This is not my experience, but my grandmother's. The significance is that she told me on my 12th birthday in 1967, before the phenomenon was known to the general public. She hadn't read about it in any book. She wanted me to know about it so I would remember it if anyone I'd meet in the future had a similar thing happen to them. But she told me not to tell anyone about it then, because people would think she was 'crazy'.
At the time I did wonder if she crazy. The term 'near death experience' hadn't been invented yet. It would be many years before I would learn that she had told me has classic elements of NDE.
My grandmother's NDE happened in April of 1959. I must give a bit of background events that led up to that evening. My parents married too young due to pregnancy. I was their second child. The first had died of pneumonia, so my parents moved in with my grandparents at the insistence of my grandmother, who felt she needed to watch over me. By the time I was two years old my young mother became ill. After six months of misdiagnosis, a doctor discovered she had a rare terminal disease and gave her six months to live. She died when I three. In the midst of these tragedies, my father drank heavily to the extent that he could not control it without help. Six months after my mother died, he was going to AA meetings and taking 'Antabuse', a drug that can be lethal mixed with alcohol. Naturally, my father and grandparents were still in shock. My grandmother had fallen into depression, and in 1959 doctors prescribed a heavy narcotic tranquilizer called Phenobarbital or 'reds'. Marilyn Monroe and a number of other celebrities overdosed on that drug in that era. One day my father became very depressed and my grandmother - not knowing the danger - offered him some of her Phenobarbital. He took three. She took a few and went to her room and went into narcotic sleep around 4pm.
Shortly she was awakened in a semi-dream state by my father tapping on her bedroom window. It was still light outdoors. His mouth was moving and he was gesturing, trying to communicate, but she heard no sound. Suddenly she felt nausea, like she was about to throw up, and felt a falling sensation. She was falling alone in blackness but shortly she felt she was moving up a tunnel. Then she saw a beautiful light that drew her. She came to stop at a threshold of this light; she could not go through it. She felt the presence of people she'd known that were dead and a greater being, and it felt like pure love and peace in there and she wanted very much to enter. Now she became aware of three large beings but she did not see them because they were standing behind her. They told her she could not cross that threshold because she had to 'go back' to raise 'the boy'. When they said this, she remembered me and agreed to go back, though she was sad to leave the light.
What happened next is of interest because it smacks of Dante's Divine Comedy, or the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but seems rare in NDE stories. The three beings took her through a journey of 'levels' where souls were working out different things. She told me that they had blocked the memory of details from waking consciousness, but the memories remained hidden, to be used as a sort of map when she returned. She had never read the Divine Comedy or the Book of the Dead.
Twenty-nine years later she died. I'd managed her after a stroke for five years. The stroke left her with senile dementia. The last week of her life, I visited her in the nursing home, three or four times. The last visit I brought her to the house that my ex-wife and I were living in, for a Sunday afternoon. All week she was telling me that she was seeing people she'd known in life, but that she could only see 'parts of them'. Due to her stroke, she wasn't able to explain very well, so I don't know whether she meant she could see through them, or literally saw 'parts'. One visit in the nursing home she said she saw her eldest sister. Only this year through an ancestry website, I learned her sister died one week before my grandmother did.
On a Tuesday night about 2am my ex-wife and I were awakened by a county sheriff's deputy who escorted us to the hospital. It was a small town in the Midwest and the emergency room was empty except for medical staff and my grandmother, peacefully dead on the operating table. She had died about an hour earlier.
Date NDE Occurred: 'April 1959, also Dec 1988'
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Drug or medication overdose 'Life threatening event, but not clinical death'
Her 1959 event was due to an overdose of drugs.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Both pleasant AND distressing
Did you feel separated from your body? Yes A week before her death in 1988, of a heart attack, she had visions of dead relatives whilst she was awake. She was lucid, aware that we could not see them.
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? Normal consciousness and alertness
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? She said that in her experience waking and seeing my father trying to tell her something through the bedroom window was as real as real could be, although I would equate it with 'hyper-real'. My father was not at the window, he was dying in the living room from ingesting 3 Phenobarbital and a bottle whiskey with Antabuse.
Were your thoughts speeded up? No
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? No
Were your senses more vivid than usual? More vivid than usual
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. She wasn't specific about that.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. The only unusual thing she related to hearing was that when she saw my father tapping on the bedroom window in 1959 as he lay dying in the living room. The sound of the loud tapping woke her up, but she could not hear what he was saying. She said he was excited, his mouth moving like he was yelling, but no sound.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? Yes, but the facts have not been checked out
The experience included: Tunnel
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Yes In 1959 only.
The experience included: Presence of deceased persons
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 She saw a deceased brother and his wife. We knew these people were dead. She also saw her eldest sister, and I only learned through online ancestry research this year that her sister, a very spiritual Christian who never left the farm, died one week before my grandmother. It is interesting that her visions began about the same time her sister died.
The experience included: Void
The experience included: Darkness
The experience included: Unearthly 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 In 1959 only. She said she was drawn to the light and reached it as a threshold she couldn't pass through, though she sensed nothing but life and beauty behind it.
However I, her grandson, saw a 'peach' or 'gold' tinge to the light in her room when I visited a week of her death. With her last visit with us, she sat in our living room for several hours. She was seeing the dead, and it was like I was seeing her through a slightly peachy tinted camera lens.
The experience included: A landscape or city
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm She remembered past events associated with the dead people she saw. In her 1959 NDE, she reported the three guide beings showing her 'levels' which equate to the Tibetan 'bardos' to my way of thinking, though she said they 'hid' the memory of the details of this 'tour' for later use by her alone.
