On January 22, 1998 I suffered a major heart attack while sawing limbs off a large oak tree. I called my wife and said, 'I'm ill.' I did not call 911, because I was in a remote location and they might not have arrived in time. My wife came to get me fifteen minutes after my call and drove me to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa, California. In the following hours I was declared, 'Code Blue' three times. I was a volunteer at Kaiser at the time, and knew most of the staff who cared for me. They were very fearful that I would not recover.
The medical staff waited several days until I was stable enough to undergo surgery for a quadruple bypass several days later. I do not know when the NDE occurred on January 22, because I was in and out of consciousness, and heavily medicated, but it was some time during the afternoon.
I experienced total blackness, total peace and total calm. The experience was quite beyond description, I could merely relate what happened. It absolutely removed my fear of death, and that absence of fear lasts to this day.
Date NDE Occurred: January 22, 1998
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 was in the middle of a heart attack, but did not know what was the matter, I just knew I was desperately ill.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Wonderful
Did you feel separated from your body? Yes I lost awareness of my body
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 The experience was indelible and I remember it vividly. I remember that I was very alert some of the time that afternoon. I remember some of the staff talking to me as I answered their questions, e.g., 'What is your pain level on a scale of 1 - 10.' My response was, 'Fifteen!' I remember the doctor saying, 'Give him more morphine,' but I cannot relate the time of the NDE more specifically than that.
I also remember waking one time and counting the number of needles and catheter type devices in my arm. I think that was before the NDE, but I cannot be certain.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I don't know the times because I was in the emergency room and in coronary intensive care unit for several days. Late in the afternoon, I was transported by ambulance to The Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa. By that time I was conscious, and remember that the NDE had already occurred, so it was sometime during the afternoon as I drifted in and out of consciousness.
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 Yes, in the sense that it was not my normal state of being, but I do not recall any location of space or time.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? Incredibly more vivid
Did your vision differ in any way from normal? But, how can I describe 'blackness'? I couldn't 'see it', but I was intensely aware of what was happening to me.
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 I could not describe the details, but I was aware that where I was did not seem to be a vast expanse.
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
The experience included: Darkness
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
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Total peace, total calm. I was not in the least bit afraid or anxious.
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
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
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I have been on a spiritual quest most of my adult life. I left the ministry, since I felt that my experience as a Pastor did not answer my deepest questions and I needed to continue my search outside of Christianity. I am not 'religious,' but I am a deeply spiritual person, and have been throughout my adult life. I believe that my understanding is deeper than ever it was as a practicing 'Christian' in the understood sense of that word.
What is your religion now? Liberal I no longer proscribe to any religious denomination or faith. My search is my own.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I have been on a spiritual quest most of my adult life. I left the ministry, since I felt that my experience as a Pastor did not answer my deepest questions and I needed to continue my search outside of Christianity. I am not 'religious,' but I am a deeply spiritual person, and have been throughout my adult life. I believe that my understanding is deeper than ever it was as a practicing 'Christian' in the understood sense of that word.
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? Uncertain Yes, in the sense that I have never experienced anything remotely like it before. However, I came to know that I should, from then on, be totally unafraid of death. That feeling continues with me to this day, and I am confident it will remain with me forever.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes I have worked with many, many people who were dying. I have been able to convey a sense of assurance to them that they do not need to fear what they are going through, because they will be safe after they pass away. In addition to counseling the dying, I have also worked as a volunteer for Hospice, and in working with dying patients in hospitals, I have been very willing to discuss their fears, and do my best to reassure them of their safety. Though not sharing my particular spiritual beliefs, I know that my wife recognizes the validity of my experience, and I believe it has convinced her of her immortality. Perhaps this is also true with my children, but I have not discussed it with them lately.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes The experience was quite beyond description. I experienced total blackness that was not at all frightening, total peace and total calm, but those words do not even begin to describe what happened. They are merely the best words I can find to relate what happened.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Uncertain The whole experience was a gift! However, I did not and do not recall any specific psychic gifts as a result.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? Yes, I experienced a conversion when I was nineteen, but the experience of total blackness, calm and peace of the NDE were unlike anything I have ever had before or since.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I told my wife and my three adult children what had happened when they first visited me. I think they were interested, but I do not recall their response other than to be aware that I would not fabricate such an experience. I am sure they believed me. I well remember telling them I could not explain what had happened, but only tell them it had occurred.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes As a Baptist Pastor I have talked to people who have experienced NDEs. My specialty in the pastorate was working with people who were dying. I studied death and dying for a year at the University Medical Center in San Francisco, California, in 1972. At the time, I read everything in print in connection with the subject. Following 1972 there was an explosion of literature on the subject such that I could not keep up. I have written several papers on death and dying, but have never written anything about my NDE. I have never doubted that such an event was, and is possible. My experience was not affected in any way other than to say I have always been open to NDEs.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real. It was a certainty of life after death, and the realization that I need never fear death again. I decided that the NDE was a revelation that there was life beyond the grave. I immediately recognized the validity of what had happened to me and that this was no freak event, but MY Truth.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real. I live in a forest. I am a very early riser. I often go out well before dawn in the morning, and as I look up at the non-light polluted sky, I say to, whomsoever, 'This is a great day to live, and a great day to die.' Many times I have stood still looking up at the sky and said, 'I am perfectly willing and ready to die now, or at any time in the future.' There is a sense in which I cannot wait to die, because I am utterly convinced that my search for meaning, my belief and worship of the Divine, will be enhanced greatly when I die.
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? It was totally real, life changing, and wonderful. It was, as I view it, a gift of The Divine, to me. Life is good, and so is death.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? I wish there had been a box for answers, 7, 10, 13 and 25 in order for me to expand concerning my particular experience, however, I think that the other responses reflect my case very well. Thank you very much for this opportunity.
As I began the questionnaire I thought that the 'yes, no, maybe' answers would be too restrictive. The opportunity of narrative throughout has given me the opportunity to explain, which to me is highly important. This is not math with a single solution, it is, perhaps the most complex subject a human being can encounter. And even then, words cannot describe what happened.