During the school year, I was a Special Education Expressive Arts teacher focused exclusively on guiding others. My work was full of passion, persistence and joy. During the summer, I was a student in a classroom of one and in an adventure for one. It was my yearly solo sabbatical in search of the forgotten sound of my own footsteps. In the summer of July 2015, I was giddy to start my summertime trek. That year I would anchor myself in Portland, Oregon and explore temperate rainforests, craft beer, waterfalls, coastal tidepools and the musings of a culture different than my own. I left the Washington DC area in mid-July. I arrived on the west coast, rented a car, and settled into a lovely 1927 log cabin conveniently located in the back courtyard of a Japanese food restaurant in Portland's foodie district. What a cool city! At the start of the trip I began to notice a few glitches in my physical self. I was 47 years old, active and in fairly decent shape. So, I was startled when I couldn't lift my carry-on suitcase into the top storage bin of the airplane.
I wondered why my right foot was feeling so strange and unable to seat itself properly into my sandal? It was surprising to feel shortness of breath and a little dizzy after walking up a garden hill.
The days passed and the adventures swelled and swirled around and through me. Ahhhhhhh....Summertime!
The physical glitches continued, and I ignored them until I couldn't anymore. On July 30, 2015, While driving through Oregon Wine country to visit a quirky mineral and gem museum, the right side of my body started to fail. My arm, leg, tongue and face went weak, numb and felt disconnected. I knew I was having a stroke.
As fortune would have it, I saw a blue and white 'H' sign by the next exit ramp and pulled into a Kaiser Permanente Hospital parking lot. I managed to get out of the car and bully my functional left side into dragging my unresponsively rubbery right side to the emergency room, where I cheerfully announced that I was having a stroke.
I got the feeling that the triage staff didn't quite believe me, but they were professional and kind as they gowned me up and put and IV into me. They set me up in a cubical while I waited for the doctor to see me.
I wasn't in pain and I wasn't scared. I was curious. I had been working with folks with severe disabilities for about 30 years. 'So THIS is what partial paralysis feels like', I thought. 'It feels weird!' Calmly I focused on my sensations and surroundings. I remember thinking, 'I got this, I'm fine, it's all good, no worries.....'.
There was a nurse in my room when I felt some sort of shift within my body. Suddenly I was having trouble breathing. I remember calling out, 'Something's happening! I'm going south.' At this point, I popped out of my body and watched from the ceiling as the nurse quickly hurried out the door to the room.
Then I felt another shift. I was in, what looked to me, like outer space. It was dark, but not black. I sensed that this place was vast beyond definition, and cracklingly alive with energy. God was by my right side and waves of overwhelming, warm, loving, and unconditional acceptance enveloped me. I felt God's pure, absolute and dignified love. I clearly comprehended my situation.
I understood that every moment of my life is governed by my own free will. While my human body is viable for life, it is my moment by moment choice to live inside of this body, on earth, with the rest of corporal mankind. True, I had popped out of my body for the time being, but I understood that to be a bit of a fluke.
I had a choice in this between-time. I knew that behind me, if I turned around and went to the left, I would go back to my body. If I turned around and went to the right, I could abandon my body and join the delicious field of love energy that surrounded me. I knew that back on earth, my body was still viable. If I chose to abandon it, it would feel a bit like swimming upstream, but I could do it if that was my choice. I knew that joining God's energy field of love was goodness beyond any type of conceivable goodness. But to me, it felt like a foregone conclusion that I would turn to the left and rejoin my body. My interior dialogue was, 'Seriously? Come on now, you know you are going back. Be real, dingbat!'
As I turned to the left, I felt a bit heartbroken and resigned to my choice. I was moving rapidly with that turn. Over my right shoulder, I passed a shimmering starry path which curved up and out into the distance. Emanations of energy from the path overpowered me with pure welcoming love. I audibly gasped in awe from the river of love flowing from the starry path. With that gasp, air filled my earthly lungs and brought me back to a hospital gurney.
Date NDE Occurred: 7/30/2015
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Life threatening event, but not clinical death.
I suffered a stroke
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 When I exited my body, I saw the room from above and watched someone open the door and exit. I saw this from the level of the room ceiling.
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? Normal consciousness and alertness. I don't recall a change in perceived conciousness
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I don't recall senseing a variation in awareness
Were your thoughts speeded up? No
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning.
