Marked to die – Part 1

Paulo Coelho

Perhaps I was supposed to die at 22:30 on the 22nd of August 2004, less than 48 hours before my birthday. In order for the scenario of my near-death to be set up, a series of factors were brought into play:

A] In the interviews held to promote his new film, actor Will Smith always spoke of my book “The Alchemist”.

B] The film was based on a book I had read years before and liked a lot: “I, Robot”, by Isaac Asimov. I decided to go and see the film in homage to Smith and Asimov.

C] The film was showing in a small town in the southwest of France in the first week of August. But a whole lot of things without the least importance made me put off going to the cinema – until this Sunday.

I had an early dinner, shared a half-bottle of wine with my wife and invited our maid to come with us (she was reluctant but eventually accepted). We reached the cinema on time, bought some popcorn, and saw the film, which we enjoyed. We returned to the car for the ten-minute ride back to the old mill that had become our home. I put on a CD of Brazilian music and decided to drive slowly so that we could listen to at least three songs before we reached the house.

On the two-way road cutting through sleepy little towns, all of a sudden I see a pair of headlights in the rear mirror, surging out of nowhere. There is a crossroads right in front of us, with posts on either side. I try stepping on the brakes because I know that the car won’t be able to make it, for the posts make it quite impossible to overtake. All this takes a fraction of a second – I remember thinking “this guy’s crazy!” – but there is no time to say anything. The driver of the car (the image engraved on my memory is a Mercedes, but I am not sure about that) spots the posts, accelerates, cuts in front of me, and when he tries to correct his course he ends up at right angles in the middle of the road.

From that moment on, everything seems to happen in slow motion: he overturns once, twice, three times. Then the car is tossed over to the shoulder of the road, where it flips over again, this time bouncing high in the air, with both front and rear windshields crashing on the ground. My headlights illuminate the whole scene and I can’t brake suddenly – I watch the car doing somersaults beside me just like in the film I have just seen – except that, my God, there it was fiction, here it’s real life!

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  1. orly says:

    some how i dont believe in coincidense- i ever believe in reoson behind any scene we have in our life,,,,, and i dont try always to think the Y? i know in many times the Y? just after i get- understand- and accept—-
    ur case was a very dramatic one- now u love even more anything around- u r happy that ur luck is this one and for sure as a very spiritual man- u inside u even know the BEYOND!!!!
    cant wait to hear the 2nd part

  2. […] Marked to die – Part 1 Paulo Coelho Perhaps I was supposed to die at 22:30 on the 22nd of August… […]

  3. Ross Martin says:

    A sign to remind you of the fragility of life.How dare you spend time with your family enjoying lifes pleasures. The God of the Universe has tapped your shoulder.No one is spared this experience(an interview with death)and the most gifted artists are in the front line. There is something you have to do,to write,to say,to see.Your personal Legend is incomplete my destiny may depend on it

  4. Kathleen says:

    Cristina, all I can say is wow.


  5. Kathleen says:

    Did the other driver survive?

  6. Kathleen says:

    If you were meant to die, you would have.

    Kathleen x

  7. Mirela Baron says:

    It show again,that we are all instruments of God!
    In this very decisive moments our lifes, we experience the Will Of GOD!
    I had this experience in a cold winter day afternoon ,wen the snow was I think 40 cm,and I drived back from work ,which was in Puchberg am Schneeberg ,a mountain in aprox. 90 km from Vienna.I drived downhill and in the oposite way a track was driving uphill.I`ve losed control of my car,because of snow and ice,and tooked my feet and hands away from all the maneuvres !My luck was that the car was comming automatically in still,and the track was maybe only a few cm.parallel to my left side!I will never forget the eyes filled of wonder and scare of this driver,which I saw in the sidemirror!

    Thank God ,you are still alive,Paulo!
    Thank God, I am still alive!

    Mirela(the woman in elevator)

  8. Alexandra says:

    Dear Cristina.Thanks for your interesting story.I like such.

  9. Gina Re says:

    22 August 2004 I had left my husband and was returned in Serbia. I remember clear that the road to the escape from Trieste was marked with flames, but don’t now why.

    This is the page of my diary on the blog:
    (my last comment was that one of the 21 August before I was going up on the bus)

  10. Nancy says:

    Mr.Coelho, it is sad you had to witness someones bad and reckless driving. Sometimes people do not care what their actions will do to others. Glad it was not your time.

  11. Marie-Christine says:

    Je ne sais pas pourquoi, cela me rappelle le film de Claude Lelouch
    “Un homme, une femme”.
    I am glad nothing happen to you.

  12. Este es uno de los escritos que me llevó a realizar un viaje a los Pirineos y buscar el viejo molino del Maestro del cual recibí­a enseñanzas sin él saberlo. Enseñanzas y también palabras que me ayudaban en duros momentos. En ese momentos todo lo que setí­a es Admiración, allí­ estaba enfrente a su casa sin saber que hacer, sin atreverme a hacer nada más. No querí­a encontrarlo porque no sabrí­a que decirle.
    Ahora además de sentir admiración por toda su obra, el amor inunda mi corazón.
    Un beso Paulo y que siempre tengas Protección en los viajes y en toda tu vida.

