I consider the moment of my death the greatest gift of my life. However, anyone who heard me screaming at the top of my lungs in pure, unrestrained panic in the emergency room would not have believed that twenty-four hours later I would be filled with the wonder and peace of the afterlife. I had a head on collision on my way to run the Austin 10K run. I broke my back in several places and sustained several internal injuries. I didn't have health insurance at the time, and had to wait 17 hours for a surgeon to work on me. I didn't have painkillers or anything to numb the pain.
During surgery, I popped out of my body and had a full NDE experience. No one, except possibly the most committed atheist, could have been more surprised than me at the beginning of my near death experience. The first moments outside my body felt exciting and electrifying. My spirit danced a bit of jig realizing that there is more to existence than the physical. I felt like a child again, happy to see what came next and glad that my spirit body retained the essence of who I am. Though I was a little concerned about the physical body on the table. Soothing music played on the radio, and my back had a long, bloody incision. Surgery appeared more brutal and bloody than I imagined it would look, especially from a 360 degree vantage point. I could see the doctors and the entire room all at once without blinking or relying on eyes. There, in the room with the doctors, nurses, surgical technicians, anesthesiologist, and others, I felt incredible joy and shock as I realized all does not die with the body.
After rejoicing a moment, I noticed two of the most intelligent beings I had ever seen. They were very large, approximately eight or nine feet, androgynous, with long shoulder-length hair and composed more of light than solid form. I call them angels only because I have no other term for them. These angels were part of an added reality and nothing like a dream.
I’ve experienced thousands of dreams, and this moment was more real than any waking moment in my lifetime. People always want to know more about what the angels looked like. They ask, 'Did they have wings?' 'Were they clothed?' 'How many?' 'How did you know they were angels?' I don’t know that these two beings were angels, in the traditional Biblical sense. I only know that I immediately recognized them as incredibly intelligent beings whose presence gave me indescribable peace. My own awareness of this new dimension seemed much more limited than their awareness.
Most of what I realized outside of my body in the operating room came through immediate impressions, like the way a child sizes up whether an adult is trustworthy or not. The angels were trustworthy and there to help and comfort me, so I did not question their authority. They sent waves of light which transferred messages to me in the form of completed thoughts and feelings, not individual words. The light emitting from the eyes of the angels and sent into my spirit body allowed me to access information faster than the fastest possible broadband speed in megabytes or even terabytes. The angels were not only able to interact with my spirit body, but they were also able to interact with the two neurosurgeons and through them. The surgeons, most likely, did not realize this interaction. I knew that my awareness, understanding of the world, and my ability to experience joy was growing exponentially moment by moment. Just before the monitor started to beep, which signaled that my heart had stopped, the angels slowed down their communication. They looked at me intently and said loudly and with force, 'Watch this!' The same light that they beamed into my spirit body, they sent through the back of the doctors, through their hands, and into my physical body. My physical body was instantly altered and healed in ways that the doctors might not have been able to heal me. I knew that I would walk again, that the fragments of bone would be picked out of my spine, and that I would feel healthy and run again at some point in the future.
The angels turned back toward me, letting this moment sink in. While the angels continued to work on my body, I considered how the surgeons were conduits of their energy and that the angel’s energy was an essential part of my healing. Perhaps the surgeon’s egos wouldn’t like to hear that or perhaps they would be pleased to know that angels worked through them. I only knew that I needed to remember this moment vividly. The angels wanted me to be aware that they could work through me in the future. As the angels continued to work on me, my physical body shimmered with light and energy. After a few more moments, the machine signaled that my heart had stopped. I no longer wanted to look at my physical body since it was technically dead, so I sped through the walls of the hospital.
I paused only because I caught sight of my stepdad standing at a vending machine and getting a candy bar. He walked around the hospital and returned to the waiting room with a snickers candy bar. After I saw my stepdad, I felt a oneness with everyone I had ever known.
After experiencing a sense of oneness and understanding with people I knew, I spent a few moments in childhood with my grandfather, Clyde. He was the only person close to me who had died. My grandfather, a poor country man, had spoiled me to the best of his ability. I hopped in the back of his blue Chevy truck and he drove us slowly towards the light. My feet dragged the ground through bright clover and grass, greener and more intense, light-filled, than any grass I had experienced on earth. Grandpa was younger and healthier than when I knew him, and he leaned his head out the window to ask if I wanted to keep going. I nodded 'Yes.' The truck lifted off the ground and headed toward the light. At some point, I was no longer in the truck and my grandfather was not with me anymore.
