The day was Friday, July 9, 2010. My bride, of exactly nine months to the day, and I left our home at approximately 5:45 p.m., on our motorcycles. Me on my Harley Davidson Road King and her on her Harley Davidson Heritage Softtail. We had been planning this nine day trip to the Smoky Mountains for six months. We were also looking forward to being away, just the two of us, as it had been kind of a tough transition time since getting married. Two middle aged people getting married, both of us being stubborn and merging in a new family of one teen boy and one pre-teen special needs boy. We met in midlife on Match.com, both of us having this feeling inside that we had known each other all of our lives, impossible as it seemed. We fell ‘crazy’ in love with each other, loved spending time with each other and being with each other, but still, many of the first year marriage pitfalls befell us. We did have an argument, two, or three, mostly over styles of parenting.
It had been raining for several days in central Oklahoma, but on this particular day, the skies had cleared and the sun was shining with temperatures hovering at the one hundred degree mark. It was as if the heavens had said, ‘We’ve cleared the skies for you both to leave tonight, for sure! Coincidence or a divine calling? We were planning to leave the house and ride only about one hundred twenty miles east that evening, and stay the night at the inn, heading out with the sun coming up the next morning. The night before, after coming home from a professional organization meeting, Kathy had informed me that I had put her travel bag on her bike backwards. I then informed her that I had not; that I had secured her travel bag to her back rest and rested the bag, not on her luggage rack but on her saddle, because the amount of stuff she had packed overhung her luggage rack by three inches. She informed me that she needed all that ‘stuff’ because a woman needs space for makeup, several shoes and curling irons, even on a motorcycle trip. Knowing my Kathy, and how she felt about her ‘stuff’, I just chuckled.
Before leaving Friday afternoon and after checking our travel bags to make sure they were secure on the bikes, we kissed each other, held hands, and said a prayer to Jesus to keep us safe from harm, as many bikers do. The below picture was the last picture my wife Kathy took, taking it with her IPhone and posting it to her Facebook Wall. It was of me checking her travel bag, making sure it was secure.
We backed out of our garage, and just before leaving, I got off my bike, walked over to Kathy and kissed her again. We then ventured out from our home on a vacation of a life time, or so we thought. It became a ‘Journey’ that changed many lives forever. Heading east, I saw some light grayish clouds a few miles down the road. I stopped us on the shoulder, about twenty miles from our home, just east of town, for us to put on our rain suits in anticipation of some light drizzle. Mind you, the Doppler radar was all clear except for a small cell heading northeast about fifty miles north of another town. A long distance away and nowhere near where we were heading. The meteorologists had also reported that after that particular cell dissipated near town, the state would finally be dry for the first time in several days. As I helped Kathy with her rainsuit we kissed each other again.
As we were re-mounting our bikes, I looked back at her; still amazed in awe, that such an angel as her had come into my life, then fallen in love with me, and then said ‘Yes’ when I asked to her to marry me. Now, exactly nine months to the day and hour we were married, we were on our vacation, riding our bikes for nine days to the Smoky Mountains. I got off my bike and walked back to her bike. She asked me what was wrong. I said, ‘Nothing, I just want to kiss you again!’ Yes, there was something talking in my mind and telling me to go back and kiss Kathy. This would make the fourth time of us kissing since we said our prayers in the garage and I had no idea that the next kiss with Kathy would be my last.
