I tell this story to you with some reticence; because I've had some Christians imply to me that they believed that my 'vision' could not have been of God. I'm going to use the word 'vision' in telling this story, for lack of a better word. I do not mean a vision that carries connotations of new revelation or talking face to face with God, or any such thing. I would call it a dream but it was decidedly different from any dream I've ever experienced. I was THERE! In real flesh and blood, standing in the meadow and experiencing an emotional sensation that is not describable in any language that I know. But, I'm getting ahead of myself...
After coronary bypass on Thursday, I was doing well until Saturday evening when I suffered my first cardiac arrest (the heart quits beating). I had had a couple of major heart attacks, but this was my first arrest. I was on lots of various medications, my heart had begun to fail and my blood pressure had dropped to critically low levels. I had also developed pulmonary edema (fluid filling the lungs) along with the heart failure. Consequently, my mind was filled with pain and thirst, fear, and confusion. My family had all arrived from four different states expecting a deathwatch.
I was staring at the ceiling with all this noise and confusion around me when I heard a distant bagpipe! I could see a public address system speaker on the ceiling. I was curious and even a little amused as to the source and reason for bagpipe music in the rooms of the Intensive Care Unit. It started very distant but slowly I could hear it clearer and realized that there was also some singing. At one time, I knew the melody and some of the lyrics. When I tried to tell my family and asked them to write down the words, they became agitated and frightened. They thought this was just the hallucinations and ramblings of a dying man. It was three weeks later before I could convince them that this was much more, but by then I had lost the tune. An Irish-sounding melody was neither a jig nor a dirge. It was lively, a fun kind of music. In fact, I first described the man that I saw as a traveler. As the music filled the room, the room faded away and I was standing, fit and strong, on the top of a small hill within a landscape of rolling hills. I was looking down the slope of the hill over a broad meadow where a small man wearing kilts was walking away from me playing bagpipes and singing. I never saw his face and he never stopped walking. As I stood there, I was overcome with an emotion that is made trite by any descriptions such as love, peace, contentment, hope, joy, etc. But that is the best that I can do. I remember on one occasion as I stood marveling in this peace and joy I thought to myself that this is what I've been pursuing all my life. Everything that I had done, good and bad was ultimately trying to come to this sense of Happiness.
Along with this emotion was the desire not to leave and I felt a very strong desire to follow the man down into the meadow. But I knew that if I did that I couldn't come back. About the moment when I was ready to follow, thoughts of my wife and four teenaged children would come to mind and I knew that they still needed me. I made a conscious decision to stay each time. On one occasion, I told the man that I couldn't come now but would come later. I later learned that one of my nurses (Janice) said that when they shocked me back once as my heart began beating and I came around again that I mumbled something like 'I'll come later.'
As mentioned, this happened virtually the same way ten times. The scene on the hill was what I would imagine Ireland or Scotland to look like. Other than being the most beautiful scene that I've ever seen, there was nothing unnatural about it. There were rocks and clumps of grass and a blue sky with scattered clouds. It was very real to me. I've never been to either country and have no recollection of ever seeing a picture that resembled my vision. I was standing on the top of a small hill looking out across a meadow that continued to roll into the distance. To my left was an ancient stone fence that descended across the meadow. The small man was about twenty yards down the slope from me. To the distant right was a rocky shoreline with waves breaking over the boulders.
What is it with this Scot-Irish stuff? My maternal grandfather was John McDonald and I was very close with him as a child. My grandparents lived very nearby and I spent a lot of time with them. Grandpa was a hard worker and a good man, and raised ten children. He did enjoy a wee bit of whiskey from time to time. I never saw him drink at home, except maybe a beer while we listened to the Cardinals beat the Cubs on the radio. But on Saturday night, he would walk two blocks down the street to Baldy Tavern and drink beer and shots of whiskey. He would come home about midnight and would usually be singing some of the old Irish songs that he had learned in his youth. I can still hear some of them. I loved my Grandpa and still miss him. He died when I was about twelve.
