I had been twenty-one years old for about one month. It was Valentine's Day, 1998. I was six hours away from home at university. I awoke that February morning to a cloudy Indiana winter sky. The literal darkness of both day and night during those winters was difficult, to say the least. And, it was Valentine's Day. For a single and singularly confused young man, the darkness simply added to the depression of emotional and spiritual solitude that cut through me like a jagged knife.
I was a philosophy major at the time. Having denounced Catholicism two years earlier, I spent a great deal of time arguing with Christians about the foundations of their belief, about the lack thereof of logic that was employed. I was enamored by rationalism, seduced by the order and necessity.
I had an apartment at the time and a roommate. We had a very violent falling out that evening, and I went to stay with younger friends of mine who lived in a dormitory. They were listening to music and drinking, and I joined them. I had exhaustive battles with depression fueled by difficult romantic relationships. I decided to drown the depression of the day. I chased a friend of mine down the hallway of the top floor. Each floor had two doors at the end that swung open from the middle and always in the outward direction. The top floor stairwell had a cross railing on one side, and on the other the stairs began their descent downward. I was running at full speed when I ran through the right side door to the stairs. I believed that I would descend the stairwell. As my body struck the door, I tripped, and, much to my surprise, I was on the wrong side. The stairs went downward on the left side, so I tripped and fell into the cross railing. My body struck the railing near my waist, in the precise place that allowed my upper torso to catapult over the railing and downward the ten feet to the concrete stairs below. My body performed a complete revolution on the way down before my forehead struck the edge of one of the stairs with increased centripetal speed and a great deal of force.
I left reality when I hit the cross railing. This is the marker for the beginning of my NDE.
There was darkness and cold, but no pain. The one thing I knew was that I was aware. What I mean is an intense feeling of awareness, but more than a feeling. There was no thought involved about my awareness, just that I was aware. There was nothing about the experience that was Cartesian. I had no need to justify that fact that I was aware. The darkness was pervasive, and thick and heavy like a great black cloak.
My next memory was of being in the hospital intensive care unit. I remember seeing many people around my bed at the time. I went to a small university, so I had many folks that knew and cared for me. My sister was there. The pastor of the university chapel was there. A few close friends of mine were there. My aunt and uncle were there. I had face to face conversations with them. I saw the anguish in their faces, and this was distressing to me for I was not in pain. I recall vividly trying to talk to them, to let them know that I was not in pain, that I felt better than I had ever felt before.
The feeling that overcame me at this point was indescribable. All worry and emotional baggage that I had carried with me over my life, all the pain and frustration of the physical and human worlds was lifted from me. I felt completely and infinitely free. I felt that I could move at the speed of light. This was in no way a Physical sense of movement, not three-dimensional. It was as if I was propelled by thought, rather than body. What existed was pure will.
Other differences of this new reality were more profound. I felt as if I understood the purpose of human life in a different way. I understood that the petty differences between people and the grudges that result are the horrible side of human life that is completely unnecessary and completely irrational. Extreme attachment to the material world is detrimental and damaging to the soul. Human life is actually breathtakingly beautiful. If others would experience (become aware) of this beauty, then they would not engage in a lifestyle that is destructive to others, to animals, or to their local and global environments. I felt the intense love that surrounded my spirit at that moment. A love that emanated from the friends and family who surrounded me. I felt an intensity of human love that enveloped me, and renewed me. There was light involved in all of this, but not light, that obeyed the traditional laws of physics. By light, I mean that light emanated from people, without any clear source. Remember, I saw these people around me, their faces, their grief, yet continued to try to console them that I was better than I had ever been.
There was one dagger in my heart, however. I believed that I had never truly met a soul mate while in my bodily form. This was the one emptiness of my persona. This piece of me left my human life incomplete. I knew that I had been lying to myself about what would truly make me happy in a deep romantic relationship sense for a great deal of time. I regretted never having had the courage to open my soul fully to another.
In the waking human world, things were quite dire. When my head struck the edge of the concrete step, I fractured several bones in my face from my top jaw and going upward. My eye sockets and sinuses were shattered. I had fractured my skull in the forehead area. I tore the durra layer between my skull and my brain, which protects it from bacteria. My father said that my eye sockets bulged out to nearly the size of baseballs. I had lost four pints of blood. I had intense swelling which squeezed and blocked my optic nerves. I was blind. But that, of course, was the least of the worries of my human reality.
I cannot account for the fact that I remember seeing every person's face at my bedside. Nor the desire of mine to take the pain that I saw and felt from every one of those persons. To absorb the pain as if it were a sponge. To internalize the pain - and swallow it for those who grieved. It was difficult for me, because I felt that I had more understanding and was finally truly free of the physical, which was the most pleasurable experience of my life thus far. Yet, at the same time, it was the most horrific for those persons around me. This is one of the most intense paradoxes of the universe.
I remember seeing the Leer jet that I was loaded into and flown from Valparaiso to Cleveland. I remember being unloaded at Burke Lakefront Airport and being rushed to the Cleveland Clinic. I remember the bright lights of the intensive care unit of the clinic, once I was there. I remember seeing my parents; they appeared somewhat withered and disheveled at this point.
This is the place where I felt that I was in a very large movie theater. The screen had a quality that was better than digital resolution. I began to see the human world through this screen. I was alone in the theater. But comfortable. It was warm, interesting, and safe. I recall seeing my mother hand-washing the blood stained tee-shirt and jeans that I wore when I fell. I saw the reality of earth in real-time of the human world but I also relived the entirety of my life in an intermingled way. It was as if I was aware at the same moment of every one of my life's experiences. The linear span of my life intensified into one brilliant shining point that could exist transcendent of time. My traditional notion of time had been shattered. In fact, that notion no longer made any kind of sense at all, for I felt that all moments occurred simultaneously at once.
