I was just seventeen years old and staying with my aunt and uncle in Boundary Bay, British Columbia, Canada. Fortunately, for me, they were a nurse and doctor. I was there because my asthma was problematic and I could not live in Iowa with my parents. Even so, the asthma was dicey and my uncle gave me medication and went down to the office thinking I would be okay. I was not. My lungs got tighter and tighter, the world going darker and darker, my panic mounting to unreal proportions. A cousin heard me, ran to get my aunt, who screamed at someone to call my uncle back while she massaged my throat and neck and shoulder muscles, trying to relax me, I suppose. I found it odd that I could think a mile a minute even as my vision narrowed and it felt, to me, like the cells all over my body were blinking out. I remember thinking that if my cells were stars my body would be going dark. I knew I was dying.
I was aware when my uncle arrived. He carried me out to the car, all of which I could not see - though I found it strange as we drove in surges and hitting the brake and squealing around corners that I could see the leaves of trees - an impossibility for two reasons. I did not have my glasses on; and I slumped against my aunt, eyes away from the windows.
I was also aware when we pulled up to my uncle's doctor's office and aware when he injected my thigh with medication - which I assumed then was a massive dose of prednisone and/or epinephrine. I was barely breathing, unable to even try. My panic, however, has escalated if possible, and parts of Psalm twenty-three played over and over in my head. 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. Yeah, though I walk through...' Repeatedly and wondering why I was still afraid. I begged God to send me to Africa and not death. At least in Africa I would still be able to see the sun and stars and a familiar world.
I remember one last lunge, probably to get air. I reared up, saw we had come into the entrance of the George Massey Tunnel that goes under the Fraser River to the hospital in Richmond, British Columbia. I fell back against my aunt and we hurtled down into the tunnel, and I heard my aunt say, 'We just lost her.' I thought it strange. If I was dead, why was I still in the tunnel? Why could I hear her say I was? I also thought it strange that I could see my uncle's face. He whirled around to see for himself. I can see his features still. At that point, deep in the tunnel - and I assumed for years it was the George Massey Tunnel but realize now that the George Massey had simply become the same tunnel others enter when going through a near death experience - I came out into Light.
The Light is as others report. A warm bath of Light experienced as divine, as all knowing, complete Love, bliss. There was conversation without words and I understood I was to be sent back to live an abundant life. I begged not to.
I then saw the red emergency sign of the hospital - again, a curiosity for me because I did not have the concept of being outside my body. I could not figure out how I could see something outside the car.
I next was watching my uncle screech to a halt outside the emergency. He jumped out and dashed around back, flung open the back door and tried to pull me out. Orderlies with a gurney rushed to help, but my foot was stuck under the front seat. I kept shouting down to them, 'My foot is stuck!' I had hands to my mouth, shouting as loud as I could. I was hollering, hollering, and wondering why I could hear them and myself, but they couldn't hear me. And how could I see that my foot was stuck under the seat? Finally, my aunt said, 'Her foot is stuck.'
My uncle leaped around the back door and yanked open the front door, leaned in and pulled the seat forward. In that way, they got my body out.
I watched them lay me on the gurney and suddenly, WHAM! I was back in the rib cage of my body. I have been through a lot of pain and fear in the last forty years of my life but nothing compares to this brutal rejoining of my body and soul. I was thrashing, gasping, and back to full blown panic. I heard my uncle say, 'She doesn't want to be laid down! She'll die if you lay her down!' He jumped up on the gurney beside me and pulled me up next to him. We were rushed, sitting up, indoors. Still sitting up, a blur of doctors (my vision slowly returning) jabbed needles into me and tucked on an oxygen mask.
When I stabilized, I was taken up to a room and left to my own thoughts, oxygen, and an IV drip.
I lived in a silent world of mystery for many years - unable to communicate the above - except that I did try to write it down. I'd forgotten I'd done this and only found the account last year. The writing is feeble attempt to name the unnamable.
What compounds this experience is that I like so many, came back thinking I would live an abundant life, full of meaning and new purpose. I felt God had a special hand on me and that I had something to give the world. In reality, my asthma became so out of control that I was sent to live with family friends in Arizona.
My mother left me in the care of a Christian doctor - a man who was highly recommended and the Young Life leader. He sexually molested me, and, again, I had no language to name what he was doing. I was just seventeen and had gone, in the short space of three months, from the very gates of heaven to the metaphorical gates of hell.
