The Death Letter Project
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Rohan Thomas | Digital Producer

I’m uncertain about who to write this letter to but I guess that for many people death is all about uncertainty. I share these words about my personal experience for those who’ve lost someone or those who themselves are facing departure from this life. I hope these words provide some comfort.

It was 1992 in Minneapolis where I arrived in the early hours of the morning. I was unaware two strangers I’d asked directions from had followed me.

One man held a gun at me and as I reached for my wallet he shot me. Both men fled into the darkness leaving me for dead.

As I walked to find help, random moments from my life played like a slide show in front of me. The images were momentary and of no real significance. Most were black and white but some appeared in colour. As the images lost opacity I feared not being able to find my way. I was so determined to survive and thankfully found the strength to make it to a hospital before bleeding out.

Looking down from about three metres above I saw myself lying motionless in a hospital bed with tubes and leads attached to my body.

I was confused and had no idea what had happened but felt something was very wrong. I asked myself in the second person “Rohan what’s happened to you? Why do you look so ill?”. My eyes remained closed without a response. I wondered how it was that I was looking down on myself. Thinking there must be a mirrored ceiling I turned expecting to see the ceiling but all I saw was blackness. It was like space but without any stars. Everything was silent.

I asked myself “Rohan, were you a good person in this life” and answered “yes”. I began to move through the blackness, or it could have been passing by me, I couldn’t quite tell. I lost all sense of time, movement and distance. It was hard to know the difference between one second or a thousand years.

In my right peripheral I saw horrific scenes of people dying. A plane falling from the sky, a bus filled with people exploding in flames, people screaming, the carnage of war and children dying. It appeared apocalyptic but I felt no emotion, no sadness and no regret. I just thought that was their journey and that’s how it ended for them.

In my left peripheral I saw a soft yellow light. It felt perfectly serene and I could feel its warmth drawing me in. I was overcome by a feeling of total peace and contentment. It was the most beautiful feeling I have ever experienced. As the light got nearer I felt pure joy and a sense of having been here before. I felt like I was coming home to a place where I was meant to be. I was overwhelmed by love, not an emotional feeling but a total sense of belonging and acceptance.

As I succumbed to the euphoria all around me my sister unexpectedly appeared next to me. She looked very sad. Neither of us spoke but I could see the sadness in her eyes. It was only then that I realised that this was death and that I was dying. At that moment I thought to myself I’m not ready to die.

I turned away from the light and there I was laying in the hospital bed again. It was like I’d gone nowhere and yet I felt as if I’d travelled light years away. I began to slowly sink down and into my body. As I reconnected, nose to nose, chest to chest, toe to toe, and finally fully into myself, I felt a massive jolt pass through me.

I opened my eyes and a nurse was standing over me. Buzzers and alarms were ringing but I could clearly hear her voice saying “are you okay?”. I nodded and she said “you must have guardian angels looking over you”. The next day the nurse told me that I’d cardiac arrested and died for about two minutes.

If that beautiful light is where to find God, then I’m happy to believe. However, nothing I witnessed is written in any religious books so I decline to follow any manmade faiths. Instead I accept that I’m a spiritual being enlightened by life experiences.

My life is wonderful and I no longer really fear death. I only hope that next time it’s not so sudden as I want to say farewell. But if I leave without saying goodbye then it’s okay because I tell those I love how I feel, I accept things for what they are, I don’t judge others, I try to be a good person, I don’t leave things unresolved, I’m grateful for what I have, I’m kind to others and never, ever waste a moment of this beautiful life.

The Death Letter Project welcomes your comments and feedback. Please feel free to leave a comment on our Facebook page or alternatively submit a message below.

  • What an amazing experience, thanks for sharing! - Rohan Rajapatirana Madison
  • Beautiful - Ismanah Hayes (Facebook)
  • Such a comforting letter. I just read this quote from John Updike, which reinforces for me what you just wrote, "Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead, so why… be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?” If death is like birth maybe we are set up to live with it? - Deb Aldridge (Facebook)
  • Wonderful Letter - Alix Fiveash (Facebook)
  • Thank you Rohan, another letter and photo that has moved me to tears, it's an honour to hear your personal story. - Rosada Hayes (Facebook)
  • Just beautiful - Stevie Lindsay Ross (Facebook)
  • Rohan Thomas's story is powerful and beautifully described. - Fern Smith (email)
  • Cripes - the.departure (Instagram)