The experience I am going to share happened when I fell off a thirty to forty foot cliff. Specifically, it happened during the time when my feet left the ground and I landed at the bottom. Probably less than a couple of seconds. I’m not sure if you would call this a near death experience. Although I was given the choice not to come back, it might fit closer to an out of body experience.
I think the year was 1973, I was thirteen, I remember because my mother had purchased a 1973 Landrover. Or it might have been a 1974. She was a rock hound and use to take me and my brother and sister on trips on old logging roads to look for interesting rock outcrops and structures. This particular trip she drove about three quarters up the east side of a lake, and then, took a smaller access road down to the lake shore.
It was a beautiful sunny day. The hot, blue sky and white clouds were reflected on the surface of the mirror-smooth lake. I think it was either July or August. There was no one else there because it was a remote area. We walked along the beach until we came to a spot where the stones on the beach were all stained a red color from water that was seeping down from the adjoining mountainside.
My mother walked over to the tree line on the beach and hiked up the mountain, not more than about fifty feet to where she discovered a tunnel or cave. At the mouth of the cave were large rocks and smaller debris that apparently had been excavated from the cave. Of course, a cave is big news for kids, so my brother and I hiked up with her to have a closer look. My sister stayed on the beach, sun tanning. At the cave entrance, we could hear water dripping. Everything was wet inside and the bottom of the cave was filled with water. The water was stained red, probably from iron oxide leaching out of the rock. I wanted to go all the way in and see what was at the end, but my mother said no. She was worried rocks might fall from the ceiling and that it wasn’t safe.
Standing at the entrance, I noticed what looked like a light at the end of the cave. I realize now this was probably daylight reflecting on the wet surface of the cave and illuminating the interior. At the time, I thought there might be another entrance from above, which was where the light was coming from. I started hiking to the top of the bluff above the cave to see if there was another entrance.
My mother gave me her gloves, to make it easier going as I climbed up the loose hillside to the top. I got to the top and there was no other entrance. At this point, my mother asked me to throw down her gloves, because she wanted to put them on when splitting a rock with her rock hammer. I walked to the edge of the bluff and threw the first glove; it landed short so, when I threw the second glove to her, I threw it a bit harder. The force of extending my arm out caused the bottoms of my shoes to start sliding on small pebble stones. It was like standing on marbles. I tried to catch my step but kept sliding. I reached for a branch to stop my fall but it broke off. I remember it was a dry, dead branch and it made a loud snapping sound when it broke.
At this point, I was falling with my back towards the bottom of the cliff. This is where it gets odd, and I realize there’s a lot of a speculation on these experiences. I’m not offering an explanation, I don’t have any and I’m skeptical because I don’t know. But I am open minded. So I will just get to what happened.
Before my feet left the ground, my knees buckled. Then my legs pushed out very forcefully. At the last moment, I actually jumped off the cliff. I didn’t do this. Maybe it was panic, but I didn’t command my knees to buckle or my legs to push out. However, the effect of doing this was that I did not fall straight down to the cave entrance, where I probably would have been killed instantly impacting on top of large rocks.
Now this gets a bit odder. As soon as my feet left the ground, I was looking down on the Earth. The first thing I remember of this experience is a strong emotion of distress and of loss. Everything I knew as a child was gone. The people, the places, everything. Maybe this was a child's natural curiosity, but the distress diminished and I felt amazed by what I was looking at. The Earth was so beautiful. I remember seeing the large brown areas, the continents and thinking the color was wrong. I expected the land to be green like the mountains where I lived. There was so much was brown. I realized that with different climates, not everything was green. The oceans were amazing, so large, and the clouds were everywhere in different shapes.
I turned to look around and saw stars, like you would see in the night sky, but there were so many more of them and they were so bright. And also so beautiful that for a moment I forgot about the Earth. One of the stars started to become larger and seemed to move towards me. The light from the star was very bright. Within the light, I could make out a human shape, a staff, and possibly a robe. I could not make out the facial features because the light was so bright, but I don’t have a sense that I was looking at a man or a woman. I had a sense of a benevolent intelligence, and gender wasn’t relevant. There was an intense feeling of joy and safety. This new place was safe for a distressed child.
I’ve always thought that, when I turned away from the Earth, that I was looking at stars. Maybe they were all benevolent intelligences and not stars at all.
Although I don’t recall any details, there was a moment that was like an open book on my life to that point and what my life might be. I was told, (these were more like shared thoughts than spoken words) ‘You can stay here or you can go back.’
My immediate response was firstly emotional. I remembered the distress of everything I had lost and then I thought, ‘but I haven’t done anything yet.’
As soon as I thought those words, I opened my eyes and was lying on the ground. I was on my back, looking up past the thick trunk and limbs of a tall cedar tree to the blue sky and clouds far above. That was also a beautiful sight.
I must have had moments as a difficult child because the next thing I remember is my mother calling out my name. There was a tone in her voice like she was scared there would be no answer. I thought, ‘she’ll freak if I don’t say anything. Maybe I should wait a moment.’ Then I thought, ‘I can’t do that, it would be wrong.’ I was thinking about the benevolent intelligence not approving. So, I answered right away and stood up, without even thinking I might be hurt. Except for a small scratch on my leg, I wasn’t hurt. I landed in some broken limbs, bushes and small logs. My mother told me I fell in an arc and it looked like slow motion, as though I was being carried. I told her about the experience, but we never spoke about it after that, until she got sick. She died four years later of cancer. When I visited her in the hospital she would hold my hand tight, as though she thought this connected her to something and gave her hope. Sometimes she’d fall asleep or zone out from morphine while holding my hand. A person can feel helpless, even tortured, watching someone die of cancer. I will always be thankful she felt hope, even though I can’t exactly define the experience at the cave.
At this point, I want to express, that if this gets posted on the website, I realize people may read this experience whom have lost loved ones and might wonder why their loved ones weren’t spared. All I can do is offer my condolences, I don’t know and I don’t think my life was more worth sparing compared to someone else's. Maybe when I fell there was one spot where I could land and survive. Maybe God put me in that spot. I don’t know. My mother believed God intervened and I believe in God, although I don’t follow any of society’s religions. Too much violence and a dangerous mix of hostile political theocracies and ethnocentric homicidal pathologies. Like Germany and Japan during World War II, or the recent Rwanda genocide or the hundreds of thousands of people killed during the India/Pakistan partition. Too much bad leadership, with men obsessed with money and power, who don’t hesitate to kill if that’s what it takes to get more. Violence comes from men, not God. Sorry, maybe the experience made me a bit sensitive to abuses in life. I shouldn’t preach, but I wouldn’t want to be one of the killers when it comes their time to find out what and who’s waiting for them after life.
Still, if I try to be objective, the universe is too magnificent a work of engineering for me not to believe in something that is absolute and probably beyond my comprehension. That doesn’t mean the benevolent intelligence I met that day was God. Maybe it was an Angel, or maybe a deceased person with some kind of authority to intervene. I don’t know. I cannot assume that, because the experience was not of this world, that the experience was mystical. Maybe there’s a life after death that makes perfect sense, like an intelligent life force or energy that science has not yet identified. Perhaps there’s an electrical template of the person that survives death. It doesn’t have to be mystical at all.
The skeptic in me would argue that trauma caused my imagination to kick into high gear and I created the experience as memory after I fell to compensate for that trauma or stress. That wouldn’t explain why my legs kicked out or the complicated details of the experience, which seem to defy fabrication. So, while the skeptic in me can find reasons to dismiss the experience, the intuitive place in my chest knows there is a reality after death.