The experience happened in 1985. I can get panicky with my face in the water, so two of us decided to find a shallow place to walk across the Rio Grande rather than swim from Big Bend National Park to Mexico. The water was crystal clear, the sun was bright, and I could easily see the river stones on the river bed. I took a step in a foot of water; then another step in another foot of water; then a third step in what looked like another foot of water to me. The shock of finding myself beneath the water surface sent my brain into stupid mode. So, instead of swimming to save myself, I decided to do the opposite of what had landed me in this predicament. I took one step backward. It never occurred to me that I was never going to be able to step backward out of a hole.
While I was underneath the surface I never held my breath, never panicked about not being able to breathe, and never felt pain. All of a sudden, I found myself in the greatest peace and without anxiety in my recalled experience. I felt comfortable and neither hot nor cold, despite the river being icy cold. I saw black but felt like I was in an immense space. I know that with the bright sunshine and crystal clear water, that sunlight would have been getting through my eyelids such that I should not have seen pure dark. The thought in my mind was that I was going to relax into this 'warm darkness'. I decided to just go into it and stop the struggle. I have no idea how I came up with the phrase 'warm darkness', but the phrase came up again many years later.
The girl with me, who was standing just beside the hole, reached down and pulled me up. The pain of water in my chest wasn’t too horrid and I was glad I was too busy coughing up the water to answer any questions.
I have a vague memory that I think might be a false memory. I was in two places at once. I was in the 'warm darkness' and about 20 feet up on the Texas side of the river watching my boyfriend jump into the river from the Mexico side to come after me. I only add this part of the story, which might be completely false, since other people might have had an 'I’m in two places' experience and/or an 'I don’t know if I made this memory up or not,' experience.
(NDERF Note: We have many NDErs who report bilocation, so if her boyfriend did jump into the river, it is not a false memory.)
The experience seemed to last several minutes but it must have been just seconds because I did not have to be resuscitated.
Years later, I read an article about what people look like when they are drowning. The experience isn’t a Hollywood-style drama. The description sounded like what it felt like and what I must have looked like. I probably was bobbing calmly in the water, before I got to the 'warm darkness'.
In 2004 and through late March 2005, the Terri Schiavo story was prominent in the news. Terri had been 'brain dead' and on life support for a long time. Her husband wanted to stop the feeding tube and her parents did not. The husband won the court battle and Terri’s feeding tube was pulled.
In mid-1990s to April 1, 2005, I had another experience. I have posted this story on the Internet before, maybe in the NDERF forum.
AXY started living with chronic pain early in his young adult life. It turned out to be a bone cancer called Ewings Sarcoma. Cancer treatments extended his life several years but the bone trauma affected his hip and other bones in some way that caused him to finish his life in constant pain. AXY had been an unlikeable teenager in a lot of ways but my niece married him against her parent's wishes. Both of them were too young to be married. As AXY learned to fight cancer, live with chronic pain, work a marriage, bring two daughters into the world, and raise those daughters well, he turned into a person that seemed to be surrounded with so much peace that he could calm an entire crowded room by walking in the door.
AXY’s pain grew worse over the years until he was finally unable to work. My brother, AXY’s father-in-law, bought a property that included two houses, so that the family of four with only one low-ish income and many medical bills could live well.
In December 2004, we were all told that AXY’s cancer had returned and he would be going back into treatment.
The end-of-life story below was told directly to me by SXX four hours after AXY passed.
In late March 2005, AXY was in the hospital. This was during the time Terri Schiavo’s body was slowly starving to death. SXX went by daily on her lunch break from work to visit AXY. The doctors declared that AXY was terminal. The doctors said that the house needed to be set-up so it was wheel-chair ready so AXY to allow him mobility over the next six months.
AXY looked fine and felt fairly well. He just figured that his treatments were better in the hospital and he didn’t seem to realize that he could no longer walk.
Lunchtime Communication Between AXY and SXX Sunday March 27, 2005:
• AXY – They didn’t take me for a treatment this morning.
• SXX – There are no more treatments for you. That’s why you are going on Hospice Care at home.
• AXY – You mean they are just going to let me die?
• SXX – Yes. That’s what Hospice means. They can’t do anything more for you. I didn’t realize you were not understanding the conversation we had with the doctor.
Lunchtime Communication Between AXY and SXX Monday March 28, 2005:
• AXY – I saw it then woke from my nap. It was beautiful.
