Gary Busey was in a motorcycle accident in 1988 that led to severe brain damage
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Gary Busey was forever changed by the motorcycle accident that almost killed him.

In 1988, the actor, then 44, had just picked up his Harley-Davidson from a shop when he tried to maneuver around a bus and accidentally turned too hard, started skidding and hit his back brake — causing him to fly over his windshield and land directly on his helmet-less head.

He went into emergency neurosurgery followed by months of recovery. In a new interview with The Guardian, the now-75-year-old recalled the incident and how it changed his mindset.

“About 25 years ago, I had an accident on a Harley-Davidson," he said. "I went off the bike without a helmet, hit my head into a [curb], split my skull, passed away after brain surgery and went to the other side – the spiritual realm where I got information. And I came back, and these messages, these definitions, came to me first-class. I’ll think of a word and write the word down without thinking.”

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He explained how the accident made him look at words differently, making them into acronyms instead of just their straight-forward meaning. It all came to him while he was on the operating table and had a surreal experience.

“I was surrounded by angels. Balls of light floating all around me. And I felt trust, love, protection and happiness like you cannot feel on earth. It’s the feeling the angels live in,” he said. “Three angels came up to me...I was a quarter of an inch wide and 1ft long. That is your soul, and your soul is housed in the column of your spine. And three balls of light came up to me and talked to me. The one on the left talked to me in an androgynous voice and said the direction I was going in was good, but because of my responsibility to mankind I had to look for helping spirits around.

“Then a light said: ‘You may come to us now or return to your body and continue your destiny.’ And every time he spoke, I felt so loved, like a little baby in the arms of his brother, so when you hear the truth over there you do it. And the word truth stands for Taking Real Understanding to Heart. That is the truth of your essence and your soul. The truth told me I wasn’t finished over here on Earth. When you feel the truth, BOOM! You go for it. The truth is the strongest ordnance you have in your body, your mind, your soul and your being. Yeeeeeeee!”

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In a 1989 interview with PEOPLE, Busey also recalled a strange encounter he had after the accident. The actor was rehabilitating at a facility weeks after his accident when he said he was visited by the Grim Reaper.

"I was sitting in bed when I looked up and saw the Grim Reaper standing in the corner," Busey recalled at the time. "He was seven feet tall, with a brown robe. He pointed at me and said, 'Relax, it’s not your time to go. You have been given gifts. These gifts are ready to be received by mankind. So get on your feet and improve.' Then he laughed, spun his scythe and left."

He added, "I wasn’t asleep and I hadn’t been up for days. Whether this was a premonition or an angel in disguise, I don’t know. But it was a positive reinforcement to stay on the road to recovery, which I’ve done."

Busey was eventually discharged and made an impressive recovery, returning to the spotlight and filming several movies and TV shows since then.

He most recently appeared in the Amazon faux-reality TV show Gary Busey: Pet Judge where he plays himself as a judge mediating disputes centered around pets. The show is streaming now.