After being at home for a few days following surgery in 2007, I developed a wound infection that required a daily visit from the District Nurse to clean this and apply new dressings. I was taking strong painkillers during this period. One night, I went to bed earlier than usual and experienced some discomfort. My breathing was difficult (not helped by the fact that I remained a stupidly obstinate smoker). Lying on my back in the darkness, I was lamenting the state I had allowed myself to arrive at. Louis Armstrong's witty observation was running through my mind: 'If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken more care of myselfà' I felt foolish and irresponsible. All this could have been avoided had I lived a better, more sensible life. With a loving wife and children, I felt I had let them all down. I was overcome with great sadness, and it was the worst kind of sorrow û the unforgivable sin of self-pity. Still breathing with difficulty, I eventually drifted off.What happened next I still find difficult to accept. Although in a deep sleep, I felt as if my heart stopped. There was a feeling of panic as I struggled to breathe, but this passed and was replaced with a blissful feeling of calm. I was floating, weightless, surrounded by light; I have heard this referred to as a tunnel. Although it had those characteristics, the walls themselves were pure light. I was then in an unenclosed landscape of golden light, and was pleasantly surprised to see people passing by who I had known during my younger years. Some were old friends, others were people I had argued and fallen out with, yet now there was no enmity. I was then overcome with emotion as my departed mother came into view, smiling. As I moved towards her, I was hoping to speak with her, yet felt myself falling backwards. Suddenly, the light went out and I was awake. I sat bolt upright in bed, gasping for air. Eventually, after much coughing and spluttering, I settled down and switched the bedside lamp on. The feeling of disappointment was immense. I had missed the chance to talk to my mother. After sitting up in bed for over 30 minutes, I eventually relaxed and began to assess the situation. Rationality kicked in. This was a dream, I told myself. It was vivid, yet the painkillers probably chemically induced it. My heart was beating normally. I wasn't perspiring. My chest had cleared and I was able to breathe. There was nothing paranormal or psychic. Yet still that brief episode haunts me. What if à what if my body had actually shut down û just for a few seconds? Where is the dividing line between a dream and the total switch-off of one's system?I was left with a feeling that what we worry over in our living-breathing existence does not matter; I felt a peaceful confidence about any future beyond death.
Date NDE Occurred: September 2007
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? No Illness. Surgery-related Illness, trauma or other condition not considered life threatening
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? Normal consciousness and alertness
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? At the point where I saw my mother.
Were your thoughts speeded up? Faster than usual
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? No
Were your senses more vivid than usual? More vivid than usual
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I find it difficult to compare my vision before and during the event. The experience seemed as if I was watching a movie, but one where I was actually also in the film.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. I can't recall other than it being normal.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? Uncertain I was surrounded by light.
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 My mother, some uncles and a friend who had committed suicide.
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
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? No
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Peace, a lifting of all worry.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Relief or calmness
Did you have a feeling of joy? Happiness
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? Slightly important to me
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Uncertain I still cannot commit to any particular faith, but I am far less dismissive of many religious beliefs, and have increased, for example, my interest in Buddhism, as one of my friends is an ordained Buddhist priest, and she sees my experience as quite normal, fitting into her belief system with ease.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Moderately important to me
What is your religion now? Buddhist
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 Although I had a deep interest in NDEs, I was undecided about their veracity. I had a stronger view of death based upon my experiences under an'sthetic, that deat probably was a total black-out, a void, nothingness. My very brief experience has made me think that there may well be an afterlife.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? No I think more about my friends and relatives, I am concerned about their lives, and continually consider the nature of grief and bereavement, because in my age group they are regular features, but since my event, I examine these subjects more often and in more detail.
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 My mother and some relatives who had passed away.
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? 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? Unknown
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? No
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? Unknown
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? Uncertain I seemed to know that there is a time when what we regard as life's burdens can be lifted.
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 greatly feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I slightly fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Slightly fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Slightly fearful in living my earthly life
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are possibly meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? Uncertain I was left with a feeling that what we worry over in our breathing, living existence does not matter; I felt a peaceful confidence about any future beyond death
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? No
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately 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? Moderate changes in my life I imagine sometimes that there are signs, faint messages, warnings even; they mostly involve ôcleaning up my actö - cutting back the smoking, for example. I have become more aware of my body and its functions. Every twinge, every spot or blemish, seems to coincide with a thought or a mental prod from some unknown source. Most people would call this communing with God: I don't know, but I'm willing to give him an opening, if he's there.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Uncertain Uncertain I try to be more loving, patient and understanding with people.
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 as accurately as other life events that occurred around the time of the experience
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? No
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? My mother. She died from the same medical condition I am suffering from - repeated abdominal trauma following surgery for umbilical hernia. She was only 58 when she died and her death was sudden; I feel that we never had chance to say goodbye properly and there was so much more I wanted to do for her to make her tough life easier.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes Several months. Others, even those close to me, appear a bit dubious; they know that as I write for a living that I possess a vivid imagination, and sometimes I suspect they think I'm romancing. Frankly, I don't care, because what happened did happen - I've ceased mentioning it now. However, my daughter, who is suffering with cancer, understands and believes me.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes I was the last person to speak to my mother, and I was with my father at his death, and with my father-in-law and mother-in-law at theirs. Sitting, watching someone die whilst holding their hand is a highly emotional experience. I recall my father, struggling with his cancer, trying to breathe, gripping on painfully to life and I could not bear it, I whispered to him, "Let it go, Dad. You've done your duty and lived well for us all". He sighed and died; there was something about his expression, that peace, which I will never forget. Although I had a deep interest in NDEs, I was undecided about their veracity. I had a stronger view of death based upon my experiences under anesthetic, that death probably was a total blackout, a void, nothingness. My very brief experience has made me think that there may well be an afterlife.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was probably real I wanted to dismiss it as a simple dream, yet it refused to dissolve from my conscience.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was probably real I can't express this view adequately; I want to say it was totally real, yet have to accept the possibility it was a dream state induced by painkillers and NDE knowledge in my subconscious. But it was vivid and, unlike other dreams, does not evaporate.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Uncertain
Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience?
It seems fine as it is, although a questionnaire aimed at skeptical scientists and doctors might serve to open up a wider dialogue.
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