• SXX – Did not know what to say
Lunchtime Communication Between AXY and SXX Tuesday March 29, 2005:
• AXY – There is a group. We are waiting for Terri Schiavo to go and then we’re going to go.
I felt like I was going to fall over when SXX told me this part.
• SXX – OK.
Lunchtime Communication Between AXY and SXX Wednesday March 30, 2005:
• AXY – Call all my family in Arkansas and tell them to be prepared to come to Dallas this week. I’ll be leaving very soon and I want to tell everyone goodbye.
• SXX – OK.
And she did just that. Nobody argued.
Thursday March 31, 2005 – About 9:00 a.m. as I recall:
• The news announced that Terri Schiavo had died.
Lunchtime Communication Between AXY and SXX Thursday March 31, 2005:
• AXY – Did Terri pass this morning?
• SXX – Yes. They announced it on the news.
I interrupted to clarify. AXY did ask if Terri had passed rather than tell SXX that Terri had passed. SXX said that AXY seemed to think Terri had passed but wasn’t sure.
• AXY – Call everyone in Arkansas and tell them to start driving. I’m leaving the hospital tonight.
• Doctor – No AXY, you can’t leave tonight. Your house is being set up to keep you comfortable there so I’m keeping you here until the house is ready.
• AXY – I am leaving this body tonight. I am not going to that house.
• Doctor – You have several good months ahead to finish things that need doing. You look fine and you feel OK at the moment; that should show you.
• AXY – You are a nice man, but I will die tonight.
• Doctor – Until the cancer takes over your lungs, you will stay. Let me have you x-rayed so you can see your lungs for yourself.
The X-rays happened. SXX did not hear conversations between AXY and the x-ray technician but she bets it was a good one.
The doctor saw the x-rays and told SXX to Get AXY’s family to Dallas now because he might only have a few hours left.
Thursday Afternoon March 31, 2005:
AXYs apparent wellness started the downhill slide. AXY began to look and sound very ill, as those close to death by cancer are expected to look and sound.
AXY finished his good-byes with his children first. They were 7 and 4 years old. AXY and SXX did not want the children to remember AXY looking very sick and in extreme pain so SXX’s sister kept the children in the waiting room the rest of the night.
AXY said his goodbyes with his parents and friends.
AXY had some serious conversations with SXX. He made her repeat back all of his 'orders' several times:
• AXY – Death was doing them part but your life would go on. You will find another father for the children. You will not live in grief and sorrow for even a day. The 7-year-old’s soccer practice is coming up on Saturday and shall not be skipped.
Thursday Early Evening March 31, 2005:
All the goodbyes were done and AXY was growing bored and frustrated about still being alive. He asked everyone to come into the room to sing together and he forbade tears.
Thursday Later Evening March 31, 2005:
AXY was getting very sick and only partially in control of the morphine dose. He was taking as little as possible so that he could watch his own passing.
• AXY – Who are the Silvery Lighted People in the room?
• SXX – I don’t know. I can’t see them.
• AXY – They know me but I don’t know who they are. I feel like I know them but I don’t recognize their faces or know their names. I feel like they are waiting for me.
• SXX – Yes, they are waiting for you.
• AXY – Now there are more of them and I see Jesus in the back of the crowd.
• SXX – You can join them soon.
Friday Morning April 1, 2005:
The day after Terri Schiavo passed and April Fool’s Day on top of that.
AXY was in agonizing pain and tired of failing to die. He was ready to go.
AXY was allowed to give himself a lethal dose of morphine. Although maybe illegal, but I think it probably happens all the time. I bent my head and prayed. All of a sudden there was this WARM DARKNESS. I almost fell over again, recalling my 'warm darkness' in the Rio Grande.
• Me – Do you mean it was warm and dark in the room?
• SXX – No. The sun was shining into the window as it was about 7:00 a.m. The air conditioning was running so the room was cool. I just had this great sense of peace, greater than ever before in all my life.
• Me – I kept my mouth shut. It didn’t seem right to tell her about my own 'warm darkness' experience.
• SXX – JXX was carrying the 4-year-old, HXX, from the hospital to the car. HXX was melting down and screaming that she wanted to see her Daddy. All of a sudden HXX stopped screaming, started giggling, then sang a song. JXX was a little freaked out and asked HXX about the instant change in behavior. HXX replied, 'Daddy and I got to sing that last song together. He will be watching us but we won’t be able to see him. We will get a new Daddy to be right here where we can see him. I will be OK.'
HXX is a practical and honest child who was not prone to imaginative stories or lies. She is in high school now and she remembers the incident the same way her mother described it.
