Prodigal Magazine

Dying can be Easy, It’s living that’s the hard part.

Written by Steve Spotts Featured Content, Health 39 Comments

It started out like any other Wednesday, really.

I got up, said goodbye to my wife, went to work out, came home, ate cheerios, read my twitter feed, took a shower, and headed to my doctor’s office for an appointment I had made the previous Friday.

I don’t go to the doctor, usually. Like most men I know, I avoid doctor’s offices like the plague. But this was different. A few days before I had woken up to an alarming symptom. Not a “wow-my-head-hurts-worse than-usual-prior-to-coffee” kind of alarming symptom, but the kind of symptom that makes you wonder if there might be something really, really wrong with you.

I noticed blood in my urine.

And as much as I wanted to ignore it, to pretend like everything was okay, by 3 pm I was sitting at my desk thinking of all the terrible things that could be wrong with me. So instead of letting hypochondria overwhelm my entire weekend, I called my doctor to make an appointment.

The soonest they could take me was the following Wednesday.

I was irritated at the inconvenient timing (you can never get into the doctor when you need to I told myself) but I took the appointment anyway, which is how I ended up driving to the doctor on this random Wednesday.

I arrived at the office around 9:30am, checked in, and was called back right away.

The whole thing was really routine.

The nurse weighed me, took my blood pressure and pulse, and sent me to the bathroom for a urine specimen. She ran through the list of possibilities with me.
Infection was the most likely. But there was always the chance of something worse.

I don’t want Cancer, I thought to myself. Anything but Cancer. Then, I actually thought to myself: If I’m going to die, I’d rather die of a heart defect.

I gave my urine sample and returned to the exam room. But as I returned to the room I did something very strange. I left the door open. I thought to myself, very clearly, “Hmm, I’m leaving the door open, I wonder why?”

Back in the room — door open — I sat on the exam table.

After that I remember nothing.

That’s when my heart stopped beating.

The doctor came out of another exam room and one of his nurses told him she was worried about me. It sounded like I was snoring, she thought, and she wondered if I had fallen asleep. So the doctor came to check on me.

What he found was me, laid back on the table, my heart “quivering”.

The staff called 911 while my doctor maneuvered me to the floor ( which is no small task since I am 6’9”), gave me CPR, and shocked my heart back into rhythm with defibrillator paddles. He knew exactly what he was doing, and praise God he did.

I had a 90 second window for someone to save my life. The doctor found me in 60.

In the next hour doctors would shock my heart four times — once in the office, once in the ambulance, once in the ER, and then again in the “Cath” lab where they performed angioplasty and placed a stent in one of my heart vessels.

The paramedics worked hard to keep me alive.

Not me. I didn’t have to work hard at all.

My doctor worked hard to track down my wife. My wife worked hard to find my son and two daughters. Everyone worked hard to get to the hospital and to manage their state of fear and distress.

Not me. I wasn’t scared or distressed.

In fact, if I had died, I never would have known it was coming.

From my perspective, that morning can only be described as an absolute and incredible place of rest and peace. My life had never been more in crisis but I was filled with this overwhelming assurance that people were helping me and that I could just submit to them. I didn’t have to do anything.

I can’t help but think about how easy it all was — nearly dying.

People want to know what I learned from my near-death experience and I have a few things to tell them. Mainly it’s this:

Living is difficult.

I am grateful for the opportunity to live, again. To see my family and friends, to receive their care and support, to offer mine, to contemplate the future from an entirely different perspective than I had a week ago.

But living comes with responsibility.

The apostle Paul, who faced the prospect of immediate death more than once, wrote to the Philippians, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” and for the first time in my life, I really understand what he was saying.

Living isn’t all suffering by any means, but a life lived fully unto Christ ultimately leads to the kind of suffering that Christ experienced. It only makes sense. We follow a man who was beaten and disowned.

We’ll face trials in this life.

  • Living for Christ means giving up the “right” to a life that looks any different than his.
  • It means denying the rights of self altogether, putting others and their needs before myself.
  • It is a faith exercise, requiring discipline and sacrifice, and often goes against the natural flow of society.
  • It is a life lived wisely, peaceably when possible, in community, and with purpose.
  • All these things contribute to a full and meaningful life.

I get a second chance to consider these things. I don’t know why.

