Authors: D C Grant
Three Times Dead
D C Grant
Published by Standfast Publications Ltd
Copyright D C Grant 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or means, electronic, mechanical or digital, including photocopying, recording, storage in any information retrieval system or otherwise without the prior written permission of the author
All characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For a glossary of Maori terms, go to the Glossary situated at the end of the book:
And for further information on the Waikato War in New Zealand go to
at the end of the book
Edward Albert Grant
Mona Sheila Grant
The writing of a book is never a solitary occupation although much time is spent in draughty garrets thrashing out words until your fingers bleed but there are times when help is required.
I’d like to thank William Pike for taking the time to talk to me frankly about his experiences after losing a limb in the eruption of Mount Ruapehu, New Zealand in 2007. In particular, the intricacies of rehabilitation and practicalities of living with a prosthetic limb. For the purposes of this story I have fast-tracked Bevan’s recovery but I know that learning to cope with a prosthesis is much more complicated than portrayed here. William does excellent work in promoting people to push their own physical boundaries and I encourage readers to visit his website
Thanks as always to Jill Marshall, manuscript assessor and concert buddy.
A special thank you to my editor Sue Copsey and Cheryl Smith of Macarn Design for the great cover.
And finally to God for promises fulfilled.
The first time I died was when I drowned at Piha on New Year’s Day.
Of course, going into the sea in the first place had been a stupid idea. Me and Scott and Mitch had been up all night, partying hard, drinking heaps, smoking pot and still stoned at eight o’clock in the morning. I don’t know who decided we’d go surfing – it wasn’t me, that’s for sure.
So we get to the beach and the waves are as big as ships, and those two idiots chicken out but I wasn’t going to let a little bit of water get to me. Except it wasn’t a little bit of water, it was a mountain of water. I stood in the shallows with my surfboard, watching the waves boom and roar as they folded over, releasing energy that carried the few brave surfers high on the foaming crests.
Josh was out there. I peered through the sea spray and felt my muscles tense as if readying for a fight. It was his fault that Gina had left. She’d gone back to town and all I had for company was the two morons I’d left standing on the beach.
I hit the water, feeling the strength of the waves thrusting me back towards the shore but I battled on, the cold water sobering me up instantly as I ducked under a breaking wave. For a second I wondered what the hell I was doing out there, and then I saw Josh, riding past, conquering a wave in a way that I never could.
This guy had messed with my girl; there was no way I was going to let him show me up like that. I paddled on.
I was exhausted by the time I reached the back line and one of the surfers called out, “You sure you should be out here, mate?”
I had no strength to call out an obscenity so I let it lie, watching as Josh paddled out towards us. I saw him glance my way. It seemed that he was about to shout out to me, but he appeared to decide against it and looked out to sea instead, readying himself for his next ride.
It happened when I was watching him and not the sea – fatal mistake, literally. The wave took me by surprise, thrust me under, rolling me over and over, not knowing which way was up or down, and I knew I was in trouble, knew that I was going to drown.
I think I was more dead than alive by the time Josh got to me. I don’t remember much – just his hand reaching out for me before I was pushed under water again. His fingers wrapped around mine, and then it was all blackness.
When I saw light again, I was floating above my body, which was freaky but I didn’t feel scared, just curious. I looked down and saw myself, the physical me, out of the sea and lying on the sand below surrounded by people. I watched as a lifeguard squeezed a plastic bag over my nose and mouth while another pressed on my chest. I couldn’t feel a thing and it felt quite nice floating up there, not scary at all, which you’d think it would be if you saw yourself lying on the sand, looking very dead. Sounds were muted as if coming through a pane of glass. I saw Josh sitting on the sand, looking like his best mate had died. And I certainly wasn’t his mate, in fact I must have been his most feared adversary.
That made me feel bad, because I knew that he had rescued me, even though it looked like he could have saved himself the trouble as I was dead anyway. Still I floated there, cocooned in warm bright light while I watched as they worked on me, trying to bring me back. Was I going to float here forever? Is this what happens when you die? Right then I decided that I didn’t want to be dead and something clicked over in my head, if I had a head, and I fell.
When I landed, all I felt was pain – worst of all in my chest, which was being compressed by the guy beside me. I had no voice and I couldn’t tell him to stop. Couldn’t he see I was alive? Then the seawater in my stomach came up and I caught the guy giving me CPR by surprise, but at least he stopped whacking my chest.