What emotions did you feel during the experience? She reported no fear of anything during either the 1959 or 1988 experiences.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Relief or calmness
Did you have a feeling of joy? No
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt no longer in conflict with nature
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? No
The experience included: Life review
Did scenes from your past come back to you? I remembered many past events
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
The experience included: Boundary
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes In 1959 when in bed, she felt like she was falling, then ascended through a tunnel toward the light, where she reached a threshold 'gate' she wasn't to pass. She was aware of people she'd known and God behind it, and wanted very much to go through, but they reminded her of me, her grandson, and she agreed to return to raise me.
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 I do seem to recall she told them 'okay, I'll go back', even though she didn't want to.
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Slightly important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Unaffiliated- Nothing in particular- Religious unaffiliated Her family were not religious. She had no religious formation. She said she'd been "saved" briefly at a Billy Sunday tent rally in her hometown around 1920, but said it 'wore off' after a few weeks.
She said spirituality is in being close to nature - taking walks in the woods, looking at the stars and loving animals. She could not believe any organized religion's dogmas. She was always interested in 'extra sensory perception' She read books by Edgar Cayce, and Norman Vincent Peale.
In 1967 when she recounted her NDE to me, she believed in reincarnation. But several weeks before her death in 1988 she told me she no longer believed in any kind of afterlife - she'd decided we just evaporate. I think this is why it's significant that she reported seeing dead people for a week before she died. She was taken by surprise by that experience, she was astounded and didn't know what to make of it. So whether or not she was hallucinating, it wasn't a projection of religious conditioning or expectation.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Uncertain
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Greatly important to me
What is your religion now? Other or several faiths She was what was called a 'free thinker'. She looked to nature more than dogma, though she told me that Jesus was a good man and read his teachings to me from the Bible. She had no use for the rest of it. She also read me Greek Mythology.
She married an non-religious Irish Catholic in St. Louis. He insisted their son (my father) go through parochial school and Confirmation to follow family tradition.
This was pre-Vatican II in the 1930's-40's. She didn't understand Catholicism at all and had many arguments with the nuns.
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was both consistent and not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Uncertain I know her life changed, but I don't know to what extent because I only knew her after her NDE. I know she had been ambitious and was a bit of a social climber previously. That was completely gone after my parent's deaths and her NDE.
The experience included: Presence of unearthly beings
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 She encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin. In her 1959 NDE, she reported three benevolent beings behind her. She did not see them directly, but 'knew' they were very tall and bright. It was these beings or one of them that did all the talking. She sensed God on the other side of the 'threshold' of light, but reported no direct contact with God. She didn't mention Jesus appearing in any of these visions.
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I actually saw them
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? No She was aware of suprahuman presences in 1959, what some call angels but she didn't give them names. She also saw dead relatives and friends in 1988, but not the three supernatural 'guides' that time.
During your experience, did you gain information about premortal existence? No Neither experience gave her any information about past life, or when existence begins.
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Uncertain She didn't say anything about feeling oneness. I deduce that her being shown 'levels' implies she thought in terms of different 'planes' and different manifestation of being.
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? God probably exists
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? Yes The existence of a supreme being in the 1959 NDE was a given. She didn't ask for it, and it didn't speak to her directly.
In 1988 she had no idea why she was seeing dead relatives and was neither frightened nor joyful. She was comforted by their presence, but seemed annoyed that they weren't fully formed. It was like bad reception on a TV set I suppose.
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God definitely exists
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Uncertain
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are not meaningful and significant
During your experience, did you gain information about the meaning of life? Yes She lost materialist or social climbing impulses after my parents died. She said the purpose of life is to help each other get through it.
Did you believe in an afterlife prior to your experience? An afterlife probably exists
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists Yes Her experiences weren't based on doctrinal conditioning, she was surprised by these experiences of seamless continuity of existence beyond the physical body.
She never asked to see dead relatives or friends, didn't do seances or Ouija board or such thin
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I greatly feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I moderately fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Moderately fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Greatly fearful in living my earthly life
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are not meaningful and significant
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? Uncertain
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Uncertain
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Uncertain
Were you compassionate after your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Moderate changes in my life I believe that the personal goals and ambitions my grandmother had for herself died with my father. She went on in order to raise his orphaned son.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Yes She might have divorced had she not had the 1959 NDE.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes She said it was hard to put either of these experiences into words.
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I do not know how my remembrance of the experience compares to my remembrance of other life events at time In 1967, she seemed confident that her memory of her 1959 NDE was accurate. This is implied by her specifying that the memory of details of the 'tour' of 'levels' by the three guardian beings was tucked away by them so that she couldn't tell them to people - that vision given to help her during her final death transition.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Uncertain She reported a high incidence of clairvoyance all her life. For instance, in junior high she had a male teacher, who only owned one suit, was unmarried, poor and depressive. She had a dream she met him on a bridge and he told her she couldn't go with him to the other side. Next day she learned at school that he had hung himself. That was perhaps her most remarkable episode. Usually it was small things like thinking about a person just before they called on the phone.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes She shared it with me, and her oldest sister. She was careful not to blab about it to others, even my grandfather. Back then people questioned the sanity of people who reported such experiences.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Uncertain It is unlikely she'd have heard of NDE in 1959, but possible. I don't know if she had read Edgar Cayce before the experience, or found out about him afterwards.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real She took it for granted that it was real.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Uncertain
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? These are my grandmother's experiences, not my own, however I would like to add that four years ago I had the experience of spontaneous repentance one night, and to my surprise felt what I believe is called the Holy Spirit rush into me. Since then I haven't been as fearful of death. I chose the local Catholic Church to join because they require 8 months of study before confirmation. For me it's not about doctrines and dogma, I think churches are merely a binding factor for the faithful. I volunteered for St. Vincent de Paul Society and help the poor in atonement for a largely wasted life