We had only traveled down the road about twenty more miles, since stopping to put on our rain gear when, within seconds, a very rough rain storm blew up and the skies turned very dark. The rain was howling downward harder than I had ever ridden in. This storm was slowing down all traffic; as not a bike, a car, or a truck was able to safely see the road in front of them as they drove. News reports later that next day, would describe this two hour storm as seeming to come out of nowhere, with no warning and as the worst pelting of rain, many had seen in months. I was beginning to be fearful for Kathy as, although an experienced motorcycle rider, she had much less seat time than I. Once I began to feel my front tire hydroplaning, I knew it was time to get us off the road. I signaled for us to pull over onto the shoulder, which we did, but had no cover from the rainfall. Kathy saw an overpass about a quarter mile down the road so we rode up to it, carefully staying on the shoulder, with our emergency flashers on. Once we were under the overpass it was very clear we could not stay here. The shoulder under the overpass was barely wide enough for a motorcycle. This would not have given us any safe distance to stand away from our bikes and keep us safe. I motioned for us to safely merge back onto the turnpike lane. I kept us at a speed of about fifty miles per hour. My fear was that if I slowed us down to less than fifty miles per hour, some dum-dum traveling at a too high rate of speed for the rainy conditions would plow into the back of Kathy’s bike. As we continued down the road, I continued to hydroplane. I finally made the decision to pull us over and we would have to bear being rained on while on the shoulder of the road. About two miles beyond the overpass, we pulled over to the shoulder, as far as we could without ‘dumping’ our bikes in the grassy area away from the pavement. We turned off our ignitions, turned on our emergency flashers, dismounted the bikes and positioned ourselves away from them, keeping contact with each other by holding hands.
We were off our bikes for approximately ten minutes, in a very safe spot, as far away from traffic as we could be. We were still wearing our dark goggles, since this storm had come upon us so quickly and since prior to this storm, the sun had been shining and the temperatures were about one hundred degrees. After about ten minutes, our bodies and our boots soaked, I said to Kathy, ‘Wow, I sure hope this hotel has a blow dryer, because we’ll need it to dry our boots.’ Kathy started laughing and said to me, ‘Sweetie, of course they will. We have on Harley boots and no hotel will allow Harley boots to stay wet.’ At that point, we both started laughing and with our helmet shields half way up, I looked at her, said to her, ‘I love you’, she said ‘I love you, too,’ back to me and we kissed each other. This would make the fifth kiss we had since being in the garage an hour or less beforehand and would be the last time I kissed Kathy while she was alive.
As I moved my head up from kissing her, turning my head slightly to the right, looking westward, I saw a car riding the shoulder, seeming to be traveling very fast, heading directly at us. I had no time to think. I guess instinctively I knew I had to protect my wife. I looked down at her face, grabbed her, yelled at her, ‘Watch Out!’ I pushed us both into the air, trying to get us farther into the grassy area and away from the oncoming car. Ironically, it was a man traveling in his car, driving much too fast for the rainy conditions of the road. He was coming upon the back of a semi too fast, tried for a sudden stop, lost control, swerved, hydroplaned onto the shoulder of the road where we were parked and standing. He was driving so fast he had no time or distance to stop.
Unfortunately, his first visual was the bikes, and not seeing our trajectory and us after I grabbed Kathy and pushed us, he veered away from the bikes, now putting him and us in the same oncoming path. This would be the last time I would ever feel my wife, Kathy, alive. What seemed like an instant of time, I heard a very loud ‘THUD!’ I would later realize this was the sound of the car hitting our bodies. This ‘THUD’ would reverberate in my mind for many months thereafter. It is estimated the driver was traveling at about sixty miles per hour at impact. The next few paragraphs will speak of what I feel to be my Near Death Experience or, as some have told me, people who don’t necessarily believe in near death experiences, just my mind working while I was in an unconscious state. However, I know what I felt and how I felt and although maybe not as detailed, glamorous or colorful as many of the near death experiences I have since read and learned about, I am of the absolute belief there were many Divine Powers working with, for, and about Kathy and I that evening.
This ‘THUD’ is all I remember in a conscious, ‘alive’ state, until several minutes later. Several minutes later, I felt someone holding my hand and a voice talking to me. This person was a young boy of seventeen years whose plans after high school were pre-med. Since the night of the accident, I have spoken to the young seventeen year old boy and his Mom, a licensed nurse, who was also at the scene of the accident moments after impact. In her words spoken to me, as an experienced emergency room trauma nurse, seeing first hand my condition at the accident scene, she has no explanation as to how I am alive today. In his words spoken to me, he came to my side, approximately ten minutes after the accident had occurred. He first went to Kathy’s aid and realized she had already passed. He told me when he got to my side there were several people looking down at me, just staring, as if sensing I had passed also. He went on to say he grabbed my hand and it was very cold and lifeless. There seemed to be no life in me, per his words. There was something that told him to talk to me and he began saying, ‘Come back to us, come back!’ This was the first time I sensed myself, in a laying position, being touched since I had heard that ‘THUD.’