After that it was a helicopter to the hospital, a couple of days in bed and people telling me I was lucky to be alive. But I couldn’t forget the image of me floating above my body and I started wondering – is there life after death? I knew that my physical body had died that day on the beach, yet I, the me part, was not in it, and I wanted to know what would have happened if I hadn’t fallen back into myself. I became obsessed with finding answers and I decided I needed to investigate my options.
I started with my local church and, against my nature, I wandered in one Friday evening when it was holding a youth group meeting. They must have thought I was there to cause trouble, which I was tempted to do when I looked at their smug faces,
But then a man in his mid-twenties came towards me. “Hi, I’m Mark,” he said as he held out his hand for me to shake. “I’m the youth pastor here. Is this your first time?”
I nodded as I took his hand and told him my name.
“Welcome, Bevan, let me introduce you to the rest of the youth group.”
It was Mark who invited me to Parachute Music Festival a week later. Big mistake. Not that the festival was dumb or anything, it was just one long rave, in fact. No, the mistake was driving home, in the dark, at the same time that a drunk driver crossed the centre line and hit the van we were in.
That’s when I died the second time.
It had been a great weekend. I’d heard of the Parachute Music Festival but never been. I thought it was for religious nuts but it wasn’t like that at all, just a lot of kids (and some adults who’d never grown up) having a whole lot of fun, without booze or drugs. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to manage without either of those substances, but in the end I hardly missed them. The atmosphere was enough to get high on. I was amazed how easily I slipped in with this crowd, and it was a big crowd, about twenty to twenty-five thousand and yet there wasn’t a single criminal incident. The cops had a cruisey time.
I shared a tent with some guys from church who had invited me, saying all I needed was a camp bed and some ready cash, so that was easy done. I shared the cash and the food and everything was sweet.
The last day came and we packed up slowly, not wanting to leave, with the result that it was late and dark by the time Mark, the youth pastor, drove the church van out of the camp grounds and onto State Highway One, heading north.
The guys behind me – Brad, James and Tim – feel asleep before we had even left Hamilton. I sat in the front passenger seat, wishing I could fall asleep too as I was really whacked but resigned myself to keeping Mark company as we headed out of town.
“So, did you have a good time?” he asked as we hit the open road and he worked through the gears to try to get the van up to speed with all the weight inside.
“Yes, it was good.”
I didn’t really want to talk. I wasn’t looking forward to going back home. At Parachute I’d been able to forget about the grief I was getting from my folks and had been surrounded by people who understood where I was coming from. When I had told them about floating above my body after the near drowning, nobody had looked at me like I had grown a second head or something. They just nodded and said things like God had a purpose for my life and whole lot of crap I didn’t understand. I quickly learned that Christians have their own jargon and the sooner I tapped into it, the sooner I would be accepted.
“So, have you given any more thought to being baptized?” Mark asked, taking his eyes off the road for a second to look at me.
That’s when the car coming towards us crossed the centre line. At first I couldn’t believe it and blinked to clear my vision, thinking I was just tired and not seeing right. Then I realised that what I was seeing was the unthinkable and shouted, “Mark!” and he looked forward and swerved a second later. The car hit us on the driver’s side and shunted us over to the edge of the road. I watched Mark struggle with the steering wheel as the van skidded sideways onto the gravel at the edge of the road. I grabbed the side of my seat with my right hand. Then the van hit a bump and flipped onto its side – the side I was sitting on. The glass of the window next to me exploded with a loud pop and the rough gravel of the road skimmed past just centimetres from my cheek. The airbags snapped open and as the white fabric smothered my face, I put my left hand against the roof of the van to stop myself from falling sideways, out of the window and onto the road surface, which threatened to scrape my face right off my skull. My mouth was open but whether any sound came out of it, I will never know. The screeching sounds of metal being torn apart overrode anything else. I’m not even sure if the guys behind me said anything, although I think I heard a swear word being uttered more than once. I didn’t think Christians swore.
I saw the barrier approaching and knew that it would stop us but that the impact would be massive. I braced myself, but even so the crash jolted the air from my lungs, the seatbelt cutting deeply into my shoulder and my head bouncing back against the headrest.
When I opened my eyes, the black road was right against my face but at least it wasn’t moving. The van had come to a halt. I heard Mark grunt beside me and turned my head to see him hanging above me, blood running down his face, held in his seat by the seatbelt and his hands still on the steering wheel.
“Guys?” he called in a voice that quavered. “How’s everyone?”