I was very close to a love, I can’t put it into words. I have tried to write about this experience so many times, but I break down and can’t write the words. I miss the love. I miss the light. A large part of me never wanted to leave the safety of that place.
In that place, I felt no stress and more love than I imagined possible. I felt more joy and contentment than even the brightest moments in this life ever provided, and I didn’t want to return to my body. If a soul could smile, then my soul smiled. I was comfortable and without worry. I felt complete and utter trust in this experience. As I got deeper into to the light, I felt the prayers of my mother, father, grandmothers, and a couple of my aunts. I especially felt the prayer of a great-aunt who lost a daughter in a car wreck. I very clearly heard her pray and beg God that my mother not suffer the pain she suffered when she lost her daughter. This touched me, and I almost wanted to return because of her sweet prayer…
One of the most important lessons that was transferred to me by the light is that love is all that matters. Though this seemed like a hippie slogan or a paraphrase from the Beatles, the message sunk into me on a deeper level. Every interaction is meaningless if love is not attached to it in some way. A prayer is meaningless without love. A sermon is meaningless without love. A religion is meaningless without love. The prayers of those who loved me felt like wind, slowing down my progress toward the light. Though their love felt sweet, and reminded me of my life on earth, their prayers did not stop my desire to keep going deeper into the light. I’ve always been an adventurous soul, and this was the greatest adventure I’d ever been on. When I returned to my body, it felt like a dark wind had engulfed me. I still felt one with everything.
If I had to sum up, the main lesson of my NDE is that God, or the light, is a loving force that doesn’t want people to harm others and wants us to feel joy and happiness in our lives. Love and kindness are the greatest gift we can give others. We are all a part of that light, but we forget how to love because of fear. We forget how to walk through this world as the light. We are all closer to God as children because love comes more natural for us. We are able to be gleeful about pets, a bird in the sky, looking into our parent’s eyes. We are in love with the world, and the world is in love with us. We breathed easier as children, and lived more extended, intense moments as children.
Date NDE Occurred: April 1994
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Accident Surgery-related Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function)
I died on the operating table during back surgery after a car wreck. I had several internal injuries and bled to death on the table once they opened me. From above, I was able to see how much blood was on the table.
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? Yes I saw angels/higher beings that helped heal me during surgery. My NDE was featured on A&E's Bio channel because I am one of the few NDErs who have a verifiable instance outside of my body. I saw my dad at the vending machine as he bought a snicker's candy bar.
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? More consciousness and alertness than normal I was not telepathic or able to see into the lives of others. I was locked into linear time and I couldn't fly before the accident.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I felt more alive than ever before. I could intuit the thoughts and essence of everyone I had ever known. I could receive telepathic information from higher beings who I call angels. I could see the past and the future. I could feel thoughts and prayers like wind. The most amazing part of the journey was nearing the light. God/the-divine light was more loving, more accepting than anything I had ever experienced.
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
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I could see from the top of the room in 360-degrees. I could go through walls and see across an entire city and then even farther.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. My sensitivity to sound increased greatly.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? Yes, and the facts have been checked out
The experience included: Tunnel
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Yes
The experience included: Presence of deceased persons
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 Grandfather...he was the only one I knew who was dead at the time.
The experience included: Unearthly light
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? Yes
The experience included: A landscape or city
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm The grass was much greener and more beautiful. The light was a loving force.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Excited, happy, love, joy, interest, surprise....
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
The experience included: Special knowledge or purpose
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about myself or others I understood my purpose and other people in a much deeper way.
The experience included: Life review
Did scenes from your past come back to you? My past flashed before me, out of my control I had a life review, which was compassionate and showed me that I needed to open up more.
The experience included: Awareness of the future
Did scenes from the future come to you? Scenes from my personal future I was shown the campus in which I currently teach. I was not in school at the time of my accident.