I recall being taken to surgery on the third day after my journey began. I said goodbye to my parents, truly believing that I would never see them again. As I was taken into surgery and put onto the operating table, for the first time I started to see light all around me. There were no figures or forms. Just an intense white and warm light. At that point, I made peace with the notion that I was going to leave my earthly body behind me.
I was not afraid to leave my earthly body. For instance, I had a great sense of anticipation to know what was to come next. Once I let my body go, I felt as if I was surrounded by an infinite sense of love that was not qualified or withheld by materialism, conditions, or by judgment. I felt as if was in the palm of a very large and protective hand, being elevated far away from the painful and debilitating finitude of my body on earth.
The next thing I knew I was a guest at a dinner party in what I surmise was ancient Greece. There was an older man there of about sixty, and I was his guest. I realized that the dinner party was actually in my honor. We were in a large hall, built of white stone, with large bowls of fruit lying everywhere. There were other men there also, most of them in their mid-twenties to late thirties. We were all dressed in white tunics, but each of the men also had a sash that was either deep blue, gold, or purple. The hostess, I specifically recall, was deep blue. There were urns filled with wine from which we were all dipping our cups and enjoying the sweet and intoxicating nectar. The men were lounging about on a dais that was near a side entrance to the hall, talking and laughing. The air was most definitely jovial and welcoming. When the bowls of fruit would empty or the wine would get low, the older gentlemen would call for his servants, who were teenage boys, to come and refill them. Eventually the servants carried out trays of roasted lamb, from which we all voraciously partook. The party lasted throughout the evening and early morning hours, and, when daylight came, I exited the hall through the side entrance. My NDE was over at that moment.
I awoke in my hospital room, two days after facial reconstruction and frontal brain surgery. I left the hospital after only having been there two weeks. I did not take pain medication at any point after that. After the final consultation visits with my brain and plastic surgeons, they informed me that my case was one that had beaten the odds. The isolated damage to my face and the top of my head and the speed at which I recovered, were Miracles as they both separately told me. They both suggested that they had never seen someone go through a fall like mine with such localized injuries, and someone heal as quickly as I did. Only one to three percent of patients experience the full recovery that I did, they said.
Date NDE Occurred: 'February 14, 1998'
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes AccidentDirect head injury 'Life threatening event, but not clinical death' . Severe head injury with frontal brain trauma. Multiple and extensive facial fractures.
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 See description above.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? An hour or so after it happened. However, during all described parts I felt extremely lucid.
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 Time, in the traditional linear sense, did not exist. In fact, that notion of time is a false and flawed way of viewing it.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
Did your vision differ in any way from normal? I did not need prosthetics (i.e. contact lenses or glasses) in order to see. Moreover, my eyes were not sending images to my brain as a result of swelling that prevented signals being delivered to the brain via the optic nerve.
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? No
Did you see any beings in your experience? I actually saw them
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? Yes I was unfamiliar with them. Yes - I dined with them. I don't recall direct communications, was more of presence and being welcomed complete acceptance with intense love.
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 See description above.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm See above description.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Euphoria, joy, curiosity, empathy.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? incredible joy
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
The experience included: Life review
Did scenes from your past come back to you? My past flashed before me, out of my control Learned of events occurring while outside of the hospital while I was in the hospital. Learning things that helped - yes and no.
Did scenes from the future come to you? Scenes from the world's future
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? Liberal Atheist
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Uncertain At the time of the experience I was an atheist, and, hence did not practice or believe in any traditional or organized type of religion. I still do not believe in the traditional beliefs of most world religions however would consider myself to be extremely spiritual. I embrace mysticism now and encourage others to re-think their common beliefs about reality.
What is your religion now? Liberal Spiritual
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Uncertain At the time of the experience I was an atheist, and, hence did not practice or believe in any traditional or organized type of religion. I still do not believe in the traditional beliefs of most world religions however would consider myself to be extremely spiritual. I embrace mysticism now and encourage others to re-think their common beliefs about reality.
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 See above description.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes I love more intensely and deeply. I feel an overwhelming sense of empathy at times with all humans. Many describe knowing me as difficult, intense, and spiritually supportive.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes It is difficult to transcend the limits of traditional (or accepted) descriptions of earthly 'reality'.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Uncertain I have a much more heightened sense of intuition. Moreover, I seem to hear sounds at much higher frequencies than those around me. Also, I am greatly affected more by static electricity. I fear and avoid being outside when lightning is present, however have never been struck. Before the experience I studied meteorology for two years during undergrad and chased storms.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? I hold every part of the experience as significant. It is the most profound and insightful even that has occurred in my life.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Seven years. Many were frightened by my experience, believed that I suffered brain damage, or explained it away using influences of medication. A few have embraced my experience and supported me.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? No I had absolutely NO knowledge of these experiences and for many years attempted to suppress the memories. Prior to the experience, I would have asserted that someone who would have claimed to have had them was insane. My self-image suffered during the years of suppression as a result. Moreover, I struggled greatly with and assimilated what I know to be the true nature of life and reality with what is the conventional beliefs held currently by most people.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real. It felt like a journey, from which I had intense memories. So intense that I could not suppress or forget the memories even when I tried.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real. See answer above.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? I tried to forget about the experience and continue living my life as I had before it. This was impossible. It has now shaped totally my understanding of the nature of life and I no longer fear death (however certainly do not desire to take my own life). Denouncing materialism and consumerism has been quite difficult for me, especially since they are two fundamental tenets upon which the society of humans in which I live are based.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? A questionnaire is never the same as human-to-human interview. It is important that NDEs be communicated in person.