The New Sun

Almost Dead

Charles Ursitti, Executive Director of the Paul Sorvino Asthma Foundation, was bleeding to death from a car accident when he had a profound experience.

Lese Dunton What happened during your car accident?

Charles Ursitti: It was on Good Friday. I was sitting in the back seat, behind the driver. Suddenly, I saw the lights coming in. I don't remember the impact, but the next thing I remember was seeing myself flying through the air like Superman, parallel to the ground. It started off dark and cold. And then it became light and warm. I can't tell how much time elapsed or the distance

It looked like I was looking through a funnel in reverse; going from small to big. The entrance to whatever I was going towards was approaching.

As it approached -- I was just about ready to go into the entrance -- my father came to me with his palms out, motioning me to stop. He very clearly said, "Go back, go back, go back."

Then to my right I saw what I think was Jesus, or the image of him that I grew up with being Catholic, floating in the air in a white robe. I think with gold trim. I saw his feet and his hands at his side and his long hair. But I never saw his facial features.

LD: But you knew he was there.

CU: Definitely. Then the next thing I remember was the paramedics cutting me out of the car and screaming, "We're losing him, we're losing him, we can't stop the bleeding." Basically, that's when I had bled to death. I had a four inch gash on the top of my head. My nose and face were broken, so I was bleeding through the eyes, the nose, the mouth and the top of my head.

I came to when they were cutting me out of the car.

LD: When you saw your father with his palms out, and Jesus' feet, what were you feeling?

CU: I wasn't scared. I didn't feel hurt. It was pretty peaceful from what I remember.

LD: Were you aware of time?

CU: No, not all. It could have been seconds, it could have been minutes.

LD: So then the paramedics got you out of the car and you were whisked to a hospital, no doubt.

CU: Right. They said that the first words I spoke were, "How are Artie and Omar?" Artie is my conductor who's a good friend of mine, like a brother. Omar is like a Guy Friday for us in Vegas but he's also like family to me. I'm in and out of consciousness and I remember them pulling me out of the car telling me they were putting a collar on my neck.

I remember in the emergency the doctor sewing my head up and my eye up and talking to me. Again, I was in and out of...whatever.

LD: When did you get a chance to reflect on what happened?

CU: About two or three days later. The first two days I was totally drugged up with all these tubes coming out of me. I was in a state of suspended animation. But then a few days later, my partner was in the room and he was crying. He was talking to me, basically telling me, you know, "Hang in there. Everyone loves you. You've got to come out of this." He told my family not to come because at that point, no one knew if I was going to make it.

I used to box, and the first words I spoke to him, I tugged on him and said, "Moe, I took the mandatory 8 count," and he said, "You took 9.9, but you're here."

I made no deals with God during that time. I didn't say "If you do this for me, I will do that for you" because he knows you're full of baloney anyway. I remember my father's face. It's hard for me to judge my father's age because he was always bald to me. Obviously, he wasn't always bald, but as far as I saw him, I always remember my father being bald. But he looked very much at peace. He looked younger and the hairs on the sides of his head were dark, so it wasn't the grey that I remember him with when he died a year ago. They say you go to the perfect age, and Jesus was 33.

My Goddaughter, who's going to be 22, said something to me. I had never thought of it. She said, "One thing you know for sure: you're father is in heaven, and you're going to heaven. So maybe all the bad things you think you did in your life weren't that bad in the eyes of God."

LD: So you feel better about your Dad, and you know he's okay.

CU: I realized now that there is a hereafter. There's something waiting for us. Like I said, I really wasn't afraid. It wasn't scary at all. It was fairly peaceful. And it was warm.

LD: And later, when you reflected back on the experience you felt that you returned to help the kids with asthma and the foundation?

CU: We're like a grain of sand on the beach. There has to be another reason. I'm sure I didn't come back just to make Charlie Ursitti happy. I'm hoping I came back to do bigger and better things. The first one was, obviously, the concert (with Paul Sorvino); trying to raise money for the kids and at least get the publicity that we need to keep it going. I think that's why I came back.

LD: I know you're still in pain and it's been a long recovery process but you've really been blessed.

CU: It's definite. Otherwise, like I said, why am I here? I'm here to do nonsense every day?

LD: They wanted you to keep going with your mission.

CU: That's what it is. I'm trying my best. I have to go speak at a school district that has 3,300 diagnosed asthmatics that take medication every day in the Bronx. 3,300 kids between kindergarten and 8th grade. That's a lot of kids.

We try. We take our best shot. That's all we can do.

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For more information on the Sorvino Asthma Foundation, you can email Charles Ursitti at See also an interview with Paul Sorvino.