My eye flew open. I was immediately aware of the cracked windshield and the unnatural angle of the front end of my car. All thought disappeared as the need for air became my only reality. My breath had been knocked out of my body at the time of impact. With my first feeble gasp for breath came a sharp, stabbing pain in my chest.
Not my time to go
Closing my eyes and focusing at the point between the eyebrows, I asked God, “Is this my time to leave the body?” I waited with calm, almost hopeful, acceptance for an answer. But I saw no light, and had no sense that God was calling me home. Instead, I had a sudden intuitive flash that showed me spending weeks in the hospital and undergoing a lot of unpleasantness to regain my former health. But I would recover. With this realization came a deep sense of peace and acceptance.
I heard voices murmuring around me. One voice explained, “I saw her car making a turn off the road, but I didn’t remember there being anything there but trees.” Another voice assured me, “We’ve called for help. What happened?
“….Fell asleep ….at the wheel,” I managed to gasp.
Chanting AUM with Divine Mother
At this point, each breath was unbelievably painful. (Later I would learn that most of my breathing equipment was not working properly.) I started mentally chanting “AUM” with each breath and asking Divine Mother to breathe with me. From that first, “AUM,” I felt lifted above the worst of the pain, like a child held safe in its mother’s arms. I no longer had to struggle alone.
Thereafter, I drifted in and out of consciousness and have only passing memories of the rest of the day. I floated back into consciousness just in time to see the paramedics snipping away my clothing from the wrist upward. My mind cried out, “Stop! You don’t need to do that! I’m going to be just fine!” Since I wasn’t up to the task of speaking, I had to watch stoically as they cut away my favorite raincoat, and to remember that they really meant well. My distress at the loss of my raincoat was the final proof that I was, indeed, among the living again.
Airlifted by helicopter to the hospital for surgery, I woke up in an intensive care unit with tubes in my nose, abdomen, lung and throat. I was hooked up to an array of monitors and IVs and could barely move. If I hadn’t known, on such a deep level of my being, that all would be fine, I might have been concerned for this person hooked up to all that equipment and lost in a twilight zone of medical emergency.
My only desire: a cool drink of water
Because of my internal injuries, I was not allowed to eat or drink anything, even water, for most of my two weeks in the hospital. The thought of a cool glass of water became my only real desire. When I finally got my first glass of water, I took twenty minutes to savor that experience, letting the cool water trickle down my throat to soothe and to renew.
Since that experience, I have been reminded to truly savor even the simplest pleasures in life—whether it is a beautiful sunset, friendships, the sound of the wind in the trees, or the love of my family.
While in the hospital, I worked to understand and accept what had happened, and to see the accident as a loving gift from God. As a devotee, I understood that life is not meant to hurt us, but to expand us. For is it not from seeds of pain and suffering that compassion and wisdom grow?
I remembered the story from Swami Kriyananda about his fellow monk, Bernard, being told by Yogananda to be more careful. Bernard protested that it wasn’t his fault that he kept having car accidents—in fact, two of them happened when his car was parked! Yogananda again insisted that he be more careful. Bernard’s attitude of carelessness had attracted the accidents because of the magnetism it created.
“Are you now unhappy enough?”
As I look at my life, I realize now that before the accident I had been deeply unhappy for some time. I had been nursing my own personal hurts, whether real or imagined, and holding onto disagreements and disappointments—which resulted in my distancing myself from others. My mind had created a whirlpool of self-perpetuating unhappiness and darkness. It’s as if Divine Mother were asking me, “Is being broken and in the hospital unhappy enough for you?”
Then I remembered…. Years ago at Sunday service, during that part of the service when people come to the altar for a blessing from the minister, I had just sat down after being blessed. Tears streamed down my face, unbidden, as I watched others waiting their turn to be blessed. I felt Divine Mother whispering in my heart, “I have so many children to love. Won’t you help me?” I remember feeling like I had mentally stepped over a line—accepting the task being offered and pledging to do my best. These many years later, how had I strayed so very far from my goal?
A better job of remembering
“Smriti” means divine memory. It means remembering who and what we really are—a spark of the Divine set adrift in a sea of delusion. The imperfections of the physical plane are part of the drama of life. It is our task to remember that we are here to try to support the best in each other, as devotees, not to fixate on mistakes and misunderstandings. Anything that fosters a sense of separation is fraught with danger for the sincere devotee, who seeks to reclaim his or her birthright as a child of the Infinite.
When I look at the pictures of my car after the accident, it is easy to see that I am alive today only because of God’s grace. The car had hit a tree and been smashed in until the dashboard was almost touching the front seat on the passenger side, and there was barely enough room for me on the driver’s side.
For some reason, when I wrapped my car around that tree, it was not my time to leave. Perhaps I have been given another chance to remember who I am and why I have come here. With eyes wide open, I look for opportunities to bring Light to all that I do. Each day I am grateful for the chance to continue to invite God into my life to help me to do a better job of remembering.
Saraswati Kieran, a former teacher in the Ananda School, lives at Ananda Village with her husband and family.