If fortune is fair, whether you're aware of it or not, as you mature you breathe in self-knowledge a little deeper and breathe out the apprehensions of your younger days. With each breath your true spirit rises & keeps rising, through your 40's, 50's, & into your 60's, until you have what you think is a commanding view of your life laid out before you. Above you there are clouds, but you aren't worried because you know you've prepared yourself for the time when fate will force you to confront your mortality in a way you've never experienced it. In your case, it was having your chest split open & your aortic valve replaced by a pig's, the same surgery that Robin Williams had.
In a sense, true to the cliche, you are reborn; in the case of heart surgery this is almost literally true, since you are laid out in a fog, etherized upon a table & the only cat's purr & wheeze is coming from the heart lung machine. Your heart is stopped--you're basically dead, but the machine keeps pumping blood through your brain. Where does the mind go when the heart is stopped? No one knows, but if the high voltage jump start works & your heart starts pumping again, the person who comes out of that particular cloud bank is a different one than the one who told jokes on the way into the operating room.
Being dead for a little while tends to change your perspective on things. All the puffs of air that kept you above the ground (both literally & figuratively) have been whisked away by a fierce wind of fatality. No longer do you have a scenic panorama of your life; you discover it was a scrim all along, a necessary one everyone needs in order to maintain our sanity, I suppose, but when it's gone you know it's time to see what's around you in greater detail, impress it hard upon your memory. And feel. You want to feel everything, touch everything, kiss the damn dirt, dance circles around the moon, & hiss with bliss like air escaping from a balloon.
But now your eyes have dimmed & your other senses diminished, there's nowhere to run & hide, no one to save you, & none of the creeds that have sustained you are any less outworn than the one that suckled Wordsworth’s pagan. Family is all, you gather them around your heart like a fence around a rosebush, & you hold them close. But you have to go on living or else sink in despair until you're no longer on the ground, you're below it.
And so the trial begins. If you’re religious, you think of the afterlife; if not, you cannot help but think of your legacy, a word you mocked only a few years previous. “What difference does it make?” you used to say, it won’t be long until the world ends.” No one will have a legacy then, you say to yourself, unless it’s aliens in a world light years from the doomed earth. But you can’t help yourself, you have a family, & now your family has a family, & you see the future laid out before these beautiful creations & you want to share with them the magnificent discoveries of your long, full sail voyage through life! You worry that, like Roy the replicant in “Blade Runner,” all these moments will be “lost in time…like tears in the rain.”