“Wayson, don’t you dare die” — five words that, along with medical treatment, might have helped save Vancouver-born novelist Wayson Choy’s life.

The award-winning Toronto-based writer is back home this week to promote his new memoir Not Yet, a story of surviving two near-fatal heart attacks and living to tell the tale.

Choy said he received the best medical treatment available while in hospital, but it was the love of his friends and family – who insisted on being with him even when hospital staff said no – that pulled him out of the “darkness.”


“There was a time when I was so exhausted that I thought, ‘I’ll just let go,’ ” Choy said, adding that just as he accepted death he heard a woman’s voice say, “Wayson, don’t you dare die.”

“I was so startled it pulled me back and I thought, ‘I want to see what happens next … Let’s stick with life for a bit.’ ”

While none of his friends have admitted to speaking those words aloud, Choy said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility that he heard someone’s prayers penetrating his subconscious.

And it was that act of love and kindness, he said, that made him want to live.

“It takes courage to be with somebody (who is dying). (If you’re sick), you don’t actually live it as vividly as those who visit you and have to go away and worry if you’ll be there the next day,” Choy said.

“When people say they are bored with life I think, ‘How could you be?’ …I’m near the end of my life, and yet it’s off to a wonderful beginning. I can’t believe I’m 70 and I’m still (learning) so much … and want to know more.”

He said living life for heaven – if there is one – isn’t as rewarding as living for the moment.

“Isn’t this miracle enough?” Choy asked. “If all we have is now, then it’s even more important to be awake … And if there’s more, I’m willing to be surprised.”

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