“Some wake-up call,” someone muttered from the back.
There was a tick-tick sound coming from the engine and a stench of petrol in the air.
“If you can get out, then do it now,” Mark said. He twisted around and looked towards the back. “The back window’s smashed, so you can crawl out. If you can’t, just stay where you are.” He looked down at me. “How are you, Bevan?”
I hadn’t done much since the van had stopped, just frozen in position, one hand on the seat, and one on the roof. I was scared to move. There was a dull ache in my feet, which intensified the more I thought about it.
“I didn’t fall out the window,” which I reckon was a dumb thing to say but then my brain wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.
“We’ll get out through the front,” Mark said. The windscreen hadn’t shattered like the back window, but there were cracks all across it. Mark started to smash it with his fist, and parts of it fell out onto the road, looking like pieces of an impossible jigsaw puzzle. Then he struggled with his seatbelt, which was under tension and refused to pop out of the clip. I still hadn’t moved. For some reason, I thought that if I took my hand off the roof, I’d fall straight onto the road and be scraped against the rough surface even though I knew we had stopped.
“Do you need a hand?” Mark asked me.
I looked over; he had released the seatbelt and was trying to climb out of the seat and through the gap at the front. That’s when I realised I couldn’t move. My feet were in the footwell and I couldn’t see them. The dashboard had collapsed down around my legs and when I tried to move, the pain that burst through them made me scream.
“What’s wrong?” Mark asked.
“I can’t move my legs,” I said.
“Just stay there then,” he said, which I was thought was obvious. “Help will come soon. We’ll get you out.”
I couldn’t see how he could get me out without a jackhammer. The van moved slightly while Mark made his way out through the front windscreen, and the movement ignited a burning pain through my legs. I groaned and closed my eyes, seeing bright stars in my darkened vision. When the pain receded, his voice was close to my ear and I opened my eyes to see him standing outside, reaching through to touch me lightly on the shoulder.
“Just hold on, Bevan. I’m going to see if anyone else is hurt.”
I still had my hand on the roof and it was starting to cramp but I wasn’t going to let go, it was like my life depended on it. As the smell of petrol got stronger, I tried again to move my legs, desperate to get out of the wreck, but the violent stab of pain persuaded me otherwise. I was trapped there until the fire service arrived, or God, I didn’t care who, as long as someone got me out.
I felt Mark’s hand on my shoulder again. “Everyone’s out,” he said. “And no serious injuries so far, although Tim’s having an asthma attack.”
I made several attempts to speak, “Get me out.”
“I’ve called for an ambulance,” he said. I heard sirens in the distance. Mark looked up and said, “The other guy’s crashed too. I’ll send someone to see how he is.”
The pain embraced me now, embraced me completely and I think I lost consciousness for a while as the next thing I heard was a different voice. “Hi, Bevan, my name’s Vince.” His voice was calm and controlled. “I’m a paramedic. The fire department is here to get you out. First let’s get your pain under control. How would you rate it on a scale of one to ten?”
“Ten,” I spat out. My teeth started to chatter, which made it hard to speak.
“You’re going to feel a small sting and then we’ll give you some morphine. You’re not allergic, as far as you know?”
“No,” I said. My jaw was beginning to clamp shut as the tremors ran through my body.
“Good, here we go.” I hardly felt the needle go in – either he was good, or my pain was so severe that it obliterated everything else. “Here’s the morphine.”
A few seconds later, I became a little lightheaded. Someone put a plastic collar around my neck and then they put one of those silver foil blankets over me, tucking it in around me. Vince gently eased down the arm that was jammed up against the roof of the van and pressed it against my side. All of this aggravated the pain and I moaned.
“How’s the pain now?” Vince asked me. “On a scale of one to ten.”
“Mmm, we’ll just try a little more morphine.”
I heard someone ask Vince if they could start cutting me out.
“No, not yet, his pain isn’t under control – just give me a few minutes.”
“There’s petrol leaking out.”
“I’m aware of that, but we can’t move him until we can do it without causing him any more pain.”
The person who had asked the question moved away. I saw him only as a bright yellow blur at the edge of my vision. I was still waiting for the painkiller to take effect. It didn’t happen.
“Ten,” I said again when Vince asked the question.
“Ok, Bevan, the morphine doesn’t appear to be working so I’m going to give you something called ketamine. This is very strong but will deal to the pain quickly so that we can move you. However, a side effect of ketamine is hallucinations. If you start to see strange things, just relax and breathe and go with it. I’ll be with you all the time and nothing will harm you, I can assure you.”