Time lost means of measurement
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 don't recall a difference in my perception of vision
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 recall a difference in my perception of hearing
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere, as if by ESP? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No
Did you see any beings in your experience? I sensed their presence
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? No
The experience included: Void
The experience included: Darkness
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. I saw a 'starry path'. It curved up and out into 'space.' It was lit against the Darkness with what looked like tightly packed stars. It was like what the milky way looks like in the clear night sky, devoid of other light pollution.
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm. I was, what seemed to me, in 'outer space'
The experience included: Strong emotional tone
What emotions did you feel during the experience? all encompassing feelings of calm love, dignity and goodness
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? Everything about the universe. I had an understanding of our purpose as humans in God's universe
Did scenes from your past come back to you? No
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
The experience included: Boundary
Did you reach a Boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes I was given a choice to turn to the left and return to my body or turn to the right and travel up the starry path to join universal love
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a definite conscious decision to return to life. For me, it was a foregone conclusion that I would return to my body. I knew that my body was still viable. Although I knew that joining God's universal love would be nothing but spectacular, I knew that it wasn't my time yet.
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? Jewish. In Judaism, our prayers are sung. There is an ordained clergy member, called a Cantor, who sings the prayers. Un-ordained Jews who perform this service in a lay clergy capacity are called Cantorial Soloists. I was, at the time, a cantorial soloist, responsible for singing prayers during weekly services at my temple. I was very involved in Jewish living and practice in the Reform Jewish Movement.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? Yes I now get out of my own way when I lead services as a cantorial soloist. I feel like a conduit. Because of this, I find myself in a delicious state of flow. I don't think about the musicality of my performance; I just let it happen.
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Greatly important to me
What is your religion now? Jewish. My experience has only refined and solidified my religious devotion and practice
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was entirely consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience. Judaism teaches that usually, the answers are not as important as the questions. And the thought processes enlivened from pondering such that 'wrestling with God' over the meaning of life etc., is what it's all about as the most noble pursuit. My experience of the ultimate choice of free will is in line with that philosophy.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes My thinking is 'larger picture'
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 felt the presence of God and received an understanding of my situation and choice from God
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? I sensed their presence
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? Yes we are crafted from the same river of God's energy and love
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? God definitely exists
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? Yes God was with me during my experience
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 as described previously, the role of free will in this whole of existence
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? Yes I understood that our purpose is to experience free will. In contrast with God, we make decisions without knowing the outcome. This human journey gives God a chance to experience randomness and maybe even the 'Unknown,'which is stimulating to God. We give God something to love, and a brilliant venue for God's creativity and genius. Our randomness, provided by the free will God has granted us, allows for God's vicarious experience. Our linear perception of existence provides a beginning, a middle and an end for each choice we make. Each of those choices is a vicarious, maybe even an Unknown journey for God too. Perhaps similar to a supercharged parental experience? Additionally, I understood that God realizes that it's tough out there to be a human and to have to continuously make decisions without knowing what's going to happen because of them. I understood that God appreciates this burden and grants each one of us unconditional dignity, respect, and the warmest type of love that wraps us into the welcoming river of universal energy.
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. Yes I understood that after our bodily existence, we are welcomed into a warm and welcoming river of loving energy
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I slightly 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 prior to your experience? Are 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? No
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Yes Free will, granted to us from God, is the pilot of human activity
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? Yes God's love, and the love felt from the universal river of energy is really, really, really good. It's hard to explain
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 give myself more self worth--I understand that I am an instrument for God
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes absolutely! I am a different person than I was, due to the stroke as well and not just the NDE. It's hard to tease out which changes are from which experience
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. This experience usually plays like a full sensory movie in my memory. Sometimes I am 'closer to the movie screen' than at other times. It frightens me when I have to work a little harder for the show. I don't want to lose this experience.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes Always a singer and a lousy guitar player. After my stroke, I can suddenly play piano.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? The type of love that I experienced was beyond what I thought possible
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes It took awhile for me to share my experience with anyone, mostly because I was pretty sick after my stroke. I was also in a profound state of denial that I had had a stroke at all. I don't remember how long it took to share for the first time, but it's been almost 2 years now. I am just starting to put my experience into written form.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes I had read a few accounts in popular media, but it wasn't something I was overly interested in. I thought that maybe the experiences were due to oxygen depravation and brain cells shutting down.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real. I thought it was real, but tucked the experience away in the background because I had immediate earhly issues to deal with
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real. Once I found the mental time and space to think about my experience, I understand the experience to be real
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No