When my heart stopped I wasn’t really thinking. I was only really feeling. If I had to put those feelings into words I would say it would sound something like,

“Submit — it’s okay to submit, just submit.”

So maybe that’s it. Maybe submission is the key to a life well-lived.

Giving up our dreams, hopes, goals, and longings, just submitting, and letting God do what He wants with me.

Either way, He has my attention.

What do you think a “life well-lived” looks like? What has happened to you that has taught you that?

About The Author

Steve Spotts is the Founder and Clinical Director of Third Strand Marriage Retreats, as well as a clinical psychologist with over 25 years experience. He is also a husband and father to three grown children. He lives in Hillsboro, Oregon.

  • http://jonfulk.com/ Jon Fulk

    Incredible story and great wisdom from it.  Thanks for sharing this.

  • Michaeleen

    Beautiful.  Just what I need to be reading today.  Thanks for reminding us of who God is.

  • http://theromanticvineyard.com/ Debi – The Romantic Vineyard

    Wow. What a testimony. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a near death experience like this one, so thank you! You are making much of God and His plan, which is the only way to truly live. 
    Blessings to you a your family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.erb Jeremy Erb

    Thanks Steve!

  • http://twitter.com/_ForeverHis17 Tara B

    Wow. That’s amazing! We serve a faithful God! I think a life well-lived looks like following Christ above the world, regardless of the cost. I was in a relationship a while back with this guy and when we broke up, everybody around me, all my “friends”, were no where to be found. No hard feelings because in that time I learned that my Father is truly all I need and in Him I can get through anything. Great story! God bless you!

  • Suzg

    Glad you’re still here, Steve.

  • Annmenke

    Thank you for sharing Steve. We praise our God for saving you the other day and for using that crisis for His absolute glory. I will submit to my God!! Amen!

    • DocSpotts

      Thanks Ann.  Maybe the most humbling aspect of the whole experience was the utter lack of control I had over my life.  He gave it, he took it, he gave it back, all without my help. The spiritual parallel is that I am utterly unable to save myself.  Submission is really only an option in our mind, not in His.  I’m thankful to be so kindly reminded of that reality.

  • http://scribingthejourney.com/ Duane Scott

     Sharing this on my website… wow.

    • DocSpotts

      Thanks Duane.  From the looks of your website it seems like you are pretty familiar with “heart” events.

  • http://shewritesandrights.blogspot.com Bethany Suckrow

    So mind-blowing that you are here to tell this story and share your wisdom, that this blog post is ordained, gifted by God. We are blessed to read it. So glad you are okay! Praying that your body continues to recover and that we get to read more of your spiritual wisdom!

    • DocSpotts

      “Mind-blowing,” yes… surreal… over-whelming… transformative… transcendent…  It’s difficult to find the words to describe that which is indescribable.  Most of the time I sit in stunned silence.  Thank you for your kind words.

  • Tommy Brown

    Steve,

    What is your deepest desire today?

    Curious…

    • DocSpotts

      I suppose the phrase “waiting on the Lord” captures it as well as anything.  On that fateful day God both took my heart and gave it back in a precisely choreographed series of events that I couldn’t have arranged even if I tried.  It’s not in my article but a few days or a week before this event I had wondered aloud in talking with the Lord whether I could really trust him with my physical life.  I’ve always feared he would mishandle it in some way.  I very tentatively gave him permission to take ahold of me but, honestly, I was still fearful and doubting.  

      Post life changing event, I think what I want most is to willingly, fearlessly, submit to His plan for me… even if it is nothing more glorious than just being faithful to what he as put in front of me today.

      • Tommy Brown

        Beautiful. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/shalom08 Shalom L

    Very insightful.  Living for Christ definitely means giving yourself up – all your worries, dreams, etc., and living for the service of others. After all, there was no single worry or dream that stop Jesus from dying on the cross.  He was more than willing to give his life up so others, like ourselves, can have one.

    • DocSpotts

      Shalom… I like that name… doesn’t it seem like in God’s economy there is this constant “giving up” and “receiving” almost simultaneously? I think maybe He wants my availability more than anything else, so that I can freely give and freely receive.

  • ablessedmess

    Thank you for this reminder – truly! God Bless you for sharing this story!

    • DocSpotts

      Thanks for reading and responding. 

