on the day of my school’s Christmas party and I had got out of bed, washed, dressed and had breakfast, just as I did every other morning. My stepfather had offered to drive my mother and I to school, along with my three-month old brother, before going to work.

My mother, upon seeing the fine covering of snow outside, agreed to this and we all set off. Before loading everybody with their various accoutrements into the car, my stepfather attempted to start the engine to warm the vehicle, but the engine kept failing.

Eventually my mother decided to walk me to school, rather than waiting for a lift and risking me being late. It was only a ten-minute walk and the snow was not too heavy.

So, we set out… I was walking beside my mother, who pushed my baby brother in a small pram. We got to the top of the street and turned round a sharp bend in the road. This put us in the direct trajectory of my stepfather’s car—at the exact moment the engine burst into life.

Hearing the violent revving of the engine, my mother stopped and told me to wait by the curb for my stepfather to pick us up on his way past. This I did as I watched the car roar into life; jerking forward and screaming towards us.

As I watched the car smash into my body, I wondered if my stepfather had intended to hit me. As I fell backwards, I glimpsed the pram with my baby brother within toppling over as I was projected into it. As I hit the ground, tangled within the metal frame of the pram and the car above me blocking out the light, I reflected on my death and how it had come to me.

The terrifying public information advertising of Seventies Britain was extreme—both menacing and traumatic, even by today’s standards. Through my childlike eyes, I had learned from these adverts that when a child is hit by a car—they die.

I had been hit by a car and so had my brother, so we must be about to die too.

It was at this point I was gripped with a terrible fear… a darkness. This was not the fear of adulthood; one that we can put in words and examine with mature introspection, but a primal, instinctual fear. A fear that words cannot touch, nor define.

And, in that moment that death crept up upon me and my brother, I was left with an indelible scar upon my psyche… a knowledge of death and the pain of losing this precious life.

Barely a moment later the front wheels of the car hit the curb, causing the vehicle to bounce upwards, into the air and back onto the road. The sound of the engine fell into silence and I lay there, looking up to the sky.

What now? What happened next? This was not like those horribly frightening adverts at all! This was calm and serene—different to what I was led to believe.

Before I understood what was happening, there were people all around me, scooping me up and carrying me into the warmth of a nearby home. The experience was comforting, benevolent and above all, loving.

There was no bright light, no encounter with an all-encompassing power, no point or purpose to it all. There were no answers or reasons; no advice for the future or profound mission to bring into being.

What I did experience, was that of being carried away by a family friend who had witnessed the accident. I felt, maybe for the first time that this life could hold love and care for me… not every touch leads to bruising and scars that we cannot see.

So, in many ways, death had introduced me to life… a life I had not known before. And as such, it was not death that revealed its secrets, but life.

In that moment, it was life that left me with the darkness and the light. The sense of fear and the sense of love. It was life that gave me a purpose… to heal what cannot be healed by language and then to share the love I experienced on that day with those who have yet to feel it.

A love for the broken and the wounded, those in peril and those left alone. People who have touched fear and darkness and people who yearn for the light and for love.

And whilst it was almost twenty years before I discovered my way of achieving my mission in life, indescribable experiences of that moment, beyond words yet now healed, still motivate me to strive upon the path that life guided me to.

When death creeps up on me next time, whether it is for a moment or forever, I shall not be fearful… for when my Neverknow arrives, I will remember what life taught me.

Post Author: Martyn Pentecost

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