The "big event" happened one night while we were visiting the Oregon Coast. We had not planned to spend the night, but did at the last minute. The only available motel was an older place with horrible soft, old mattresses. From what I can figure out--halfway through the night, while kind of curled up against the wall, I slipped off the mattress, and got wedged between the wall and the mattress. I then had an apnea attack with inability to move or breath, which sent me into some state of cardiac failure. This is all conjecture, and only supported by the mild abnormality in my EKG over the past years since. Whether I "coded" or not, is really not at the heart of the issue or my experience. There are tons of debates regarding "What really happens when you die?" by both medical and theological theorists worldwide. I can only relate what I experienced.
I admit that even as I write, it sounds like science fiction, but I can assure you that it happened and I believe it to be real in every sense.
Without trying to be overly dramatic, the next events were what I have found to be in subsequent studies, a classic "near-death experience." I did not see myself in bed (many report floating over their bodies), as the room was too dark, but I was blasted through an amazing tunnel (plasma? lights? not sure) of brightness that brought me ever closer to an unbelievable bright light. In what seemed like minutes (regular time does not seem to apply), I arrived in a place that was so overwhelmingly bright and swimming with fluid colors of the entire spectrum, that I did not at first realize I was without my physical body. While I could see (or at least had a sense of vision) I could not see my hands. It was about this time that my experience was significantly different than others I have read.
I realized what was happening, and I was not happy about it. Almost immediately, I started screaming, in a voice that I could hear in my head but could not physically perceive. I thought, "No f***ing way! No! I am not finished yet! I still have young children. I have not seen my life through yet! No, damn It!" I continued with a stream of "verbal" abuse of anyone that was listening in very profane language, until I heard another voice say, "Okay. Relax. It’s not your time."
I knew at that moment, two very clear truths to be real. First, I was not going to die yet (or stay dead if I was). Second, there was a God and an afterlife beyond our life on earth. Then things got strange, interesting and terrifying.
Unlike other NDE experiences I have read about, I did not see anyone or feel the presence of Jesus, or Buddha, or Allah. Nor did I see a physical presence of any of my relatives that had passed before me-- although I had a feeling that they were there with me.
What I did see was a much brighter place, perhaps 30 to 50 feet away, (I had no real clear understanding of depth ratio.) that seemed almost to pull at my heart (if I had a heart) to come closer. I was awash with a complete feeling of peace, calm and contentment whenever I looked in the direction of this "portal." And yet I knew, that moving into the portal would certainly mean that I would not be able to return to my life on earth.
Without speaking, and yet speaking and understanding what was spoken to me, a conversation ensued that changed my life.
"You are troubled…" the voice said. “Your need to know the truth about your life, is holding you back from living your life to the fullest.” I agreed without speaking.
"You must understand the gift to be able to enjoy and treasure the gift that you have been given," the voice said. At this time, while the voice was neither clearly male or female (I realize that does not make a lot of sense); I knew that the communication was coming from all that is…all that was…all that ever shall be. The voice was that of what I understood to be God. And yet even then while thinking this, it was evident that the entity knew what I was thinking, and chastised me for doubting, or trying to figure out its very existence.
"In order to understand that which you feel you must understand to be happy, you must first know what you need to change in your life on earth," the voice said.
In an instant, I was seeing my life in review-- first all of the wonderful feelings that had brought joy into my life. I saw all of the incredible events of my life when love, the most powerful positive force in existence, was most present in my life. Childhood memories, my first real loves, the births of my children, the first time I knew I loved my wife more than I loved myself. I saw anything and everything associated with love in my life, flying past my eyes and filling my heart with a joy that felt almost overwhelming in its scope.
But, then came the "other side" of my life. To my surprise, I was not subjected to all of the lying and deceit that I would expect to see from my youth or all of the sexual trysts and dalliances from my college days. What was presented to me was explained to be "the times that I had hurt others to such a degree, as to make them doubt their self-worth, or their ability to love and be loved." Girls I had slammed and disrespected in my college days, people who had admired me, only to be disrespected or even worse, ignored when they reached out a hand in friendship. People that I could barely remember or hardly knew, who had been harmed by my "cutting sarcasm and smart-ass wit." Worst of all were the unkind comments and actions I had made to people I did care about and love. Callous remarks or actions that at the time seemed inconsequential. My heart ached with each new revelation. Knowing that my actions, seeming trite and inconsequential at the time, had affected the outcome of so many lives.
