The Gift of Love by Ruth McCarthy

On April 21, 1995, my husband died after a long, painful illness. My children and their families arrived home that day. The next morning, I had a heart attack and was flown to Rockford by helicopter. My sons had just lost their father and they weren't sure if they were going to lose their mom, too. I was under sedation for the next three days after an angioplasty, which caused me to miss my husband's funeral.

After a week, I came home and I did well until June 30, when I felt light-headed and realized my heart rate was up. I called my doctor's office because they were due to close shortly. I was told to get to the emergency room right away and have someone drive me. My son Dan was there so he drove me to the local hospital, five minutes away.

As soon as I got to the emergency room, I was suddenly light-headed again and then unconscious. The following poem tells what I experienced. The peace was beyond description. I knew I was dying, but I wasn't upset about it. My boys were told that if I had not gotten to the hospital when I did, I would have died within five minutes. But everything came together to keep me here: My doctor's office was due to close shortly so I made the call—just in case, the doctor “just happened” to be there, and my son was available to take me quickly to the hospital.

I was in cardiac arrest twice but my wonderful doctor would not give up. She worked on me for two hours and then sent me back to Rockford by helicopter. I now have an implanted defibrillator in my chest to regulate my heartbeat.

June 30 has a special meaning because I am alive. On that same date ten years earlier, my nephew drowned in a boating accident. One year ago, his sister's body was brought back to the US from Spain where she had suffered a brain hemorrhage. She had been studying for her Master's degree. I'm not sure why those two young lives were taken and I was saved. I kept thinking that God had allowed me to live to do something special. However, so far, this is not the case. However, I do have eight grandchildren, five of whom I would not have known had I died on that June 30.

I used to be terrified to fly. Now I don't have any trouble with it at all. And there were some people that I was afraid to drive with. Now I no longer have fear to drive with anyone. Since my experience, I am just no longer afraid to die. I have come to believe that we are all here as long as we are supposed to be and we don't die until the time is right.


Chest pain
Life leaving the body
Entering into a roaring vacuum
Brilliant colors whirling
Feelings of peace and serenity
Sadness at leaving family members
Darkness for a time
Heart shocked by a doctor
Life begins again
Why does one live while another does not
Possibly to learn
For daughters-in-law who turned five sons into family men
For bright healthy and happy grandchildren
For grand babies yet to be
For the yearly seven cousins reunion
Where memories and love are shared
For another chance to live the rest of my life.

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Ruth McCarthy is a 69 year old mother of five sons and grandmother of eight grandchildren. In 1998, after thirty years of working with the Harvard, IL, Police Dept, she retired from being head 911 dispatcher and head of the Records Division. She can be contacted at: .