When I was 17 years old, I was riding my bike to the library. A car failed to yield at a sign and hit me. I rolled onto the hood of the car and the driver hit the brakes, causing me to fly forward into the pavement. Before impact, I had perhaps a second or two where I knew I was going to be hit, but that there was nothing I could do about it. I told myself, 'I am going to die now.' I'd never felt such peace and contentment in my entire life. I felt fearless, emboldened, and infinitely happy. I am gay, so at that point in my young life (Indiana in the eighties) it wasn't exactly an enlightened community. I was very isolated due to my sexuality and felt like I could never truly share myself as an entire person with anyone. To be flooded with a feeling of unconditional love, even for an instant, felt miraculous.
In addition to the sensation of total love, I experienced an improbable number of thoughts simultaneously, as if my brain was operating on many levels at once. I remember thinking about so many people in my life, how my mother was really going to miss me, and how happy I was that death was a happy experience.
Then the car hit me. I went skidding through puddles on the sidewalk. I remained conscious and even got up following the accident. At the time, I thought my arm was broken but that I was otherwise okay. Some kind folks on the corner saw the accident and assisted me. I think they were in their yard because they commented that they didn't think the driver was going to stop, as she continued a ways down the street before reversing.
To be fair, the young woman who hit me was either 16 or 17 at the time, and was surely horrified by what just occurred.
Although I told the witnesses that I thought I could ride my bike back home, the bike was in worse shape than me at that moment. They brought me into their home to call my mother to pick me up.
I should mention here that I wasn't wearing a bike helmet when the accident happened. Bike safety was a bit more casual in 1988 and we were not required to wear helmets.
The accident must have happened around 3:30 pm, because I'd gotten home from school and decided to return some library books before my father got home. We ate dinner around 4pm-4:30pm daily because my father got home from work around 4pm; and my mom would leave for her job around 5:30pm. I told my mom we could just go home and dad could take me to the emergency room when he got home. Again, at this point, I thought my arm was broken but the pain was manageable.
My dad got home from work and we told him what had happened. I cleaned up a little to go to the hospital. I had gravel caked into my body and lots of scrapes and cuts. As we were preparing to go to the hospital a terrible headache began. Pressure started building in my head, and in the approximate 15-minute drive to the hospital, the headache intensified with a level of pain that was unfamiliar to me. My medical charts call it a 'subdural hematoma with loss of consciousness.' I remember my father shaking me as we drove because I started passing out. By the time we got to the emergency room entrance, he pulled me out of the car and was dragging me to the entrance. I began vomiting everywhere. I remember trying to hit a trash can because I didn't want someone to have to clean up my vomit.
Shortly after, I recall a nurse running out and saying, 'Oh my God, he's seizing!' I had a grand mal seizure as a result of the brain injury. I want to be honest about this one part. I cannot say with certainty that I remember hearing the nurse say those words. I THINK I remember it, but it's something I could have added to the story as something others told me that became my own memory. In any case, I had a seizure, and had surgery that night for the brain injury.
What I am clear about is that during that time of unconsciousness, I remember the most beautifully, vivid experience of being somewhere else. Of course, I always tried to measure the experience in terms of what was happening to me such as a serious brain injury, a seizure, etc. But I can go back to that place in my mind, and its vividness is like a safe space for me. The reason I am writing now, trying to explore the concept of what happened to me after all these years, is because that magical place won't leave my mind. I've always thought about it over the years, returned to it in dreams, or when I've had a high fever with strep throat, it has returned with rich detail. But lately it won't leave my mind's eye.
Here is what I remember of this place. The place felt like its own, contained atmosphere, like it was a spot that was uniquely special. It felt as if I landed in the universe's most perfect terrarium. It was like being inside a globe, but also somehow endless. It was magnificently green; the trees and grass a shade of green that I've never seen replicated. It was just such a vivid color, like everything coming into focus after putting on eyeglasses following many years of going without. There were streams. I remember sitting by a stream. All the sounds within this land were perfectly nuanced. The stream trickled in a way that ideal-sounding to the ear.
There were other people there, running around and playing. People were barefoot. In this location, I got the impression that the temperature was always the same; that it was impossible for people to feel cold or hot. I also had the impression that people just slept outside when they needed to sleep and that obtaining food really wasn't a problem. People just ran around and played, and were very happy.
There were also beings there that were non-human. I'm not even sure why I know they were non-human, but we were co-existing with them. They were not hostile in any way, but I cannot say who or what they are. It's like we were a community within a valley and without conflict of any type. There were no insects or anything that could make a person uncomfortable. I don't know if this is heaven, paradise, or some version of it; but it was like a perfect Eden.
