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The Near Death Experience
The topic of near death experience fascinates me, mainly because it brings up the study of evidence for an afterlife. While this is way too vast of a topic to begin to cover in this article, I only attempt to invoke curiosity in the hope that you will hunger for more and research it further on your own.
There have been numerous books published on this very topic and story upon story from people who truly believe they have had out of body experiences or visited heaven or hell. Some are very convincing, while others not so, but all make for a wildly interesting study.
It would be difficult at best to perform clinical trials. Can you imagine an ad seeking research subjects? Now offering top pay for research study: "Volunteers will be subject to having their heart stopped and brain waves flattened temporarily for such period of time as the study dictates." I wonder how many people would volunteer for that. Highly unlikely and quite possibly unethical as well. Only in Hollywood, but may become a reality at some point in the future.
There are real life examples, however, that cannot be ignored.
Picture this: A woman who needs surgery for a brain aneurysm during which it became necessary for the cardiologist to literally stop her heart and flatten the brain waves . With the heart stopped and the brain showing no activity she was clinically "dead" for this time in order for the surgery to take place. She later tells of rising out of her body and describes the operation in detail as she had watched it from outside her body. She had every detail correct down to what the conversation was between the doctors and what song was being played on the radio, as well as describing the instruments used to perform the surgery. There is no other way she could have known the things that she described.This would be known as one example of a veridical NDE, in other words, one that can be verified. This begs the following questions to be asked: Can the mind function outside of the physical body? And if so, does this consciousness outside of the body equate to what some identify as a soul? Does this prove the existence of an afterlife?
There are accounts of former Atheists who have turned to God after having an NDE in which they saw Jesus and now believe. Some testify that they were sent back to tell others so that they would believe. One particularly interesting story is that of a noted neurologist who had previously tried to scientifically explain NDEs as caused by lack of oxygen to the brain until he suffered from bacterial meningitis and fell into a coma. He then experienced an NDE of his own and now believes not only that NDEs are real, but that the soul lives on in the absence or death of the physical body.
People who come close to death tend to have similar experiences:
Extreme peace and happiness
Being pulled toward a bright light
pulled toward or through a tunnel
seeing loved ones that have already passed on
being told to go back, that it isn't their time yet
The closest I have come personally to having an NDE was about 20 years ago, while I was rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon with a friend of mine. We were in an inflatable kayak that we had rented, going over some of the more dangerous parts of that river. I remember a large wave coming side ways and capsizing the kayak. I felt like I was being sucked down a drain from what turned out to be an eddy or undercurrent, but the force was so powerful I could not fight it. I was pulling and clawing at the water in a vain attempt to resurface, but to no avail. I did this until at one point I remember just giving up. I stopped fighting it, just went limp and it was then that I saw my life flash before me. Time seemed to stand still, but all the events of my life played through my head like a movie on fast forward. Then I felt a surreal calm overtake me like nothing I had ever known. It was so peaceful and warm I could have stayed like that, but at that moment I was shot out of the water as the undercurrent spit me up. I surfaced and managed to grab hold of a rock and I heard my friend calling my name. I haven't experienced anything like this either before or since then, but will never forget it.
A friend of mine, who lost her husband to cancer and was left to raise their young daughter, tells me the story of his last moments that is very moving. She had her daughter with her and was visiting her husband in the hospital. Her daughter had gone down the hall to get a drink and suddenly ran back into the room, inexplicably, when her husband (who had not been able to move a muscle for many weeks) sat up in bed and lifted both arms up toward the ceiling, while looking up and smiled. Then he lay back down and breathed his last.
I have to mention the last moments of my dear uncle, who passed away about three weeks ago. He was a brilliant man, a retired engineer who loved science and would not believe anything that he could not use science to explain. Attempts to bring up conversations of the Bible or his need for God where met with scoffing and cynicism, although he was otherwise very loving and compassionate. I am told that in his final days, one of my cousins prayed with him and that he was receptive. The best part of this is that in the end his final word was "heaven".
Some final questions or food for thought: Does this prove the existance of an afterlife? Perhaps not, but for the skeptics I would ask this: What if there exists a creator that loves us so much that he desires a relationship with us one on one? What if by not reaching out to Him we are missing out on something greater than we can possibly comprehend in this life? Let me ask you this, would you live your life any different if you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is life after death? Just some things to think about, but I hope that you will be intrigued enough to research this further on your own.
Here are some links if you would like to read more: