It was March 21st, 2002, and I was wrapping up the end of a trade show in Germany which was the largest electronics trade show in the world. At that time I was involved in working trade shows as a third party logistics provider. My team and I were living in a farmhouse in Germany.
There were three other men out with me that evening. We were at a pub celebrating the end of a long month of hard work. During that month, we had use of a large Ford Opel station wagon. We all drank more than we should have and Jay was driving. He insisted that he was okay to drive, so we all got into the station wagon. I think the time was about 10 PM in the evening. I got into the front passenger seat. Matt and Kim slid into the back seats. They did not wear their seat belts, but both Jay and I wore ours.
At this point, I remember this moment clearly: a calm voice in my head told me that I really should wear my seat belt. I was drunk enough to consider not wearing it, but I listened and wore it.
Jay drove the Opel fast, like it was a race car. We left the pub and drove towards the farmhouse. Part of the way back is on a road that curves through a big green field. The road itself was lined with narrow-trunked trees. It was a clear night. The moon was out and the road was dry. However, Jay was driving too fast and the brakes locked up. We were driving at 120 kilometers per hour. I remember the car heading straight for a tree. I was looking at Jay and screamed ‘Oh sh#$, Jay!’ and turning to look at the tree. Then we hit on the passenger side which was my side of the car. It felt like I was hit by the planet across my entire body. I blacked out.
I came back to consciousness thirty seconds later. I am sure of it, even today. There was a loud, angry buzz that I was hearing and I couldn't figure out what was making the sound. I am not sure if that was the car, or if that was the buzz that I've read about by other NDE survivors. I lean towards the latter, but I am not sure. There was smoke drifting through the cabin of the car and I knew immediately that I had to get everyone out of the car. Everyone survived, people rescued us, and we were all taken to the hospital. I did take a moment to look at the car. The car was wrapped four feet up through the engine cabin in front of my seat.
I was having strong post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms afterwards and needed to go to counseling. I wasn't processing the trauma at all, so I went to a therapist. I don't remember who the therapist was. After two sessions, he asked if he could conduct a form of rapid eye movement hypnosis on me. The idea was that he would see if he could guide me back to the moment of impact so that my mind and body could process through the trauma on which I was stuck.
He took me back through the process of the accident as described above. Then the therapist asked me to relive the moment of impact. At that moment, I broke out in tears as I suddenly realized and stated: ‘Oh my god, I was dead!’
I remember experiencing two or three feelings at once:
1) An oceanic sense of overwhelming peace
2) A simple, emotionally unencumbered point of view
3) Shock from realization I cannot explain it.
I cannot remember or summon the feel or intensity of those emotions. I can only tell you that I had them. I remember sitting there in that chair, reliving the moment in my head, and I KNEW I was dead.
The therapist then asked me to tell me what I saw at that moment. I remember this image of seeing myself bent over the airbag. It was as if I was against the roof of the car, looking down at my back. I knew I was dead. The next thing I knew, I was standing in what I believe was that field, looking at the car. A bright light shone down at me through the trees. I remember being told somehow that it wasn't my time, and I had to go back because there were things I needed to do. I said ‘Okay’ and went back.
I remember exclaiming to the therapist, ‘Why did I have to come back?’ That feeling was so amazing. I was saddened that I had experienced it and could not go back to it. That was the last time I saw that therapist, as my manager didn't like me taking time off during work to get counseling. I had to put that whole experience on the shelf and get on to living.
What is frustrating about all of this is that I remember feeling that amazing sense of peace and remember recalling those images in my head. But I cannot resurrect the feel of it. It all feels like echoes in my head when I recall the incident. I am left with this nagging doubt that perhaps I imagined it all. I know that isn't true but it is just a constant struggle. I worry that perhaps the therapist implanted the memories, or that I was led to imagine it all. But I do know I experienced that oceanic sense of peace (I keep saying oceanic because that is the best adjective to describe it), and I heard that buzzing. I remember those two brief flashes of image. If those memories were invented, then why didn't I come up with something grander? The simplicity of it all is what somehow keeps all the doubts at bay.
Date NDE Occurred: 3/21/2002
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Uncertain Accident. Eye movement hypnosis done during a counseling session Life threatening event, but not clinical death.
Here's the problem: I was in a severe car accident in Germany in March 2002, and then I had to go through counseling afterwards. I had gone to two or three counseling sessions, and the counselor tried a form of rapid eye movement therapy on me to see if the trauma could be processed. That is when I experienced the phenomena in question.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Neither pleasant NOR distressing
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Yes I remember seeing my body bent over the air bag, as if I was pinned against the roof of the car. Then there was standing in the field looking back at the car, and seeing this light far above me through the trees. I wasn't paying attention to the car at the time. I clearly left my body and existed outside it.
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? Normal consciousness and alertness
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? While I was in the therapist's chair. I can remember that I experienced that feeling.
Were your thoughts speeded up? No
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
It felt like time didn't matter.
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. Can't, it was all memory and relived under a therapist's supervision.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. No aural phenomena.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No
Did you see any beings in your experience? No
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? Yes
The experience included: Unearthly light
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? An unusually bright light
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes It was a distant light, kind of like a spotlight with a halo around it. I cannot say for certain if it was the moon or not. I know the moon was out that night, but I don't know if I saw it.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? The flashbacks themselves conveyed that I was utterly calm. I myself was very emotional during the session.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? No
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? No
Did scenes from your past come back to you? No
Did scenes from the future come to you? 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 When the light spoke to me, I remember thinking ‘Okay’. I didn't question the light, just accepted it and then did something--what I can't tell you. I just know that I woke up in the car thinking that I had been out thirty seconds, and I had to get the guys out of the car.
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Moderately important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Other or several faiths Unitarian Universalist
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I've become more of a Gnostic agnostic. I have not yet had a transcending experience that convinces me of the reality of God or the afterlife. Mortal doubt and the pressures of the world grind away at my belief, and there are days where I can't help but feel that it was all a foolish dream. That there is nothing after death, just like what the materialists say. But then something deep in me always resists and I somehow find hope to keep on going. The NDE stories help a lot. There was one in particular that explained this: we are not meant to know because the larger parts of ourselves sleep throughout this life, to awaken at the very end. We are meant to be blinded and stuck at the bottom of the well, because this way we have free will and free choice, and can learn the lessons we need. That reassures me somewhat, that perhaps there is more out there, though I cannot see, experience, or recall it.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Greatly important to me
What is your religion now? Unaffiliated- Agnostic Still consider myself a Unitarian Universalist, just not associated with any church currently
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 I knew about NDEs before the car crash, but I didn't know the specifics. I was young, innocent, and unexperienced, and just had no way to map out what happened to me. After that therapy session, I started looking into near-death experiences more, and that is when I discovered the buzzing sound phenomena, and the sense of peace. The stories recounting those experiences helped me reconciled what happened, and have led me to believe that I did have one. One other thing: I was certain that I died in the car.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I matured pretty quickly, and began to think more about how I was mortal and how precious life is. I resolved to live as well as I could, live to the fullest, and somehow find a way to reconcile myself with my mortality.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I heard a voice I could not identify There were two voices: the first one advised me to wear the seat belt. I still remember that one very well. The second was the one that I feel came from the light I say, telling me without words that it wasn't my time yet and I needed to get back in the car because there were things I needed to do.
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? No
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
During your experience, did you gain information about premortal existence? No
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? No
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? Uncertain That second light was authoritative, but not sure if that was God or not.
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God probably exists
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Uncertain So this one is weird. When the light told me to go back, I went willingly. I didn't question it, and though I hate to risk contamination with other NDE stories I have read, it strikes me as weird that I didn't balk. I think I did know that I had purpose and I wasn't done yet.
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
During your experience, did you gain information about the meaning of life? No
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 probably exists Uncertain I have the two images, and that momentary sense of peace that I experienced. That is all I have.
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I moderately feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I greatly fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Slightly fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Moderately fearful in living my earthly life
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are probably meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? No
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? No
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? No
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. Part of me thinks that the old ‘me’ died in that wreck and a new person emerged wearing the skin of the old. I have anxiety/panic attacks about my mortality, and the only thing that calms me is reading the NDEs. When I think back to the wreck and how I blacked out, I freak out because I just blacked out and if that is death, then it makes me feel like life is a one-way race to oblivion. Yet, it is the hope of an afterlife that keeps me going. I think about how my life review would go, and I try to live the best I can because if there really is an afterlife and I stand before God, I want to be able to say that I did my best, that I am sorry for those I hurt, and that all-in-all, this life was a fantastic ride. Moderate changes in my life. Part of me thinks that the old ‘me’ died in that wreck and a new person emerged wearing the skin of the old. I have anxiety/panic attacks about my mortality, and the only thing that calms me is reading the NDEs. When I think back to the wreck and how I blacked out, I freak out because I just blacked out and if that is death, then it makes me feel like life is a one-way race to oblivion. Yet, it is the hope of an afterlife that keeps me going. I think about how my life review would go, and I try to live the best I can because if there really is an afterlife and I stand before God, I want to be able to say that I did my best, that I am sorry for those I hurt, and that all-in-all, this life was a fantastic ride.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? No
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes It momentarily felt like I was unshackled, in a way: Like a part of me had awoken just briefly, and then went back to sleep.
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience less accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience I remember the experience less accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Uncertain I used to have some psychic ability. As a child, I knew who the phone was for whenever we got phone calls at home. Once I was able to telepathically project my thoughts into a dog's mind and order it to come back to me or go to its owner. I think once I may have seen a ghostly head in my bedroom when I was little. I trained as a bard, and studied under a druid for a few months. But by the time this accident occurred, I had left much of that behind in my life, as I was eager to be out and on my own in the world. So when the accident occurred might have had occasional prophetic dreams, but for the most part, I'd let whatever I might have had go.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I talked about my experience with my mother and a few other trusted people in the months following the counseling. My mother listened, but didn't say much. My friends all tried to tell me it was just a hallucination, and didn't want to talk about it.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes It was 2002, and I had the general gist of NDEs down. But not the specifics like the loud, angry buzz or the peace. It was the classic tunnel, light at end of tunnel, and seeing loved ones.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real For me then, the experience was real. I remember being shaken up by it, and emotionally in turmoil about what happened. I did process through the entire trauma though.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was probably real It is all based on memory. I can't dredge up the sense of peace. All I have are recalled memories.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Uncertain I do sensory-deprivation tanks, and there has been a time or two where, deep in meditation, I feel like I might be able to break the chains of my body and leave. That is the closest I have ever gotten.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? I wish I could get confirmation that what I experienced is real. I wish I knew one way or the other. What drives me crazy is that others have this validation, but I don't. I have to take it on faith from the published NDE stories, that what I experienced is real, that there is something beyond this life, and that there is hope. I have been going over the accident and the therapy session in my head for the last 13 years now and I am sharing it here because maybe I can finally find some answers.