I was later told that at impact; I lost the grip I had on Kathy and after being hit, my body flew up onto the hood of the car, smashed in the hood then bounced up and into the windshield, smashing it inward. Then I bounced up again, with my right side, dropped down the side of the car, and broke off the car’s driver side rearview mirror before I came to a resting place on the ground. Kathy was somehow pulled under the car, being dragged approximately one hundred twenty feet with the car crushing her lower body. She was pronounced dead at the scene. I’m told she most likely fell into an unconscious state at impact and passed into heaven and into God’s arms within minutes. I have held this to be true in my heart, as I couldn’t bear to know she laid on the wet ground suffering.
My mind remembers me being in a situation such as the floating I’ve come to learn about. I remember a feeling of another ‘me’ walking away from my body, rising up, looking down and seeing a group of people standing and bending down looking at someone. There is much of this time that has come to my conscious mind only after many months of replaying it repeatedly in my mind. After many replays, I realized that someone was me. They were looking down at me as if not knowing what to do or how to act. There were many people and I cannot remember anyone speaking. Something significant happened to me during this time, and only after many replays in my mind have I been able to express this occurrence. When I came back to an ‘alive’ state with this young boy, Tyler, holding my hand, telling to me to, ‘Come back to us, come back,’ I remembered having an abundance of tears in my eyes. Also, I could not move and for the first time since that ‘THUD,’ I could feel excruciating pain throughout my body. Besides the pain, my whole body felt paralyzed. There wasn’t any part of my body I could move. It seemed that I could muster a slight wiggle, but could not move from side to side or up and down any limb. Also, I could barely breathe. I was gasping for air, feeling that my whole chest and rib cage had caved in.
While in this state of looking over my body, or ‘hovering,’ I remember feeling Kathy, although not in a normal sense. We connected but not as our physical selves, but connected in a way that is hard to put into words. I guess it could be described as a telepathic or kinetic connection. As I replay in my mind this telepathic connection, I realize it also included another presence. It seemed as if all three of us had a tug of war going on. As I try to assimilate this in my mind, it seems that the tug of war was like this presence, or Angel had a hold on Kathy, and Kathy had a hold on me. There seemed to be a back and forth tug and finally a hard tug breaking me away from Kathy’s presence. At that moment it seemed I cried out and said to myself; ‘You’re gone, aren’t you? You’re gone.’ I started crying. This must’ve been the same moment I came back and heard Tyler speaking his words.
I have tried since that night to piece this all together from a human point of view and to grasp what happened that night. I have come to these following conclusions: 1) Although our bodies were not near each other, Kathy and I died together at, according to the medical examiner, 7:01 p.m., which was the exact time, nine months prior, we had our first dance as husband and wife. 2) There must be a reason as to why I never felt any pain or discomfort during this time. 3) This presence, or Angel of God, that was holding onto Kathy was communicating to her that I couldn’t go, as God said it wasn’t my time. 4) As tenacious and persistent as she was, she wasn’t accepting that we weren’t going to heaven together, so she was keeping a hold of me. 5) After realizing she wasn’t going to win this tug of war, finally, using all of her human resources experience, negotiated with her Angel, that she would accept going only when she knew her man, me, was going to be taken care of. And 6) With the presence of Tyler at my side; the only person amongst several to bend down, grab my hand and talk to me, Kathy’s kinetic attachment to me was disconnected. I began to cry, knowing she was leaving without me. It was then that this kinetic power was saying in my head, ‘you’re gone, aren’t you? You’re gone.’ Once coming back to an ‘alive’ state, I would not remember Kathy had died.
I would constantly be screaming for her, over and over. It would be many hours later, only after my stepdaughter Beth, came into the emergency examining room that would I know, humanly, that Kathy had died. Once back to an ‘alive’ state, while lying on the ground with a feeling of whole body paralysis, I kept screaming for Kathy. I was told is that someone was with her. At a certain point, well after the paramedics had arrived, I could see from the top of my eyes, a gurney wheeled into another ambulance, which I knew was Kathy. I tried to turn to see more, but I couldn’t turn. I kept on asking about her, but all I was told was words like, ‘there is someone with her.’ A part of me kept wondering why I didn’t hear a siren but at that point I didn’t put all together. Once her ambulance had left the scene, it seemed that I began to regain movement of my body parts, although with much pain.
