Bert Huffman was a friend of mine who shared my interest in Civil War history. We were both Confederate reenactors for the National Civil War Association in San Jose, California. In 1990, the NCWA put on a battle reenactment at Roaring Camp, near Scotts Valley, California. After a reenacted battle, Bert suffered a major heart attack and collapsed on the field. A doctor stepped out of the audience and saved Bert’s life, and later the TV series “Rescue 911” made an episode about Bert.
After Bert had recovered, I met him at the Hofbrau restaurant off Saratoga Avenue in San Jose for lunch. While we were dining, he confessed to me that he had had a bizarre near death experience while unconscious at Roaring Camp. Fortunately, I keep a journal and recorded his story. Here it is, from the pages of my journal.
Thursday, September 27, 1990: I had lunch with my good friend Bert Huffman today. He is the Captain of the First Virginia Infantry re-enactors regiment of the National Civil War Association, the same regiment of which I also am a member. At the Roaring Camp event last May, Bert suffered a major heart attack right after the first battle and collapsed as the regiments were lining up in front of the spectators, the time after the battles when our commanders give little speeches to the crowd. CPR was administered on the field by some of the people present, and a doctor appeared from the crowd to open an airway; finally electrodes were brought in to shock Bert’s heart into beating again. Clinically, he “died” on the field, becoming a “flatliner” (see my entry of September 19). He “died” twice more in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. His doctor later told him he had “one hell of a constitution” to survive such a major heart attack.
Anyway, today as we were having lunch and discussing NCWA business, he suddenly started telling me about this weird experience he had when he collapsed. With a shock, I realized he was describing a “near death” experience. Bert said he had only told the story to his psychologist, and had not told it to anyone else for fear of ridicule. But as he lay unconscious on the field, he suddenly rose out of his body and was suspended in air, hovering over it. He looked down and saw his body on the ground. There was no pain, and he felt perfectly comfortable and at peace. Then he looked to the horizon at a hilltop, and a white mist was pouring down out of the sky over the hilltop. Then he saw a white buffalo running in the air, just over the mist, headed straight at him. It got closer and closer, then lowered its head as if it were going to scoop Bert up with its horns; but when it got close to Bert, it suddenly veered away to Bert’s left, ran about 30 or 40 feet, and looked back at Bert over its shoulder. The mist then began ascending back into the sky, and the buffalo followed it, disappearing from sight.
Bert’s psychologist, James Boyers, was amazed at the story. Boyers’ girlfriend is a full blood Cheyenne Indian, and as it turns out, Bert is 50% Cherokee Indian. Boyers informed Bert that a white buffalo is the same thing as the angel of death to Indians; they call it “great grandfather”, and a white buffalo is sacred to them. Boyers went back to South Dakota with his girlfriend and related Bert’s tale to the Cheyenne medicine men. They said that “great grandfather” did not take Bert’s soul because the spirit has plans for him on earth. They also told Boyers that very few have seen the white buffalo and returned to tell about it. They then smoked the medicine pipe with Boyers in celebration of Bert’s recovery and gave the pipe to Boyers to bring back for Bert to smoke, to complete the ritual. Bert did so, with Boyers, in his office. Bert was unaware of the meaning of the white buffalo prior to this near death experience.
When Bert started telling me this, I said, “Bert, what you are describing is a near death experience. Wait a minute, let me write this down.” Then I started scribbling notes on the back of a piece of paper, which became the above journal entry. I asked Bert if he had seen the movie, “Flatliners.” He said that he had not. Then I told him I had something I wanted to show him, and went to my car to get my binder with my journal in it. I had him read my entry of September 19, as well as the newspaper article that accompanies it. The article describes research being done on children who have had a near death experience, and the seemingly supernatural experiences they describe are strikingly similar and consistent. Bert said he agrees that “death is nothing to fear.” I asked Bert, since he had told almost no one about this experience, why did he suddenly decide to tell me? He said he didn’t know. I told him that I think our souls somehow communicate beyond the limitations of our physical existence, and that this may explain amazing coincidences, so-called “synchronicity”, and mental telepathy. Somehow, in some unexplained way, he knew that it was right to tell me, almost as if he knew that I am interested and have an open mind about the “great beyond”, and that his tale would be heard by sympathetic ears.
Back to 2007. About a year later, Bert died of a stroke. Perhaps he rode to Heaven on the back of the White Buffalo. In any case, I believe he is now with God.