  • Judy Wright

    So thankful that you are with us Steve!  And thankful to read your insights after your incredidle experience.  Hmmmm…Submission….giving up our dreams, hopes, goals and longing and letting God do what He wants with me.  I like that, and will ponder these words in my life and circumstances. 

    Thanks Ally for letting your dad share his thoughts!  Keep up the great work on Prodigal!

  • sjp

    Thanks for sharing, and putting words to a very intimate situation.  Your willingness to share what you experienced is such a great testimony.  I can relate to your story… I went into a DR appt. where they assured they were “not looking for cancer”…. and walked out with a cancer diagnosis.  A few scans, surgeries, 6 months of chemo and a year later I have tried to convey what you have described… during my year of treatment I had no choice but to completely rely on God… the Dr’s he put in my path and the treatments… now the living is the hard part… the daily choosing…. deciding… getting distracted…. I have explained it like this… When I struggled to try to control my circumstances and time after time God showed me that what I thought was control was really only an illusion of control… like you said, in retrospect I realize all the things that he orchestrated and REALLY was controlling my life… once I surrendered completely to his control… that’s where I found my strength…. and that’s the daily struggle – with all the distractions of life and as I keep trying to take “control” over my life.   Thanks so much for sharing your experience…

    • DocSpotts

      One thing I have become increasingly aware of through this ordeal is how many people there are all around me who quietly suffer through significant and life altering crises. I’ve been humbled by the support we have received from our various communities and am motivated to increase my own awareness of those who are struggling with similar life and death issues.  It’s incredible how soothing even the smallest acts of kindness can be; or powerful that words of encouragement are during those times. 

      I’m so grateful you are sharing your story along with mine and hope you have people in your life who are willing to walk this dark valley with you.

  • LaureenHeld

    God truly protected you Steve.  To have a heart attack in the medical office — found within 60 seconds — all in God’s perfect plan.  HE is not done using you here on earth.  Thankful for HIS  provision.  Blessed to know you.  Thanks for sharing your story here — blessing so many lives!

    • DocSpotts

      Thanks Laureen, I don’t know what God’s up to… but His hand is unmistakable in this case.

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  • Jkharman4199

    Wow…thank you for writing this.

    • DocSpotts

      You’re welcome. :)

  • Esther

    I am so thankful for you, Uncle Steve. I feel so blessed and incredibly grateful that we still get to have you here. I really have no words to describe how powerful this is. I’m speechless at God’s sovereignty. Thank you for sharing.

    • DocSpotts

      Thanks Esther, I’m in awe of a gracious God.  And, yes, like Job, God’s sovereignty leads me to put my hand over my mouth to silence myself (Job 40:4).  I am completely unworthy.  Who can reply to Him?

  • Barbara Penn

    This was fabulous, Steve!  I read it this morning at about 5:45 AM, and it was a very powerful, meaningful way to start the day!  

    • DocSpotts

      Thanks Barbara,  I’m glad it moved you.  It certainly moved me! :)

  • Penny Stein

    What an amazingly well written article.  Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • DocSpotts

      Thanks Penny.  It’s nice to hear from you.

  • Ryan LaFerney

    wow. What a beautiful, striking reflection on the value of life. Thank you.

  • http://www.hannahgram.com Hannah

    This was beautiful. I’m finally coming to terms that to submit means to truly live. Like you mentioned at the end that it is the key to life well-lived. Thank you so much for sharing your story. As you submitted to the doctors and all those around you during this time you were able to stay alive which then came with the responsibility of LIVING. this is AMAZING.

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  • Veronica Fetzer

    “Submit — it’s okay to submit, just submit.” So simple, yet breathtakingly profound.

    I was surprised to read that you live in Hillsboro at the end of this article- that’s actually where I’m from, too! It’s a small world we live in. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Bcc

    Hi Steve; I am in a weak place in my life, so your writing was encouraging.
    I have come to feel completely alone in this world and it seems that the more effort I put into trying to improve or change my circumstance, Satan just throws more my way.
    I actually am at a place where I think leaving would be so much easier but I could not imagine inflicting pain into my daughters life since she is in a place of needing me. I think death does sound easy but I too am a believer that Christ showed us true courage and strength for a purpose.
    I keep trying to see my life in a positive way.
    So Steve, maybe me coming across your writings was not coincidental but Gods purpose.
    Thank you, and may God bless you with perfect health
    Bc