It was immediately evident to me that the healing power of unconditional love and respect could be so easily subverted with even a single act of deceit or abuse of trust. Like virginity, once you have crossed a line, it is never yours to take back. The changes are permanent--all you can do is ask for forgiveness and move on. It is that act of contrition--forgiveness that heals the soul. I knew this, because I was not presented with the acts that I had expected to see. I had not been presented with the memories of the acts that I knew were so bad. They required me to seek forgiveness from a higher power, even in my least repentant days of youth.
The acts that were thrown into my face were those that seemed inconsequential and trivial. The thoughtless acts of impulse, dismissed by my cocky, self-assured attitude, that were "not that big a deal… they'll get over it…"
But even with this primary evidence in front of me, the only question that remained clearly in my head was "Why? What does it all mean? What is all of this about?"
And that my friends, is where I made a mistake that almost ruined my life. Upon "hearing" the question, "Must you really know the answers to be able to enjoy your life on earth?" I replied, "Yes!"
In the next instant, I was blasted with a force of "knowledge" so powerful and so completely overwhelming, that the biblical phrase "God Smote him" became completely relevant. In a blast of light and cognition, I was suddenly faced with "All of The Answers.” The answers to life, the answers to death, the answers to science and theology, and all of the amazing intricacies of the interaction between what is, what was, and what always shall be. I was filled with an overwhelming wonder that was overridden by a sense of terror and inability to comprehend even the slightest nuance of this creation. And, I was filled with a feeling of such unbelievable inadequacy, as to reduce anything I thought, or felt or believed before this time, into a single point of nothingness.
In the next instant, I felt the air scream from my lungs and I awoke terrified in the darkness, doubting anything had happened. Yet suddenly full of more innate knowledge than I could ever truly conceive all pounded in my brain--each fragment of knowledge with a life of its own seeking to rectify itself with the larger questions of scientific existence and theology.
My wife awoke, asking what was wrong. Terrified to speak of what I had just experienced, and more afraid of the reality that I had just died (I never doubted it from the second that I breathed life again.), I chose immediately not to concern her, as long as my heart seemed to beat and I felt no physical affects (heart attack symptoms). I realize to this day, that this was not only dangerous, but created a breach of faith in our love for one another. I just felt it the right thing to do at the time. Looking back--I wish I would have woken her, told her what had happened, and tried to help her understand. As it is, even today, she seems to resent the fact that I kept the experience a secret for a few months while I tried to work through what had happened to me.
In the instant that I returned from my "little trip to the other side" as I affectionately call it, I knew several things to be true. First, it was real; it happened. I knew this, because of the onslaught of information that was coursing through my mind. Facts about things I had never studied, or even had a remote interest such as physics, quantum mechanics, the balance between positive and negative energy, and the correlation between digital information "good and bad" in the world. Additionally, the societal conflicts between innate knowledge of what is right and mankind's equally innate need to quantify his life with organizational structure of what cannot be quantified…all in a blast of semi-cognition.
Second, my life would not be "complete" until I made sense of it all. Third, the very fact that the questions existed was a complete verification of both my experience, and the very existence of something beyond this life. And then I blew it.
Consumed with the need to fit all of the pieces together, I started a quest that would last almost two years. I read everything I could get my hands on from Paul Davies, and his theories of time and space, to C.S. Lewis, and his wonderful books that combine theology and the basics of relativity into a concept that is both science and God's word.
The more I read and studied, the more I realized that mankind is only on the very edge of understanding creation. More important, not only was every theory, every religion, every concept ever devised to comprehend the BIG QUESTION entirely WRONG, but that the same theories, concepts and religions were entirely RIGHT--just a small piece of the ultimate answer.
For almost two years, I was rendered almost completely without any other purpose. While I understood that being a husband and a father was important, my quest to understand "Why?" actually kept me from fulfilling my roles. Instead, I tried to connect the dots. All of the dots. I was convinced that if I just connected the dots, it would all make sense and I could enjoy and treasure my life. If only… if only…if only…
However, try to imagine connecting every grain of sand in the ocean, or every visible star in the universe. This is what my quest for the "ultimate knowledge" entailed. The bits of information that I was able to connect made perfect sense, and the "big picture" clear.