He must have been dispensing the drug as he talked because sound receded and all I could see was Vince’s face – the lights, the noise, the bright yellow vests all disappeared. The pain shrunk back immediately and “seven” was the number I gave Vince next time he asked.
I heard shouts further away but around me everyone spoke quietly and calmly. I started to feel lightheaded and I wondered if I was in for another out-of-body experience. Surely I couldn’t have more than one in a lifetime? Maybe this time I wouldn’t return to my body.
“How’s the pain now?”
“Five,” I said, although I wasn’t even sure if I spoke. My head seemed disconnected from my body – had to be the drugs.
“Great, they’re going to start to get you out now. I’ll stay with you. Just shout out if the pain gets too bad.”
A noise like a generator started up not far from me.
“It’s going to be a bit noisy,” Vince warned me. “They know what they’re doing so just stay calm and it’ll be fine.”
Noisy was right. The sound of the generator combined with the screech and ping as metal was crushed and cut and prised apart. I floated away, well, it felt like floating, not quite like my out-of-body experience this time, just the lights and colours swirling around me while the noises of the machines sounded like they were coming from across the road.
I looked at Vince. He was a white guy, like me, but as I fixed my eyes on him his face changed, became darker and his blond hair became black streaked with grey, curly and long. As I watched, inky whorls slowly blossomed across his face and his yellow vest faded into a layered feather cloak. His hand came up, and in it was a greenstone mere. He raised the mere, rolled his eyes back, stuck out his tongue and I screamed. Vince’s face was restored.
“Stop!” Vince yelled out.
Noise and sound crashed to a halt around me.
“What’s the matter?” Vince asked.
“You changed – became a Maori guy with tats and a club.”
“That’s just the hallucinations from the ketamine, Bevan, just relax and go with it. How’s the pain?”
“Ok, ok, but don’t change again.”
“I’ll try.” Vince smiled. I could see he didn’t believe me.
The noise started again and as it did, Vince’s face again changed, reverting back to the dark tattooed Maori face I had seen before. I tried to relax, tried to remember that it was just the drugs but it was a terrifying sight and I was already agitated by the accident. If I talked to this vision, maybe it would go away.
“Who are you?” I asked of the face.
“I am your kin, lost kin of the spirit world. I have come to show you the way.”
“The way to where?”
“I come to show you from where you came so that you may go forward.”
“Am I going to die?”
I wanted to ask more, I wanted to find out what he meant. He was talking in riddles, like Yoda. But as I stared at the Maori face, it faded and was replaced by the face with which I had become familiar in the here and now – Vince.
“Won’t be long now,” Vince said with the Vince face. Had he heard me talking to the Maori man?
Maybe he gave me more of the good stuff because I drifted out of consciousness, the pain stabbing me awake as they peeled away the metal that held me fast.
“Crush injury,” I heard Vince say at one point. “Lower left leg. Be ready, it’s going to bleed out once we relieve the pressure.”
I knew when they finally freed me as my left leg exploded with pain and I blacked out immediately. I woke to find myself on a stiff board being slid out from the crushed van. Vince was beside me and his hand was on my shoulder.
“You’re out of the vehicle now, Bevan,” he said. “A chopper is going to take you to hospital so I’ll be handing you over to the rescue team. You’ll be in good hands.”
I was placed on a stretcher. I heard the whap-whap of rotor blades, a sound I’d heard before, when I’d been lying on a beach and not on tarmac. Was I unlucky or what?
“What about the other guys?” I asked
“All ok, very lucky. You’re our priority. Let’s get you away.”
The helicopter must have landed on the road because the stretcher only travelled a short distance before Vince was talking to one of the rescue guys.
“Crush injury, lower left leg,” he said. “Multiple lacerations and bruising, but the leg is the main injury. Not sure about internal. Patient has been reasonably conscious throughout.”
Patient, again I was a patient. I heard Mark’s voice in the distance. At that point I wanted a friend, someone familiar in all the unfamiliarity. I lifted my arm and reached out but only grabbed air. I tried to call out but couldn’t because of the oxygen mask over my mouth and nose. I felt a hand grip mine. “I’m here, Bevan,” Mark said. “I’m coming with you in the helicopter.” The knowledge that he was there calmed me.
What I remember of that journey comes in bits and pieces, and always with the memory of pain.