It was years before I learned about near death experiences and sexual molestation and was able to name, at last and to a limited degree, what I had gone through.
I am grateful for words to help define my experiences; however, the finite world cannot fathom the mystery of the beyond. I think that ninety percent of what I went through is lost - in the same way a dream vanishes but leaving you full of wonder.
One of our readers responded to Brenda. Butterfly wrote:
I was touched by Brenda W's NDE and description of her struggles and was moved to write a poem in response:
The longer the wait
the greater the reward
God gives us the strength
to receive a fulfillment
we cannot now imagine
but will find when it's time.
Date NDE Occurred: 'August 17, 1969'
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Severe asthma attack Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function or brain function)
I had asthma.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Wonderful
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Yes
I clearly left my body and existed outside it
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? More consciousness and alertness than normal As above.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? Probably when I was looking down at the car and my body, seeing my foot stuck and everyone in a panic to pull me loose. I had an alertness I miss to this day. An ability to see every detail.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Incredibly fast
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
I don't have words or language to describe this yet.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. My new body was transparent. I was floating, but I had arms and legs and could feel my hands against my mouth as I shouted down to everyone. I could see pebbles on the pavement; I could see my foot stuck right through the metal and upholstery of the car.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I could hear everything being said. When I was in the Light, I understood without language. Yet to say mental telepathy is diminishing the communication.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? Yes, and the facts have been checked out
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Yes What made this an interesting experience was that I entered the death tunnel simultaneous to entering the George Massey Tunnel. This confused me for years.
Did you see any beings in your experience? I actually saw them
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? No I have heard that others do. I was disappointed to hear this could have been a possibility, for it means I could have seen my dead sister - someone I still grieve for and would have loved to see, even if it had only been for a moment. I wonder still why I did not. I saw only God, and was told I had to go back. I've assumed that I did not progress further into the death process.
The experience included: Darkness
The experience included: Light
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? A light clearly of mystical or other-worldly origin
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes I came out of the George Massey Tunnel (but really the death tunnel) into the Light. I understood immediately I had died and was with God - though clearly not the limitation of God I'd been taught. There was no judgment, for one. I knew Jesus claimed to be the Light of the world, and so I was happy to see him as Light, happier still to know he was more than words.
The Light was bright but not harsh, warm but not cloying. It felt healing, soothing, a balm of sorts.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No I am disappointed I did not.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? I felt various emotions, depending on what was happening. I went from panic and terror to bliss, from suffocation to painlessness, from bliss to confusion, confusion to terror again. I was frustrated at not being able to communicate to my uncle when he was trying to get me out of the car. I was angry and sad when slammed back into my body. I was the happiest when with the Light.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? Happiness
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
The experience included: Special Knowledge
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe
Did scenes from your past come back to you? My past flashed before me, out of my control I learned that my mind is me, that I will live forever, that God exists, that religion is a mystery no church can define. I learned that God truly is love and that we as human beings cannot even begin to fathom the depth of that or the consequences. We seem determined, instead, to limit that love.
Because I was sexually abused soon afterward, and launched upon a lifetime of victimization common to all abused children, I drew on the reality of my near death to sustain myself. So many people, when they hear of any one of my many struggles, ask, 'And you still believe in God?'
There is the assumption that God would limit our pain. I struggle with this myself. But because I know God to exist, and that he is all loving, I have not been able to turn my back on the only real love I've ever known.
Did scenes from the future come to you? Scenes from the world's future
The experience included: Boundary
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? No
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a barrier that I was not permitted to cross; or was sent back against my will
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What was your religion prior to your experience? Moderate Baptist
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I am uncomfortable in organized religion and I am uncomfortable around atheists. Again, I don't seem to fit anywhere. I'm too religious for the majority and not religious enough for the church. I have not gone to church for years, though I do play the hand bells at a little country Lutheran church, built over a hundred years ago with steeple and bell, and all the ambiance of Currier and Ives.
