Person putting flowers on a grave

Rediscovering Near Death Experiences And What They Can Teach Us

This blog begins with a Warning Label. It may not be for all readers. I am going to delve into some spiritual information, and it is my hope that knowing this will guide your decision as to whether you wish to continue reading.

I remember many years ago reading Raymond Moody’s best-selling book Life After Life first published Jan 1, 1976. In it he shared his research after interviewing hundreds of people who had near death experiences (“NDE’s”). Like many readers, I found the book to be fascinating, compelling and inspirational. It offered the possibility that there is an afterlife. At that time I had only been a Christian for a few years and was working hard to educate myself with regard to the messages in the Bible. This book seemed to confirm much of what I had learned about God’s plans for each of us in the life we can anticipate after death.

Recently my younger daughter recommended two books that she found very reassuring with regard to life after death: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey in the Afterlife by Dr. Eben Alexander and Imagine Heaven: Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You by John Burke. Both were New York Times bestsellers.

In Proof of Heaven, Dr. Alexander describes how his brain was infected with a rare and deadly form of meningitis and he was given virtually no hope of surviving. He was in a coma for seven days but for him during that time he was on a journey in heaven. Interestingly when he regained consciousness and he looked at his own MRI scans, he could see where the thinking part of his brain was shut down because of the meningitis, leaving no doubt in his mind that his experience was a spiritual one.

In Imagine Heaven, author and pastor John Burke describes in detail his extensive research of literally hundreds of people who have had NDE’s and the many similarities in their stories along with each person’s very unique experience of heaven. His research is also compelling. He even devotes a chapter on the NDE’s of people who were sent to hell— what they saw, experienced, and since, greatly fear. Virtually all of these people have done what is necessary to right themselves with God. Throughout the book he also provides many quotes from the Bible to substantiate what he shares.

Towards the end of the book, he shares that many alternative explanations have been suggested for each of the various elements provided in these and other books in order to negate the research. In consulting with other experts like Dr van Lommel, author of Consciousness Beyond Life, he discovered that there are many researchers and neuroscientists who believe the information contained in this and other books about NDE’s are very real. He shares the following quote fromvan Lommel: “… although various physiological and psychological factors could all play a role, none can fully explain the phenomena. The theories on NDE’s … fail to explain the experience of an enhanced consciousness, with lucid thoughts, emotions, memories from earliest childhood, visions of the future, and the possibility of perception from a position outside and above the body.”

This past weekend I watched the old movie Ghost starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg that came out in 1990. It won two well-deserved Academy Awards and received wide acclaim. Watching it again and in light of recently reading the two books about NDE’s I just described, gave me another view of this movie. I believe that some of its popularity was because it dealt with powerful and dramatic life experiences as we watched someone who was declared dead actually interacting with people still living. 

The character Sam Wheat, played by Patrick Swayze, was murdered and instead of going directly to heaven was able to hang out here on earth and communicate to his wife through the psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg. In the movie Sam Wheat witnessed two deaths of very evil men who, upon their deaths, were dragged off by several creatures cloaked in black and terrifying to each man because clearly they were being escorted to Hell. Fortunately for Sam Wheat, he eventually sees the light – his invitation to leave his life here on earth and experience heaven where he reassures his wife that it is so beautiful. He wanted her to know he was going to be okay and eventually she would join him.

The movie’s creators seem to recognize the universal curiosity we humans have around death and the afterlife. They offered a dramatic depiction of what might happen when we transform from living beings here into living beings welcomed into heaven. And for those who have not accepted God and the gift of a beautiful afterlife, it appears that there may be some kind of eternal condemnation that we refer to as Hell.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the gift of life. I am thankful for opportunities to love my family and friends. Many, including me, like to envision life as a kind of journey. In both books described above, the authors stress that it appears that God wants to know what we did with the gift of life he gave us. For me, I am so grateful for the many opportunities I have had to generate curriculum that promotes emotional and relational health. I have found both excitement and peace in using what I believe are God-given and God-inspired ideas. I am clear about what it means to be blessed and am so grateful for my many blessings. I hope anyone reading this takes the time to consider not only what you believe about life after death but also how you have been blessed in this life by God-given gifts and to reflect on how you are using those gifts to make this a better world.

All of this has been a journey for me that I thought I should share. I wrote about it as an encouragement to any of my readers who might want to make their own journey of greater awareness and understanding about the possible or even probable life that awaits us once we die. I experienced a personal sense of hope combined with hope for those in my life who I love, which is so uplifting! I am grateful to the authors who took the time and effort to do their research and share their discoveries. While we clearly have free will, I suspect there also are many times when we are guided to discover important and inspirational information that is both comforting and powerful.

Invitation for Reflection:

  1. What thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, images and/or memories did this blog provoke in you? As you spend a little time noticing how you responded, are there any conclusions you have come to?
  2. Have you been inspired to possibly check out one of the books I shared in order to take your own journey to better understand what appears to happen once we die?
  3. Is there anything you are wishing or hoping you or those you love would better understand about the possibilities this information on NDE’s provide?