After the car crash, or flat lining in the OR,
being trapped underwater for 10 minutes,

or struck by lightning, when people come back
they usually talk about the light, and the life review.

After the tunnel, into the light warm as a mother's arms,
and after a rest, when you feel ready, replaying your life.

I have never heard an explanation of how it's possible,
but they all say you relive every moment, from both sides,

self and other, how you felt teasing that boy on the playground,
and how he felt being teased. At the same time. Your whole life.

No judge, no punishing God on a throne, no hell or purgatory,
only your own heart, reliving it all, helpless to take anything back.

The ones who come back, who live to tell, also mention a council
of a few ancient souls who ask you with surprising tenderness,

How do you feel now? Those who return almost always say
they came back with a mission to heal, to help, to set things right,

and hold onto that blanket of all-forgiving light. What I notice most
in their after-stories is how careful they were with their words.

It matters what we say, and how we say it. The ears our words
will fall on ultimately will be our own. Life is the chance to compose

a life review you can handle. It changed my life when I heard them speak.
I don't remember what I expected on the other side, but this was better.

Or worse, perhaps, when I think of words I have used like whips,
with their snake-thin tongues lashing wounds in tender child-flesh,

lover-flesh, father, mother, brother flesh. What was it I was trying to do?
Make them disappear, go up in smoke, for making me feel I had always been

the dancing bear with the ring in her nose, the butt of all their jokes.
What salve can I put on the scars of the dead, what flowers can I offer them now?

What I want more than anything is for them to be spared
the pangs when they feel me in their life reviews,

I want to vacuum it up, any pain they caused me, into my lungs
and shoot it out on my breath, in a shooting-star streaming howl,

like a discus thrower hurling the disc on which those words were written,
theirs to me and mine to them, and replace them all with these:

I know you loved me as I loved you, it was only life that got in the way.
In our life reviews may we find each other, after all, holding that blanket of light.