Near-Death Experiences

With the observance of Memorial Day this past weekend and the earlier post I wrote about visiting the cemetery with my grandma, I got to thinking about death. This is not an issue that I think of often, so don’t think I am some dark morbid soul. Death simply interests me to a degree, and sometimes I will write about subjects relating to it, such as my burial vs. cremation post from a few months back.

But as I remembered some people who had passed this Memorial Weekend, especially some who had passed suddenly and at a far too young of age, I found myself thinking hard about a very amazing and mystical subject that has to do with death: near-death experiences.

I really can’t think of anything more fascinating than near-death experiences. To realize that there are people who have claimed to have passed on through to the other side and experienced heaven is such a profound and heavy claim because it speaks to confirm the most hotly contested question of humanity: Is there an afterlife? As a Catholic, my church would tell me to never rely on such near-death experience accounts to take the place of true faith but I can’t help but be intrigued.

I remember first becoming exposed to NDEs while watching “Unsolved Mysteries” when I was probably ten or eleven. I remember my breath being taken away at the whole process. Someone would get into a tragic car accident or almost drown and suddenly the person would rise out of their body, observe their own rescue effort, and then ascend into the heavens. Usually the person would then see a bright white light at the end of a tunnel. As they would travel/float through the tunnel they would have their life recounted on its walls. By the time the tunnel had ended they would have seen their whole life pass before them and the light would engulf on them and an indescribable sense of peace would fall over the person. Then, either verbally or non-verbally, they would receive word that it was not their time and they would be sent back to their earthly bodies.
After the “Unsolved Mysteries” episodes, I saw many more television programs that dealt with the same topic and contained the same themes. I also read magazine articles and case studies about NDEs. Again, many of the accounts were similar. I also came across a couple stories on people who did not go to heaven for their NDE…these petrified me.
However, I was always thirsty for a little more than just a ten minute TV segment or two page article. When I came home for the summer after my freshman year of college, my mom gave me two books that chronicled in rich detail the near-death experiences of two people. The first book I read was titled Embraced By The Light by Betty Eadie and the second book was called 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Both of these books are spectacular.
Out of the two books, By The Light was my favorite. It tells the story of the author who went into surgery and when things went wrong, she was taken into heaven. The book if I remember correctly is close to two hundred pages and it spares no details. To hear her explain the colors, music, and beauty of the afterlife is beyond this world (no pun intended). She claims to have been received by Jesus and in his presence every single question she ever had was answered. She too went through the tunnel that so many people describe. To her, her experience seemed like it went on for days. Her sense of peace was so sweet. It is incredible because I read the book six years ago and I still remember so many of the details. She got sent back to her  body and even when she was sent back she still had visions. In one of the more chilling parts of her account she describes laying in her hospital bed and being visited by creatures from hell. She could barely describe their ugliness. They tormented her for a very short time and then a presence from heaven appeared and they vanished. When she recovered and was released, she spent time in deep depression because earth was such a let down from the glory of heaven. However, after the depression faded, she had a new life outlook.  Although I ended this summary with some negative aspects, the book is overwhelmingly positive and glorious. A must read.
90 Minutes In Heaven is good too but it is more “preachy” so to speak. The guy who wrote the book and went through the NDE is a pastor so you can expect a language with a lot of religion included. Don was involved in a severe car accident and was pronounced dead at the scene. Like Eadie’s account, he describes magnificent colors and singing. He got to meet deceased relatives and like Eadie, his life was forever changed.
I definitely know that there are scientific theories that seek to explain these near-death experiences. I have read quick explanations of a few of them, many dealing with the brain receiving abnormal amounts of chemicals as the body reacts to the intense amount of stress it undergoes while facing impending death. But because of the minimal amount of reading I have done on these theories combined with the fact that science is not my strong point to begin with, I can’t speak too much about them.
I just feel that science can’t explain the shared experience that so many people have undergone. Also, the detailed accounts that people such as Eadie and Piper have recorded are just way too spectacular and thorough to be attributed simply to some extra active neurotransmitters.  Science is just not meant to explain everything.
Again, while I should not hang onto these amazing stories of the afterlife, it is hard not to find hope in them. I know a lot of people who have lost children or siblings turn to NDEs for a little bit of comfort. In a world that can be so bleak and scary at times, it is nice to look to someone who had passed to the other side for a short time who can confirm that something far better awaits us at the next stop. Definitely something to hold onto. Don’t Blink.