After the paramedics stabilized my body and after Kathy had been taken away, they drove me to the local hospital. It was at this hospital that my daughter Beth would tell me that Kathy, her Mom, had passed. After a thorough examination and many x-rays, the Doctors could find no major injuries and with only one minor slash, a cut to my right knee, bound by several stitches, I was released to go home. I later found out that Kathy was transported by that ambulance to a local funeral parlor, bypassing the need to go to an emergency room, since she was pronounced dead at the scene by the Medical Examiner. After replaying the events of that night in my head too many times to count, I have also come to a couple other conclusions.
I believe that as superficial as my injuries were in the final outcome, they were very real during the time when Kathy was still at the scene. Had my injuries been such that I could move, my first reaction would have been to run to her side to try to save her. A divine intervention, an angel’s presence forbidding me from moving. Yes, I do believe that is exactly what kept me from moving. The other conclusion I have come to believe is that God directs our spirit, inside of us, without our conscious knowledge, to clear up a certain amount of unfinished business prior to our departure. That night was the destined night God chose for Kathy’s final journey here on Earth and my journey into a near death experience.
In looking backward at many of Kathy’s actions, connecting those actions to ‘unfinished business’, I am startled as to a brief discussion we had several weeks before her death. We were casually speaking about how, while riding a motorcycle, we all ride with death a few short feet away from us. She then said, paraphrased, ‘Don, I’m going first, because I don’t know how I would keep going if you died first. So remember that the one person who will become the most invaluable to you and your future is Beth.’ I responded in an amazed question. ‘Your daughter Beth? I’m not sure she even likes me!’ Kathy then responded, ‘Oh yes, she likes you and trust me when I tell you what I have told you.’
Amazingly, Beth and I have become very close, as I have with all my stepchildren, but Beth and I have developed an unbelievable strong closeness with each other, of which I am so very grateful for and very blessed to have. I also know that many times, in the case of an unplanned death, the survivor feels he or she wasn’t able to say their ‘good-byes.’ I thought that way at first, until again after replaying the accident over and over in my mind, I realized, we had been given the ‘Divine Opportunity’ to say our good-byes to each other. I thought how many couples in love, involved in an accident such as ours, are given the opportunity to kiss each other, not once, not twice, but five times, especially on a motorcycle trip? And the last time, the fifth time, the final kiss, seconds before impact and seconds before Kathy’s death, prefaced by each of us telling each other we loved each other. Coincidence or Divine Intervention?
Since that fateful night which changed my life forever, I have read much of near death experiences and have come to the conclusion that I, in fact, had a Near Death Experience, albeit, not as deep, or as long in duration as many people I have read of. It has now been two years since Kathy’s passing and my life continues to change and evolve daily. I have tried many times to push deeper into the realm of my mind. Each time I get close to having any more revealed, my mind tunes out. I have found that I no longer have any fear of death, especially while riding my motorcycle. I do not ride or live carelessly. but I have become closer to my faith than ever before, and seem to look forward to my trip to heaven, where I know I’ll be reunited with Kathy and we’ll hold each other, bow our heads together, and pray to God. Just as we did every Sunday at church. Only this time we’ll be in the presence of His Holiness.
We were only together three short years, but for both of us it seemed as if we were together all of our lives. We both had agreed that it was God that brought us together. It has seemed that when she broke loose of that kinetic attachment we had, many of her personality traits flowed into me. Since her death, and since my near death experience, I have found myself to be more at ease, more forgiving, more grateful, and more patient, just as she was. I have also found that I have a way of relaying my thoughts, my feelings, and my experiences in such a positive manner. Many have told me I should write a book of my experiences with Kathy, the accident, our time together, and how her death affected my life. I just may do that, using this makeshift diary of my near death experience as the spring board. Kathy was my soul and heart’s inspiration. She used to tell me, ‘We’re not perfect, but we’re perfect for each other.'