What is your religion now? Liberal I am uncomfortable with organized religion.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I am uncomfortable in organized religion and I am uncomfortable around atheists. Again, I don't seem to fit anywhere. I'm too religious for the majority and not religious enough for the church. I have not gone to church for years, though I do play the hand bells at a little country Lutheran church, built over a hundred years ago with steeple and bell, and all the ambiance of Currier and Ives.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I actually saw them
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes I came away knowing I'd been sent back for a purpose. Just what that purpose was, I didn't know but felt confident it would be revealed in time. I also came back knowing I was to discover what abundant life was. In my first attempt to write about this I called it 'Life with a capital L.' However, because my health was so problematic, and I was sent to live in Arizona with family friends, I was put in the care of a Christian doctor who sexually abused me. I have spent the last forty years living with the psychological and emotional fallout of severe abuse and have never figured out what my near death experience was for. I do not live a full and abundant life. I have no purpose. I have struggled in every aspect of life: physically, relationally, financially, and spiritually.
The anguish of not understanding increases with time and there are many days I am suicidal. I have come to the conclusion that I probably resent coming back. Life just has not been worth it. Given a choice, I would have decided to stay dead, and gone on into the beyond to reside with the Light. Does that make sense? I am trying to be honest here.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes I feel very separated from everyone else. As if I exist on a parallel universe, outside the now, unable to access what everyone else takes for granted. I don't know if this comes from the NDE or the sexual molestation. The two events, I fear, are terribly mixed up in how they effect my psyche.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes At the time I'd never heard about near death experiences and had no language or understanding of what had happened to me. I lived in silence for years, until I stumbled across something written about this. At the time, I was both relieved to receive words that explained the experience (Oh! I was OUTSIDE my body! Oh! I WAS dead! Oh! It wasn't the George Massey Tunnel I went into; I went into a DEATH tunnel! OH! And on it went). At the same time I experienced high anxiety upon reading of this similar event because even as I received explanatory words, the mystery and hugeness of the experience vanished - very much like a dream vanishes upon waking. I was aware that I now had tools with which to tritely explain my experience; I was also aware that I no longer had 'memory' of ninety percent of what that experience was. Words reduced it all to the most basic and simplistic form. And like the vanishing dream, I am left with more sensation than words.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes I am able to sense peoples' sorrow. I can tell when is being abused. I knew one summer that over the year one of my cousins would die. It turned out to be Christine, only eleven years old. My aunt and uncle, who managed to save my life, could not save their own daughter's.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? The Light is the essential event. I did not want to leave. I have felt lonely ever since.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes It was years. I finally told my mother. She just explained it all away as hallucinations and so I went into more years of silence. When other reports started to surface, she began to believe me. I have told others in recent years, primarily because they are now familiar with this.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? No If I had known, I would have recognized what was happening rather than being confused. I wonder if I might have been a little more analytical about it, treated it as a fact-finding mission or something since I have incurable curiosity.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real I knew what had happened to me was real. I'd suffered hallucinations before and this was far different. I was confused, however, as to the how and why of the experience.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real A few years ago I heard a doctor on the radio dismiss the whole NDE thing as hallucinations and the result of oxygen deprivation. I just laughed. This is so like some people - to try to explain by reducing thing to limited knowledge. DEATH is the result of oxygen deprivation, not hallucinations. His logic is so deeply flawed that I had to laugh.
I have recently begun to research NDE, however, because after forty years I still have not figured out what my purpose is. Most people report a more meaningful life; I've even read reports of people who expressed as I tried - 'Life with a capital L'. Although I did return with this promise, I have not experienced its reality. I remain confused - hence the deliberate study of the near death experiences.
I'm actually quite fascinated by the conclusions drawn by Dr. Melvin Morse. His discovery of 'a portal' in the brain that when stimulated triggers a NDE. He is not willing to emphatically state this is a portal to God (though his wife, he says, does), but I am intrigued at the discovery. He writes that some are threatened by this, as if the discovery in some ways makes the experience unreal and cuts off the possibility of heaven and God. I just think it very clever of God to build us a door right into our brains so that when, due to lack of oxygen, we pass through into the Light.
I am intrigued, too, by the physiological aspects of coming back - our electrical systems, for example, going all catawampus and the fact that many of us are unable to wear watches and kill computers, etc.
I would, however, like to be able to find the meaning and abundance I felt was promised. Life seems so pointless in and of itself.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No I nearly died from asthma twice after the NDE. Both times, though, I did not stop breathing or lose consciousness.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? I think the two experiences of near death and sexual molestation so close together and occurring at a time when I had no language to communicate them has confused both issues. They both are so real I live them over and over. And both are so confusing and carry many questions.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? I think you did a good job.