  13. My Dearest Paulo Coelho,

    with all due respect sir, I do not at all like the title of your story!

    It should read ‘Marked to Live’

    I love you,

  14. Grace says:

    I let my son fly alone for the first time this week. Before he left for his trip I was giving him instruction about the gate numbers and if he happened to get lost. He is always asking me “what if” questions. In this particular conversation he asked me “what if at the airport there is a gate to heaven?” I looked at him in shock. Thinking “what do I say to this?” I told him that I would want him to turn around and walk the the other way because I am not ready for him to go through that particular gate. I was then thinking about getting stuck in limbo and if my particular advice could create this for him. I really don’t know how I feel about all of that, but it definately made me think again about letting him go. I did in the end let him go. I felt like it was a test for me as a parent. I do not want to hold him back based on my own selfishness. I will be saying some extra prayers for his safe return on Friday.

  15. candie says:

    Oh now you all gave me the creeps with that flight thing,lol.

  16. Dear Paulo,

    Good.., it is good for ourselves.., Don’t be mad on me for stating it is good but I know, it is good to see the death close to your eyes. (Why? and why am I saying this, will be discussed later sometimes…)

    -“Live in moment, every day is the new beginning of life and every night is the end of life.”

    -“Those who have not seen death close to their eyes will never live with full potentials.” (I can see some eybrows raised..)

    -“Most of us fear death and those who speak of not fearing death are simply lieying.” (…”109 Quotes, 07 Poems and a Song of despari…”)

    Well, I should stop writing too may quotes since I may just end of writing another book of quotes. I need to finish my first Novel as per the resolution this year…, Excuse Me…, :)

    God bless you all !

  17. Heart says:

    Near death experiences might give us some valuable reflections. Myself, I’ve only had one near death experience as far as I can remember. Being sick with Salmonella in Calcutta, India, I felt like life was leaving my body. I survived thanks be to a poor lady who sat an entire night feeding me spoons of water, till I could get under medical care.

    I had a friend telling me he almost got killed when his car was in between steeping down a hill side and hanging on to some brush. At that moment he had promised; ‘God if you save me, I will live to do what You want me to’. Paulo, I’m certainly glad you are still among us!

  18. Irina Black says:

    The Promise.On the 4th of September 2004 something happened on the board of the plane,which took off from Heathrow:stewards with pale faces were helping us with the belts in the middle of the flight.Some people were crying,some couldn’t move.I did pray and promised,if I will land-I will never come back again.We did land-and I never could return back,whatever hard I did try for many years.If I would have known what prise I had have to pay later on -I would cancel my promise, without giving the second thought.

  19. T.K. says:

    My GOD! I have often said…does life imitate art or does art imitate life! I think I’ll stop asking that question.

  20. THELMA says:

    How can you prove whether at this moment we are sleeping, and all our thoughts are a dream; or whether we are awake, and talking to one another in the waking state?

    Life is a dream or a … nightmare!

  21. Caterina says:

    i am taking a flight to London from Accra, Ghana tonight.

    in my dream, however, i do not know the destination…
    only that there is fire onboard
    but despite all this, I take my life jacket and beg a business man to please put it on.

    im in environment work in real time, so i guess its a climate change dream !! where the plane is the earth or something?!!… hmm..!!
    but im not good at flying these days and a little superstitous…
    the journey is too much of a void – unless you can see solid ground, then its too much like stepping into a ‘time machine.’ LOL.

    when words speak right out to me i tend to think its speaking to me alone…. ie: panic!!

    Wishing you a safe flight ;o) x

    … and let me know how your flight goes !!!

  22. Savita Vega says:

    Dear Anne,

    I’m working on that too. Since the two accidents that I did have while cycling, I’ve never been able to muster the courage that I once had. Any time that I am on my bike, there is always that moment of hesitation, that moment when the fear kicks in and says, “Slow down!” or “Don’t try it! Take the easy path instead.” This, for me, has probably been a good thing. It is one thing to be fearless when you are on a racecourse, it is another to be reckless in day-to-day life.

    So, don’t let the fear get you down – don’t allow to overwhelm you. But, at the same time, there is nothing wrong with listening to that little voice that says, “Take a little extra care here – this is a rough spot.” Balance between the two extremes of absolute fearlessness (which can actually be quite dangerous) and being frozen by fear – that’s what I’m aiming for.

    Much love,

  23. Savita Vega says:

    I wonder, Paulo, if you’ve ever seen the film, Amores Perros?

    Twice, I have been in cycling accidents, which could have easily taken my life, but neither one of those experiences gave me that sense, which you describe, of having narrowly escaped death. In both cases, I was hit by a car, but it happened so fast that I did not see it coming. There was no moment of slow-motion realization – only the force of the impact. But a third incident did offer me that sort of experience: the experience of seeing my own death unfolding right before my very eyes.