Saturday Morning April 2, 2005, told by SXX after the funeral:
• SXX – The girls were in the front yard and it was time to leave for soccer practice. I went to the front door and was about to call the girls to get into the car but I hesitated. My husband had just died the day before and I hadn’t even buried him yet. AXY’s idea of life going immediately on was crazy. I was going to turn around and go wallow in my bed. Well - - - - I swear there was ZERO wind. AXY had frequently talked about hanging some chimes on the front porch but he never got around to doing it. Somebody had hung some new chimes just for AXY, when they were getting the house ready for AXY’s home-hospice period. The second I decided I was going to skip soccer practice to go wallow in my bed instead, those chimes went nuts - - -- wind-free nuts. Out loud I said, 'We’re going to soccer AXY, we’re going right now.'
Date NDE Occurred: March 2005
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Uncertain Drowning. Life threatening event, but not clinical death.
It would have been life-threatening if nobody had been there to help, but I was easily rescued by the girl standing above and next to me. The total circumstances made this non-life threatening in my opinion, but others might call it life-threatening. If I had floated down the river, that might have been it for me.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Entirely pleasant
The experience included: Out of body experience
Did you feel separated from your body? Uncertain See possible false memory in the write-up about seeing my boyfriend jump into the river from the Mexico side.
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? Normal consciousness and alertness
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? No changes during the incident except maybe extremely conscious of the pain of coughing up water.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Faster than usual
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Time seemed to go faster or slower than usua.l
The experience seemed like it had to have lasted at least five minutes but it could only have been 30 seconds or so since I did not finish drowning and because I was up on land before my boyfriend and others reached the Texas side of the river after jumping in from the Mexico side. I don't know how I could have had so many thoughts in such a short time period.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? No
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. The vision was just darkness. If the above-river scene was real instead of a false memory, vision was exactly the same as regular day vision.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. Don't recall hearing anything.
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? No
The experience included: Darkness
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? No
Did you see an unearthly light? No
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? Some unfamiliar and strange place Dark, peaceful, physically comfortable - not the river.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Extreme peace and very noticeable lack of lifetime anxiety. Never felt this before and haven't felt it since.
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 no longer in conflict with nature
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? No
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Greatly important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Unaffiliated- Nothing in particular- Secular unaffiliated. Working on Spiritual Growth but not religious. Was raised Methodist. Like some of the ways of Buddhism.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Uncertain I was working on spiritual growth. This was either just one addition that didn't significantly change my path or it was the thing that kept me on the path all of the following years. I don't really know.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Greatly important to me
What is your religion now? Unaffiliated- Nothing in particular- Secular unaffiliated Continue to work on Spiritual Growth. Large number of very odd coincidences in a short time period lead me to finally start a study of 'The Seth Material' and 'A Course in Miracles.'
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was entirely 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? Yes Believed more in 'this is not all there is'.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? No
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 does not exist
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? No
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God does not exist
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? No
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? I was uncertain if an afterlife exists
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife probably exists No
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I moderately feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I do not fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Not fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Not 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? Greatly 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? Unknown It was just another step in 'proof' for me. NOTE on my answer to 'God does or does not exist' question, the personified human-like 'God' that people believe in is what I do not belive in. In my opinion, reality is way bigger and more complicated than a Daddy-God figure.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? No
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? No
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 more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of the experience. I remember the 'warm darkness' experience more accurately. The potential 'above the river' is a screwball memory.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Uncertain I have had many interesting experiences life-long. I don't think this near-drowning incident increased them. I think my focus on spiritual growth is the most significant cause but I also consider the possibiity that I came into this life ready to go in the direction I have been going in; I think we all do.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? I logically know that my anxiety is self-created and thus can be self-uncreated.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I don't recall how long before the first experience but I think it was years. I only share when it seems like a good idea at the time. Some share back. Some are astounded. Some just keep their mouths shut so I guess I made a mistake in deciding that this person needed to hear what I had to say. I've probably told the story more than 10 times but less than 20.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes First read about NDEs in or around 1976.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real. The peace and being in another place, the warm darkness, was not questionable. I don't recall what I thought about the rest of the story.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real. Same as immediately after.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Uncertain I say 'uncertain' because my niece sharing her 'warm darkness' didn't reproduce my experience, it just greatly reminded me of it.
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? Your belief: Your NDE was: 1) In your Life Plan; 2) Given to you for a special purpose by some kind of guidance; 3) Chosen by some higher-self portion of yourself; 4) Luck of the draw.