It was 12.50 pm on a sunny day of 12th May 2015. Me and my family were on the highway, coming back to Kathmandu after distribution of tents and relief materials to the earthquake victims in a district deeply affected by the devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude that struck Nepal on 25th April 2015.
In the preface, I was living in New York as a diplomat. Suddenly one night, I heard news that my country Nepal was hit hard by an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude and that thousands of Nepali people were already homeless, with deaths and injuries of several thousands. After hearing this news, I was continuously trying to call my family members but was unsuccessful because the telephone lines and the internet connections were all lost in my country. I could not sleep, because I was unknown if my family was alright.
First thing I did the next morning was to book a ticket for Kathmandu . I wanted to be with my family and my country people at this time of grief. I could finally contact my family and knew they were safe but I wanted to help the victims of this devastating earthquake in my home Nepal.
After reaching Kathmandu, my eyes filled with tears and my heart cried so hard when I saw the situation. Thousands of Nepali people were made homeless, centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage Sites, newly constructed roads had several cracks, people lost their families, everyone was so scared that they were sleeping outside. Aftershocks after aftershocks in every few minutes, no one was brave enough to sleep inside the house. Why does God have to be so cruel??
Coming back to the afternoon of 12th May, while we were in the car coming back to Kathmandu, suddenly the mountains on the other side starting bombarding. I felt like a bomb blasted, with all dust-zero visibility. My mind did not work. I could not think or analyze what was happening. Than I heard a loud roar. My car started shaking tremendously. It took me few seconds to realize what was actually happening. It was another big earthquake-7.3 magnitude (as I came to know later on) with epicenter in a district just nearby our highway. The truth is, despite there being a major earthquake just one week prior to my arrival, the chance of another big one occurring was hardly on my radar, even though I knew that aftershocks existed and also could be of high magnitude.
The tremor started causing landslides- the highways in Nepal are very complicated roads between the mountains. In front of our car, a big stone fell down and hit a motorbike causing death of the person on the spot. Another huge stone fell behind our car smashing a car killing all people inside. Now it was our turn. We were so terrified. There was no chance that we would survive.
I had various thoughts in my mind in a fraction of second. I was thinking that I came all the way from New York to die. My memories started to flash by. I was thinking about my friends and family, all the good times I had in my life, my new dresses that I did not get chance to wear even once, my dream destinations which I did not get a chance to visit yet and most of all- my dreams- all small things in life which meant a lot for me. I definitely did not want to die so soon.
Our driver was a very brave guy, he didn’t get nervous and while the huge pieces of mountain and stones started falling from the top to all over the road, our car was moving rapidly escaping the horrible landslide very narrowly, so narrow that if our car would have moved even 2 seconds slower or faster, then I would not be writing this experience right now.
Remembering God as I thought it was the last few minutes of life, terrified at heart, our car escaped every landslide and we reached a plain land where there was no longer danger. We stopped the car and breathed. We could not believe we were still alive. We survived this Earthquake caused landslide while many other people on that way were smashed on the spot. I didn’t know how to thank God and how fortunate we were. We survived this catastrophe.
How the near-death experience changed my life
There’s no denying that these kind of experiences force us to acknowledge our mortality. I cannot even explain in words how I felt when I thought I was dying within few minutes. I discovered that we really never know when our last day will be. The day after that experience, I could not stop thinking about my life and people in it.
We are humans. We are usually busy, working hard to save for the future, no time to spend with the loved ones, no time to go for that trip we have dreamt of, no time to tell the ones you care about that you’re sorry; very busy making a future that we do not know exists or not.
It reminded me that the money and possessions you have collected don’t matter in the end; what matters is how deeply you loved, those moments which made you smile, those experiences which made you connected to the Universe, that mindful living.
This experience helped me to appreciate every moment, to live a mindful life.
What if this is the last time I go out with friends?
What if this is the last time I am writing an article?
If it was the last day of your life, would you be doing something different than what you are doing right now?
If you had only four weeks to live, what would you do with your life?
Don’t wait until you have a near-death experience to make that phone call, buy a ticket to go that place, send that letter—do what you need to do, today. It will set you free.