Things like: "God" (for lack of a better term) is actually an entity of energy without beginning or end made up of every bit of energy in the known universe and every dimension yet unknown. Who we are is not the body that manifests in this reality on earth, but the life force of energy that is one with all energy that is "God." All religions are man-made, in an effort to try and understand what cannot be understood. So we as humans feel that we are in some way in control of our destinies on earth. That we have the ability to decide between what is right and what is wrong, and act accordingly. Prayer is real, not because you ask for "God" to change things but because in a state of meditative prayer, especially with the power of others directing their energy on the same thought, you tap into the ultimate power of all that is, to change the physical manifestation of things (people, outcomes, events) here on earth.
Everything on earth is created from the same sub-atomic particles, all with a connection to the same energy that is the cognitive knowledge of all that is, and that these particles can change with the determination of the energy that makes up everything. Everything exists, in a continual balance between the light and the dark, good and evil, positive and negative, on and off…even being reduced to a kind of "digital code," of zeros and ones, in constant flux and balance. The matter that we DON'T see is as important to this delicate illusion as the matter that we can see.
On, and on, and on, and on… until I thought I would go mad, trying to understand the "gift" I had been given. It was killing me from within…muddying up the clear, cool waters of life, in such a way as to render everything I did as being inconsequential and without meaning. Then, I was saved by a child.
One bright and sunny Saturday morning, while sitting and reading a book about the correlation between time, space and religion, my daughters (11, 9 and 7 at the time) asked me if I would take them to the park. I snapped at them, telling them that I was busy and had things to do. Before I could think about it, they replied, "It is okay we still love you! We'll wait for you!"
I'm sure it was meant half in jest and half in taunt…their way of letting me know that the matter was not closed and ultimately, they would wait me out until I relented. However, as I looked at their smiling little faces, filled with genuine love and understanding for the gruff, impatient man before them, my heart melted. In that moment, their simple display of love for me stripped away any feelings of confusion or doubt about my role in this world.
In that moment, my heart was so filled with emotion and love, every cosmic lock turned, and I finally understood the REAL answer to life. The answers to everything were right there in front of me, embodied in the faith, love and hope of a child. In that instant, I recalled the wonder of their births--each life the moment before, living in a liquid environment like all early life forms in the sea--then finally entering our world and gasping for their first breath of our life here on earth. How their lives were conceived by the life force of their mother and I, coming together in creation's most wonderful gift, the act of procreation (sex, the big "O", whatever you choose to call it). How every part of who they are, is made up of the parts of millions before them, to be the single unique creature that shares their gift with you, to make your gift of life all the more valid and fulfilling.
With the force of a moment that stops time like birth, death and the overwhelming realization of true love for another being, I realized the folly of my quest for "the answers." I realized that the answer to everything good, everything that really mattered--truth, happiness, love, honesty--were all in the simple phrase, "with the faith of a child." For the next 13 years, I simply put "the quest" in a box while we raised our children, built a business, and "got on with life."
But reports in science, bits and pieces of new discoveries in quantum mechanics, dark matter, "the field" as McTaggart calls it, and other revelations began to percolate with innate knowledge of what was correct, and what was not.
In the past year and half, several close friends and relatives battled and lost their lives to cancer, or accidents, and because of my experience I found myself wanting to give comfort to the grieving. It was as if "the box" was waiting for me in some strange way. And since December of 2010, I have found myself spinning back into feelings, emotions, and knowledge that course through every particle in my being.
With the movie “I am” as a catalyst to begin talking about it openly, followed closely by reading McTaggart’s books, and watching several episodes of “Through the Wormhole” dealing with Life After Death, Creation, Time and Space, and The Creator, I not only can’t put the “box back on the shelf” but seem to have permanently “lost the lid.”
I am compelled to begin what could only be described as a Sisyphean quest to try and bring religion and science together in some sort of common language that allows both sides to come together. My talents as a broadcaster, communicator, and consultant will hopefully lend themselves to distilling some of these complex issues down to more palatable and understandable basics. At least I am compelled to try.
So…for me, the NDE experience lives on.