Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, author & storycollector for the Made Beautiful by... series
I had a premonition before the event, a sense of dread. I knew this was not something to be ignored as I had a similar kind of premonition many years before, one that left me with a gnawing undercurrent of deep discomfort. That time, it had proven true as my father passed away soon after. I had only been a teenager. This time, 14 years later, the premonition showed me a tragic accident and I knew the vision was showing me my own death.
Looking back to that day over a decade ago now, I was at the height of my music career and life was good. My debut album “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” had three hit singles and had reached the Aria Albums Chart top 60. I was feeling on top of my game, but there was a sense that there was something missing.
That day, the car came out of nowhere and ran right over the top of me. I lay broken and bleeding on the concrete and I knew I was dying. All at once I wasn’t in my body anymore. I wasn’t above it looking down on myself; it was more as if I had suddenly become part of everything. I felt expansive as if I could breathe in and out all I could see as far as my being could reach, there didn’t seem to be a point where I ended and the rest of the world began. As bizarre as this experience was playing out in front of me, I was completely calm and not at all afraid of my death, but then something started to concern me on the edges of that peace. A nagging feeling that leaving like this was not going to be a great way for me to exit my life, especially for my family who had already been through enough with losing my Dad.
I called out, using words without words, more like loud thoughts and I asked the question.
“Is this it for me? Am I dying?”
I heard in return just these four words “Not sure yet David”
The more I considered my position, the more sure I felt about not leaving my family and friends this suddenly. Here I was, a 28-year old guy and I knew that going out this way would cause too much carnage to people I cared about. It didn’t seem right.
I asked the great warmth I felt everywhere around me another question.
“Would it be okay if you took me another day, in another way? Just not like this! This isn’t good for anyone.”
There was no response but all of a sudden I found myself back in my body looking up at terrified faces crowded around me. I croaked out to them “I’m fine, I’m going to be just fine. There’s nothing wrong with me.” I felt strangely elated and sure that I was going to be perfectly okay.
An ambulance came on the scene and rushed me off to hospital. I was scanned head to toe with xrays and an MRI. They could not believe that all I had was a fractured cheekbone even though the car had pummelled my whole body. I knew that whatever had been wrong with me during my time in conversation outside of my body, had now been healed. I had been given another shot at life. As I was recovering in hospital, I was asked if I wanted to talk to a counselor about what had happened to me. I said I didn’t need one. I wasn’t carrying a weight of trauma or fear about what had happened, I had no rage toward the person in the car, all I carried was a sense of awe and gratitude that I was still here and healthy.
I went back to singing and composing although I was different, everything felt slightly brighter somehow. There were more moments where I would stop and smile and I couldn’t get as activated or upset about things without almost returning to that Observers point of view and saying to myself “Really David?Is it that important.” It was as if I couldn’t act in a selfish or angry way without a sense of humor giving me a nudge in the ribs to let it go. Living this way made me braver in creating music and by 2009 I was creating songs that again hit the charts.; “Perfect” was given the title of the Most Played Song on Radio by an Australian artist in the past decade. I was interested how I could deepen my strength with words, further than the 3 minutes 20 seconds that a song would offer me. Two books came out of me that will become a trilogy; it delighted me watching this creation process come alive. I was doing what I loved, that experience on the concrete had altered my reality and I knew that life was here to be lived and fully explored. I saw that my only real enemy would be to get stuck in my ways rather than continuing momentum and trusting in what I could create next!
Society’s determined focus on having a beautifully decorated home, the latest car and all the gadgets seemed a little silly to me after facing death. None of that stuff seemed to matter as much anymore. It wasn’t that I no longer appreciated all that I had. It was just that I did not have the same kind of drive to fill my life with meaningless things. I knew what was calling me was less 3am nights on the champagne and more beautiful simplicity. I had begun to notice the quiet moments hidden beneath all the busy-ness and how much I enjoyed feeling those times of presence where it seemed to me life was truly playing out.
I also realized something else. Although I could be heading into the recording studio, being interviewed by a magazine, or doing one of the myriad of activities that were part of my everyday life at that time, I began to see that at the heart of my day, everyday was a deep passion and connection with food and with cooking. This was something that I wanted to give more attention to.
