The shoe on the ledge

The shoe on the ledge July 22, 2019


Mountains and Lake in Alberta
In the Canadian Rockies (Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)


From one of my incomplete manuscripts:


One of the most famous of all near-death accounts was related by Kimberly Clark Sharp, who was working at the time the story unfolded as a social worker at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.[1]  She was assigned to Maria, a Hispanic migrant worker who had suffered a massive heart attack and was being cared for at Harborview when, suddenly, she “flatlined” or went into cardiac arrest.  Fortunately, the medical staff were able to resuscitate her—Sharp being in the room, watching—and everything seemed routine.

However, when Sharp was just about to leave the hospital for the evening, she received word that Maria was very agitated and wanted to see her.  It took Sharp some time to calm Maria down.  Then came the interesting part:

Maria pointed to a corner of the ceiling and said she had been up there watching people work over her body.  She told me precisely, and correctly, who had been in the room, where they stood, what they did, and what they said.  She described the placement of machinery and all the paper that had been kicked around on the floor during the resuscitation, paper that the electrocardiogram machine had been continuous feeding out.  Next, with a snap of her fingers to show me how fast she had moved, Maria told me she suddenly found herself outside the hospital room, looking down at the emergency room entrance.  She described the curvature of the driveway, the vehicles all going in one direction and the doors opening automatically.  Everything was absolutely accurate.

Sharp didn’t believe her.  It was simply too much.  The rational, trained social worker began to think of far-fetched ways in which the migrant worker Maria might have gathered all of the detailed information that she clearly possessed.  However, Maria wasn’t finished with her story.

She said she had been distracted by something in a different part of the hospital, a and she next remembered staring closely at an object on a window ledge about three stories above the ground.  It was a man’s dark blue tennis shoe, well-worn, scuffed on the left side where the little toe would go.  The shoelace was caught under the heel.  Maria was upset, she explained, because she desperately wanted someone to go get the shoe.  Not to prove to herself that it was there; Maria knew she was an honest woman and she was telling the truth.  No, she needed to prove it to others—that she really had been out of her body, floating free, outside the hospital walls.  That she wasn’t crazy.

[1] The story can be read in Sharp, After the Light, 7-15.


Posted from Canmore, Alberta, Canada



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