The experience included: Boundary
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? 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
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Not important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? I was raised in an evangelical christian home, but I didn't connect with that religion. I was in college and agnostic at the time of my accident.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I practice meditation and I'm drawn to spiritual teachers who say that love is the most important thing to practice while on earth.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Greatly important to me
What is your religion now? Other or several faiths I am spiritual with an emphasis on love as the answer to most problems. I meditate, pray, and connect with my guides on a daily basis.
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 Though I grew up Christian and had heard, 'God is love,' I saw more judgment than love in those around me. The light was truly the most loving force I had ever experienced. At the time of my accident, I was agnostic and not interested in spiritualism or religion.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I went from being money-driven to being driven to helping others live a good life.
The experience included: Presence of unearthly beings
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 I was told to return to earth and work as a teacher. I wanted to go into editing and then eventually go to law school. I tried to argue with the light, but was sent back immediately.
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I actually saw them
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? Uncertain My soul/spirit seemed timeless, but I did not get specific information.
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Yes I felt a oneness with everyone I had ever known. I saw how some people I worked with were very loving wonderful people, but I hadn't taken the time to get to know them. That moment taught me to be more open to those around me.
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? Yes The light/divine light was the most loving force I'd ever encountered. No love on earth compared to the love I felt near the light. God definitely exists.
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God definitely exists
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes I was directly told to come back and teach. In one format or another, I have taught English for close to 20 years. Recently, I was told that my mission was complete and I did not have to teach any more. This freaked me out a bit, but I decided to write a book about my life and continue to teach. I would like to get more involved in healing communities.
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are not meaningful and significant
During your experience, did you gain information about the meaning of life? Yes Briefly, I saw that fear is like a shadow around people. I saw that we are meant to shine our lights into the world and remind others not to live from fear. Connecting with nature is important. Loving and enjoying life, as we did when we were children, is also important.
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 definitely exists No
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I greatly feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I do not fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Greatly 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 not meaningful and significant
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? Yes I blog a lot about various topics related to this if you want to check out my website. https://triciabarkernde.com/
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Yes Harm we do to ourselves is sad, but this is instantly forgiven. If we harm others, in the oneness stage we have to live from their perspective.
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Slightly compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes I very clearly heard the words, 'Love is all that matters.' It seemed that as we journey on past our life experience, we only take with us the moments of love.
Were you compassionate after your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Large changes in my life I was shy before my near death experience. Now, I love lecturing and talking in the classroom. I love connecting with others. I went from being an introvert to an extrovert. I'm more optimistic, more intuitive, more connected to others.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes My friendships are deeper and usually with spiritual people. I feel even more distant from my mom and her extended family.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes It has taken me 20 years to begin writing about the experience. I've spent my time teaching which is what the light commanded me to do. Only a few years ago, was I guided to begin looking at writing.
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. The memory of my near death experience, the angels, the oneness and the message from God never fades. I feared it would, but as I think about it, the moment seems much more vivid than the moments in the hospital before my surgery.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes I had many moments of premonition after the accident. These moments were overwhelming, so I begged that they only come in dream form. I communicate with deceased loved ones, especially my dad who died a few years ago. Sometimes, I can contact other's loved ones.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes My mother's church was not open to NDE stories, so she didn't like my story because I didn't see Jesus and only a loving light. I've told many friends who have been inspired by the story. I've told almost all of my classes, and the reactions have largely been positive. Many people who have lost loved ones have felt comforted. I told my story to A&E's Bio Channel and National Geographic. Dr. Jan Holden uses my story in many of her lectures.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Uncertain I'm sure I had heard of them, but I hadn't read any of Raymond Moody's books or Dannion Brinkley's books. I read these books after my experience with great interest.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real I asked my surgeon immediately how long I had been dead. She was uncomfortable talking about it, but admitted they thought they lost me for 'about two minutes.' I asked for a sheet of paper as soon as I got out of ICU and wrote down details about the angels.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real I saw this reality plus an added reality. I saw that angels work through humans. I wish my surgeon had been willing to verify details. I knew the song that was on the easy listening station and the layout of people around my body. The moments were clearer than any dream or any reality.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes I saw the college I currently teach for during my NDE. I didn't realize the high view of the river until I was hired and got to see the river from the 5th-7th floors.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? Tricia's Website: https://triciabarkernde.com/