The Preciousness of Life: Lessons from My Husband’s Near Death Experience

The Preciousness of Life by Joyce Vissell

Several years ago my beloved husband of 40 years came very close to death. Yes, we are very grateful that he survived and is doing well. Also I am very grateful for the inner changes that have occurred in me as a result of Barry’s near-death.

This experience has changed my life in such a profound and beautiful way. Barry is extremely healthy and strong. He can usually keep up with our son who is 20 and in excellent shape. I guess I took for granted that Barry would just keep on going in such a strong way for many years. This experience showed me that we are all vulnerable in our bodies. None of us know when it will be our time to leave our body.

Gratitude for Life and for Love

I have realized that there are so many ways that we can be taken from this life in a matter of a few seconds. Rather than that understanding making me sad or despondent, it has brought a lot of love and depth into my life.

I no longer take for granted the joy of a simple kiss, or the pleasure of holding Barry’s hand. I love to run my fingers along his arm and feel how grateful I am that I can still touch him. In the mornings I usually wake up before he does, and I love to just lie there and watch him.

Sometimes little things he does irritate me and I used to make a big fuss over them. Now I find myself more willing to forgive quickly reminding myself of what might have happened to him. I still know the importance of standing up for my feelings with Barry, but I’m trying to do so in a more gentle way.

The Preciousness of Life by Joyce VissellI am also willing to do some things that I never wanted to do or was fearful of. For years Barry has wanted me to go on a backpacking trip along the Lost Coast in northern California and I was always fearful that I couldn’t make it. This year I said “YES!” I can’t say it was easy carrying the heavy backpack many miles over rocks and soft sand but I truly had a wonderful time camping and enjoying all of the beauty of the streams, ocean and plentiful wildlife. I look forward to going again.

Celebrating Each Year As A Bonus

I am living with the consciousness that these are “bonus” years with Barry. He came very close to slipping away from his body and so I celebrate his presence here. I am hoping that I have many more bonus years with him, but still I live with the realization that I will never know and that now is the time to enjoy him and our time together.


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I would like to challenge all of you who are reading this. Right now imagine the adult who is the closest to you. What if you knew they only had a few weeks or months to live? How would you treat them differently? For one month start living with the consciousness that your time with them could be limited, so enjoy every minute that you do have. You may find that this one month will change your relationship for the better.

Simple moments can be precious and memorable. Rather than this bringing a morbid sense to your life, it can bring a deepened sense of gratitude and ability to live in the moment. I am still hoping that Barry will live many more years, and yet I also hope that I will never forget that he almost slipped away from his body and to make each day with him special.


This article was written by Joyce Vissell, co-author of the book:

A Mother’s Final Gift: How One Woman’s Courageous Dying Transformed Her Family
by Joyce and Barry Vissell.

This article was excerpted from the book: A Mother's Final Gift by Joyce & Barry Vissell.The story of one courageous woman and of her tremendous love of life and family, and her faith and resolve. It is also the story of her equally courageous family who, in the process of rising to the occasion and carrying out Louise s long-held final wishes, not only overcame so many stigmas about the process of death but, at the same time, rediscovered what it means to celebrate life itself. This book not only touches the heart in a very powerful, poignant, and joyful way, but reading it is life-changing for me.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.


About the Author(s)

Joyce & Barry VissellJoyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors, near Santa Cruz CA, who are passionate about conscious relationship and personal-spiritual growth. They are widely regarded as among the world's top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. Joye & Barry are the authors of 9 books, including The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk To Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant To Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift. Call 831-684-2299 for further information on counseling sessions by phone/video, online, or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.

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