My mother passed away in 1995. She had a massive heart attack where she almost literally dropped dead. In various dreamscapes or fever dreams, I have seen her within this Eden. It was never a big or emotional reunion. It was just contentment and peace that we were in the same realm. Her presence there was very matter-of-fact.
Date NDE Occurred: November 1988
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Accident Direct head injury Life threatening event, but not clinical death
I was hit by a car, so I think my experience came in phases.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Entirely pleasant
Did you feel separated from your body? No
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 I felt like every fiber of my being was touched with a perfect kind of love. It was the most amazing experience of my life. I feel like I peaked at 17 years old, because I could never repeat the feeling of that moment.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I felt unusually alert right before the car hit me.
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
When I went to the terrarium space, time was absolutely meaningless. I don't think time as we understand it was a thing there.
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. Before I got hit by the car, it's almost as if my brain hit a pause button--like the car came in slow motion so I had time to think of so many things simultaneously. I can't say my vision was affected, except that I had many 'visions' at once, of people, experiences, memories.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I don't remember any sound at all.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Uncertain Because my experience happened over time, I don't recall a tunnel or light, but I got to a special place nonetheless.
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? No
The experience included: Unearthly light
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? No
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 It was like a magical terrarium--where the environment was perfectly controlled in every way, and all the colors and sounds were perfect. Although what I saw was 'earthly' in nature, it was like a perfected version of nature.
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Intense, vibrant joyful peace and love.
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
The experience included: Special knowledge or purpose
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? No
Did scenes from your past come back to you? My past flashed before me, out of my control
The experience included: Awareness of the future
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? Not important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Christian- Other Christian I was raised Baptist, rather in name only--my family didn't attend church, and while I knew the basics of Christianity, I cannot say I had a clear belief system.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Moderately important to me
What is your religion now? Unaffiliated- Atheist I would consider myself a humanist/pantheist.
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was both consistent and not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience The practical side of me thinks an afterlife is nonsense, and yet I have this utter certainty and clarity that an aspect of us moves on.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? No
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 In the place I went to, there were other beings. I knew intuitively they were not human, but they co-existed with humans where I went.
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? Yes I cannot say the information is specific--just a matter-of-fact knowledge that time doesn't exist as we understand it?
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Yes Same as above.
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? I was uncertain if God exists
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 probably does not exist
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Yes Lately I do, which is why I'm reaching out to this site. My experience was 29 years ago now, but the images and feelings surrounding it are suddenly hitting me with ferocity. I am trying to understand this.
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are 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? An afterlife probably does not exist
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists Uncertain I don't believe in a traditional God or the Bible--I'm like a die-hard atheist who also just knows that we continue on in some way.
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 after your experience? Are not 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? Yes I think my information is that everything we stress about in life is quite meaningless in the bigger picture.
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes I have never felt more loved or embraced or safer as when I thought I was about to die.
Were you compassionate after your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Moderate changes in my life After my experience I stopped hiding from people that I was gay--it just didn't seem to matter to me any more. It seemed like a small part of the overall me, and that I shouldn't fear peoples' perceptions of me. I felt like the anxiety I subscribed to that aspect of my life was entirely wasteful and meaningless.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes It's probably different than people would anticipate--you'd think I would conquer life with great love, but my experiences have isolated me. Part of me feels like I'm protecting something, and part of me feels like no one could ever understand.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes Words seem futile, as if the adjectives don't exist to describe what I felt. Also, I'm a reasonably practical individual, so it also feels very corny and New Age-y to me. The beauty and glory I felt--it makes me uncomfortable describing it to people because it was literally indescribable, and at the same time I feel awkward sharing it with others.
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 th I remember everything related to my experience very precisely, like it's been tattooed onto my brain.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes I have a lot of visions of this special otherworld I visited. Sometimes I feel highly intuitive as well, I will get strong feelings before certain things happen, although the pragmatic part of me says this is coincidence.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? I feel like there's a beautiful, special place that I can access, a place I love to be. I cannot stop thinking about it.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Doing this survey is probably the most thorough I've ever been in breaking down all aspects of my experience. I've shared bits and pieces with various people, but never a totally sequential recollection of the experience.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Uncertain All I've known about NDEs is quite limited--bright light, tunnel, the picture of someone who died on the operating table having an out of body experience. Even now, believing I visited another realm, and perhaps continue to do so, I've been very reluctant to research NDEs.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was probably real At the time, 29 years ago, I think I was more inclined to believe that the trauma and brain injury were generating my peaceful, serene visions.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real It feels just as real to me as this life.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes I have gone to my special place when ill, especially when I've had fevers. Lately, however, there's been an acceleration in my visions. In the past six months or so, I cannot stop thinking about my experiences.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? After nearly three decades of compartmentalizing my experiences, I feel an urgent need to understand them better.
© 2014 NDERF, Jody Long & Jeffrey Long, MD. All Rights Reserved.