Everyone has heard of the “near death experience,” or NDE for short. The NDE happens so often it is almost commonplace. The experience happens to people who suffer some accident or physical trauma that puts them at the point of death. It involves a feeling of leaving the body, of looking down at their own sleeping form from above. Some also see a bright light and experience moving through a long tunnel towards that light. It is common for NDE patients to have a “life review,” wherein they are made to remember the major events of their lives, the successes and the failures. They often meet a figure in white garments who greets them into the light, and tells them that their time is not yet, to return to the land of the living.
For most of us who hope there is life after death, such stories are comforting. However, they are “anecdotal,” that is, personal stories that cannot be evaluated scientifically or objectively.
I once worked with a woman in an accounting firm, whom I will call “Sandra,” who one day told me about her NDE. She had a miscarriage and something had gone wrong during her period of recuperation at home. During the night she hemorrhaged badly. Her husband was awakened by the warm pool of blood, and found his wife unconscious. Their mattress was soaked with blood. He quickly threw on some clothes and carried his unconscious wife to the car, then rushed her to the hospital.
He exited the car, trying to carry Sandra into the emergency room, when suddenly an ambulance driver saw him struggling and rushed over to help. The ambulance driver, a big, tall man, threw my friend over his shoulder and began running towards the emergency room door, slapping her legs as he did so to stimulate circulation. Sandra remembers the details well, even though she was unconscious. She watched it all happen just over the ambulance driver’s shoulder.
Sandra was wheeled quickly into a surgery room, where she watched the frantic doctors struggling to save her life. That is to say, she watched from the ceiling of the operating room, looking down on her own body and the doctors around her. Her husband tried to come in and the doctors pushed him out. As doctors shouted orders to nurses and transfusion equipment was hurriedly prepared, Sandra felt relaxed, comfortable and unworried. She was surprised by all the fuss, which she felt to be unnecessary.
Sandra did not travel through the tunnel towards a light like many others. She just awakened in her hospital bed and thought, “wow, that was weird!” Later, Sandra verified the details she remembered with her husband and the operating room doctors; the facts all checked out, i.e., they were not merely hallucinations.
A few years ago I read a book called “Closer to the Light: Learning From Near Death Experiences of Children,” by Dr. Melvin Morse, M.D. Dr. Morse treated some children who had nearly died, one by almost drowning in the family swimming pool. When he was examining the children following their recovery, they told him startling stories of a world beyond this one. He later got a research grant and studied the phenomenon in children.
Morse said he thought children would provide interesting data, as they are too young and innocent to be embarrassed by such experiences, and are less likely than adults to color these experiences with previous religious or cultural programming. The result was his fascinating book. I read the book right after my father died, and found it to be a great source of comfort and hope.
Amazon now lists many books on the Near Death Experience. One of the first, if not THE first book on the subject, was Raymond Moody’s “Life After Life.” Moody, if I remember correctly, was teaching at a university where the subject of NDE’s came up. He described the experience to his class and asked them how many of them knew someone who had experienced a NDE. A number of hands shot up. This intrigued Moody, a doctor, who began studying it in depth and eventually writing his ground-breaking book on the subject.
Moody concluded that there are nine experiences common to most people who have had a near death experience. These are:
- hearing sounds such as buzzing
- a feeling of peace and painlessness
- having an out-of-body experience
- a feeling of traveling through a tunnel
- a feeling of rising into the heavens
- seeing people, often dead relatives
- meeting a spiritual being such as God
- seeing a review of one’s life
- feeling a reluctance to return to life
This is a topic I find fascinating.