    It was in Miami (never ride a bicycle on an open road in Miami – it has one of the highest cycling fatality rates in the nation). I was on my way to a yoga class, about five miles from my house. It was a sunny Wednesday morning, around 11:30. I was on a wide, five lane street, which carried a fair amount of traffic, but which also had ample shoulders, which made cycling on it seem relatively safe. I was traveling at my maximum sustainable speed, when I noticed that the traffic light just up ahead turned green. Because I wanted to be sure and make it through the light, I sped up, which probably put me at somewhere around 25 miles per hour. That doesn’t sound very fast, but on a bicycle it is – it is too fast to be be able to come to any sort of immediate halt. And this, from what I’ve read, is the primary mistake that auto drivers make when they encounter a bicycle on the road – most of the accidents are caused by the auto driver underestimating the speed of the bicycle. In the back of their minds they think, subconsciously: “It is a bicycle. It isn’t moving fast. I can dash in front of it.” Or “It can stop.” But it can’t. It doesn’t. And that is the moment when one to two tons of hard steel meet the feeble flesh and bone of a human body.

    It was a wide intersection, open on all sides, with nothing blocking the view. Cars at on the intersecting road were stopped on both sides, awaiting the light. There was one car traveling in my same direction, just up ahead of me, in the lane to my left. As that car passed through the light, it was green. As my front tire crossed over the white line into the intersection, the light was still bright green, but in that instant, I realized that something was very wrong. A car from the center lane, the turning lane, in the oncoming direction was beginning to make its turn. It was coming right at, destined to hit me broad-sided! It was in that instant that everything began to happen in slow motion. There was no stopping, at that point, no sense in even trying. My bike was equipped with disc-brakes, but even disc-brakes can’t stop on the head of a pin. There was nothing to do but speed up even more, and hope to make it through before the oncoming car. I have no idea what kind of car it was or who was driving it – I never looked up to see the driver – all I know is that the hood of it was huge! That, I saw close-up, like in a sort of zoom-shot from a movie. It was green, faded green, and there were huge flakes of paint missing from it in patches, revealing the steel beneath. Just as I saw that the front bumper was going to clip my left ankle and send me flying up over the hood, I swerved, sharp, sharper than any turn I’ve ever made on a bicycle going that fast. As I swerved, of course, the bicycle tilted in toward the car. I was almost in a side-ways skid, my tires barely clinging to the rough pavement below. Had the pavement been wet, had there been the slightest sheen of oil on the road, or had I been on a street bike with slick tires, rather than on a mountain bike with grips, I would have gone down, and probably gone under the wheels of the car. My left knee was so close to the pavement that it was near scraping, so, instinctively, my left hand went out, as though to catch myself in the moment of the fall. When it did, it came down upon the left front fender of that car, just at the point above the headlight … and with that little push, I scooted by, the bumper of the car narrowly missing my back tire. I felt the wind and the heat of three-thousand pounds of steel rush by just inches behind me.

    I’ve had a few accidents in my life: horseback riding, I’ve been thrown several times; once, I slid down the side of a cliff while mountain climbing, with no safety-line attached; once, I feel prematurely from a swing out over the river and landed on a log below…. But none of these accidents, whatever their consequences, gave me that same sense of death as did that near miss on my bicycle that one sunny Wednesday morning in Miami. Since then I have never forgotten how easy it is to die – how we can be going along at any given moment and everything is perfectly normal, and in the very next second, we can be dead. That realization adds great value to every moment of life.

  24. Cristina says:

    Dear Paulo
    in Italy we had a figure of a Holy monk in Padua, whose name was Padre Leopoldo. He was famous for his blessings, that always hepled people a lot.
    One day, Padre Leopoldo was in a chariot near his church.
    The chariot was going fast, and the street was really narrow. Suddenly the driver of his chariot saw a black, big, chariot coming from the opposite direction, and he was terryfied because there was no chance to avoid a crash.
    Then, told Padre Leopoldo’s driver, it seemed to him like the street became larger, and the two chariots did not collide.
    The following day, the driveo of Pdre Leopoldo and his friend went to the same street with a meter and measured the width of the street.
    That street wasn’t wide enough for two chariots.
    The same happened to me in a small bridge near my house.
    My car and anothe car, going fast in the opposite direction, didn’t have any accident and the bridge isn’t large enough for two cars.
    Sometimes miracles happens.
    Have a nice Easter to you and to everybody.

  25. Alexandra says:

    I did not understand.It was reality,or fiction?You passed near the death?My god,really shocking,even if the scene seems one that happens often.About going to cinema, is true that a film seen at cinema is much different from one seen in tv.All the effects are increased.Nowadays only very good popular films make people go to cinema.I try to go as often I can, inviting relatives.

  26. candie says:

    Yes I’ve read that one.I was shocked.
    And just like Catherine,I’m going to take the plane soon too so please…;)
    Catherine,when are you taking the plane and where?or are you one on the plane all the time?

  27. Borgny Sofie*Norway says:

    You aren`t meant to die in that way you know :-)
    But I`m certain you can use or have used the scene with it`s emotions
    in your writings…

    Anyway – how would you prefer to leave this world?
    On the top, or – one the way to the top of – a new mountain…*

  28. caterina says:

    oh paulo… did not need that reminder of my worst scenario just before i take itnernational flight –
    not a sign, not a sign ;O)

  29. çigarra says:

    Thanks to share.