Being Italian, I had grown up with the creation and enjoyment of cooking being the passionate heart of our home. Watching a meal being created with love, the ingredients being selected with great gusto and care, are some of my favorite memories. There were no takeaway brown-bagged meals on laps in front of the TV in my house. Meals were sacredly made and sacredly enjoyed. So much pleasure in each meal and a genuine gratitude for the ability to enjoy such flavors and tastes. I began to see that I wanted to get back in the kitchen and spend a lot more time creating food and being present with it.
This journey I have been on continually, gets me looking within myself, like a house that is always being scrutinized for clutter. I know that the person I am today or even last week is not set in stone and I am interested in noticing what I can lay down, how I can be freer of thoughts that do not serve me or others and how I can make more room for fun and a heart deep enjoyment of life.
Recently, I began playing with thoughts of how much drama and theatre there was in being an Italian man, how that looked as a musician, a cook, an author or composer. How that presented itself to the world.
One day, I found myself playing a fictional character called Uncle Salvatore, which began as a one-off cooking video gag. A combination of all the classic Italian cooks I knew smashed up with your classic gold chain wearing Italian Uncle stereotype. Salvatore turned up as a goofy but big-hearted guy, passionate about cooking, about every part of the food creation process. The video to my surprise suddenly became a massive YouTube favorite with children in particular. We received letters and drawings from kids, along with a video message from a 6-year old asking Uncle Salvatore to “keep up the good work!” So, it made sense to make more videos.
It felt really good to be creating something genuinely in the moment and fun for kids to watch that would inspire them to take a break from your standard online distracted world, and instead laugh along as they found a new passion for food and cooking. I got excited to think that kids might be able to connect back with a very real and natural human art, the art of cooking; the way I had done as a child.
I have been concerned for some time that humans are becoming more obsessed with filling up on social media feeds than engaging with enjoying food slowly with family and friends. With most kids now zombie-like, glued to technology, while their adults lie on couches or beds in their own self imposed phone prison cells; the idea of helping people lift their heads and return to their families through creating real human food with laughter greatly appealed to me.
I knew I had to do something to change the tide, with so much of what we see around food in the public arena, of chefs portraying a superior ego, competition or judgment mentality. The joy of cooking, all the mistakes and food on the floor moments that come from natural human engagement with food builds a warm family dynamic, builds confidence and is where the most amazing recipes are born. But each new anxiety ridden cooking TV show squashes that everyday enjoyment in us. I felt like the only one who could see that the Emperor had no clothes and that cooking and food belonged to Everyone to enjoy.
I decided to invite Maximus, the vlogging child who had sent in the video to us - and his older brother Jacob to cook some pasta salad with Salvatore and see what would happen. It turned into adorable madness as we created delicious food together over crazy antics. With these videos, I am never quite sure what Salvatore is going to get up to, or the guests! In one scene a guest’s hearing aid goes flying and that turned into hysterics. It is so much fun witnessing what is created in that free environment, but I like that Salvatore’s chef character has a welcoming warmth about him that our audience can feel. I think that when we watch an awkward person trying their best to be all they can be, it helps us better accept our own failures and find compassion not just for them, but for ourselves. That’s why the Mr Bean or Charlie Chaplin type characters continue to amuse us. There is a certain sweetness about someone who makes a crazy amount of mistakes, dances like an idiot or falls down, but has a pile of enthusiasm and a genuine positivity that can’t be broken!
My near death experience has taught me that we all have a lot of energy to give in this world and not to waste that by being afraid to keep pushing the envelope on what’s possible. Many of us find a niche and say to ourselves “Right – that’s me! I will stay here. I’m nice and comfortable thank you!” But my challenge to you if that’s where you are, is just to notice if you are feeling even the slightest bit incomplete, why not get interested in what else life has for you to offer –explore it! We are here to live extraordinary lives, but also to give back. If you have done some great things out there, then don’t stop there, maybe see how you can help others do the same. I can tell you from my own experience that there is no greater feeling than that...
THIS IS AN EXCERPT of David Franciosa's story from the book Transformed by Near Death Experience due out 2018! To be one of the first to know when the book is available and read the rest of David's story and more incredible stories like this, sign up below!
ABOUT DAVID FRANCIOSA
David is an Australian singer-songwriter-cook and author. His latest YouTube show, Cooking with Uncle Salvatore aims to help children remember how much creative fun they can have in the kitchen while creating delicious food.
Veronica Farmer, Author and Therapist, Brisbane, Australia. Passionate about sharing raw human stories that matter!