Anyway, although I am genetically only about one third Irish, that's the heritage that I claim. I'm not sure what that has to do with the vision, but that is the only connection that I can make. My Mother, an old school, pre-Vatican II Catholic, is sure that I saw my grandfather welcoming me to heaven. I don't know; and furthermore, I don't care! It is not the vision that matters. It is the effect. Although a nominal Christian I was very caught-up in my career, success, material wealth, etc. These experiences showed me that God loves my family and me. One skeptical Christian how I knew that this vision was from God (he was troubled by the Celtic imagery) asked me. I answered that if it were from Satan it sure as hell backfired! Jesus truly came into my life after this (when I finally let Him in). The trials that were ahead of me were just too much for me to handle alone and God saw to it that I would have the Holy Spirit with me always. I was to spend three hundred and twenty days in the hospital, on life support for over six months, then a heart transplant, followed by numerous serious complications before returning home. It was seven months more before I returned to some part-time work. But my family and I came through it all and we are all happy, content and SAVED! Praise our Awesome, Loving God!
Date NDE Occurred: 'July 13 and 14, 1997'
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Heart attack Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function or brain function) . I suffered ten cardiac arrests in twenty-four hours, and had to be 'shocked' back each time. The experience described in the narrative occurred with each arrest, the same each time.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Wonderful
Did you feel separated from your body? No No
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? I was in very grave condition and near death, but during the vision I was fit, strong and perfectly alert.
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
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
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 A man of small stature wearing kilts and playing bagpipes.
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? No
The experience included: A landscape or city
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm See item #3.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Addressed above. Peace, joy, love, contentment and reluctant to leave because of the fantastic feeling.
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
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
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? Yes I knew if I started down the slope to follow the bagpipe player, that I couldn't come back.
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 'Raised Roman Catholic, but not active.'
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes Addressed above. I went from being a nominal Christian, but not active. I am now a Bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian.
What is your religion now? Conservative/fundamentalist Southern Baptist
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes Addressed above. I went from being a nominal Christian, but not active. I am now a Bible-believing, fundamentalist Christian.
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 The knowledge of God's love for me and my family.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Our family has grown very close and much more religious than previously. I have also expanded my circle of friends to include many fellow Christians. I've also lost a few friends because of this and the subsequent religious convictions.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes The visual and auditory aspects are easy to describe, but the emotional/spiritual aspects are impossible to describe.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes I was in a coma for forty days after my transplant surgery, during which time I 'dreamed' of situations or events the came true later. An example, I dreamed that my wife and I were vacationing in a tropical location. We had complimentary orange juice and coffee early the next morning and went out to the veranda overlooking a tropical garden. It was warm and humid with the sweet smell of flowers in the air. I took a drink of orange juice, turned to my wife, and said, 'Wow! This is the best orange juice I've ever tasted!'
In 2001, we went to Naples, Florida for a medical meeting. We arrived late to our hotel and turned in early. We rose early and I called room service for coffee and orange juice. The sun was up and we took our drinks to the veranda and overlooked a scene very similar to that described above. I then took a drink of orange juice and commented to my wife about how good it was. At that moment, remembered the 'dream' from three years earlier. There were several other occurrences of premonitions that came true, but they all occurred during my coma, not since. None of them was particularly important. I was not like I'd had a premonitions of the death of a loved one or winning the lottery.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? Yes. The feeling and emotions that I experienced showed me that God loves me and wants me to be with Him for eternity. This was not spoken, but the message was unmistakable.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I told my family and friends about it as soon as I could, within a few days, but my family and friends were frightened and didn't want me to talk about it then. A few weeks later, I had recovered enough to tell them the whole story. The reaction was mixed. Some are sure that I experienced only the effects of drugs and lack of oxygen to my brain. Some took it to heart and changed lives.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? No I never had much interest in the subject. I have never read a book on the subject and just found this website a few days ago. I am a practical and pragmatic scientist. My feeling was, there is nothing that can be done to prove or disprove the phenomenon, thus didn't warrant much consideration.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real. It was perfectly real. There was nothing hazy or nebulous about the experiences. I was fully alert, fully aware and fully alive.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real. I feel the same.
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 have spoken for free before numerous groups about this and thank God for the opportunity.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? I'd like to see NDE reports categorized. The light/tunnel stories are quite different from what I experienced. I have met one person who had a NDE of a similar nature to mine (entirely different scenario, but essentially the same choices and emotions). I'd like to know how common this is.