They are beautiful and delicious... Vietnamese spring rolls. Around here they're called nimh chow, which is a Cambodian made-up name for them, I think.
Last night, I was eating one at the local Cambodian/Vietnamese/Thai place and realized at one point that I was choking. The stringy noodles inside the rice wrapper were stuck in my throat, and my wind pipe just kind of closed. I had a moment of simultaneous panic and curiosity. Is this what it feels like to die, I wondered. Am I going to die, right here in front of my kids, my husband, my dad who was visiting from Canada?
I didn't do the universal choking sign. I pulled on my husband's sleeve, which he basically ignored. I just sat there, trying to decide whether I should start spitting things out onto the table. I think if it had gone on any longer, I would have done that... but for that brief time I was in a strange state of otherworldliness. My vision got narrow. I felt like I was going to pass out.
And then, thankfully, I got the noodles down and could breathe. The whole thing was just a matter of seconds.
Several years ago, I read a book called 'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying'. It is a whole book dedicated to the idea that death is a 'teachable' moment in our experience. That if we let it, death can be a powerful and wonderful transition. Since reading that book, I have been concious of trying to prepare myself to be fearless at my death. I've tried to feel peaceful when I feel threatened on the highway for example. It is not always successful... there are definately moments when my breathing gets shallow and the adrenaline starts pumping and I break out into a sweat. But on some level, too, I know that things have shifted for me. Death means something different to me, now that I am a Christian. It is less scary. It is a promise of returning to God.
So last night, there WAS the adrenaline and fear. But there was also calm. Not quite peace, but a strange kind of curiosity.
I am glad I didn't die in front of my kids, though. I definately have something to be thankful for this week!