Nearly three years ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called idiopathic anaphylaxis.
Which is a fancy way of saying that I go into anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock without being seriously allergic to anything. It's sort of a glitch in my immune system.
This condition has caused me to be critically ill on numerous occasions. During three episodes of anaphylactic shock in 2014, I felt my spirit leave my body and subsequently had three near-death experiences, each a continuation of the one before. Thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you. My story begins as I lie in a coma, on a ventilator, in the intensive care unit.
I feel oddly light, and find myself in the backseat of a vehicle. My longtime friend is driving. I notice it's pouring rain, she's wearing mismatched clothes, and is pulled over beneath a canopy at a gas station. She's looking at her phone and I peer over her shoulder to see what she is writing. I see her type, "Hang on kiddo, I'm coming," and post it to Facebook. I'm then sucked back into darkness.
My mind begins to wake, pushing me up from what feels like deep sleep, into full consciousness. Opening my eyes, I see total blackness, and perceive that what lies before, behind, above and beneath me is a deep and endless void, through which I am unable to navigate. A crushing sensation pushes around and against me, though when I move my arms, there's nothing physical touching me. Where is this terrible pressure coming from? I wonder. The oppressive environment wrings my existence like a wet rag, making each breath a tremendous effort. Every muscle drags air into my lungs, then squeezes it back out. I feel as though a very negative, heavy spiritual energy is all around me.
I'm alone in this place, as though no one else has ever existed, and I wonder if I've been in this soul-oppressing purgatory all along. Maybe I'd dreamed it all, my life and family...the world? Could that have been a place and time I'd created in my mind to provide some relief from this darkness? It was too terrible to consider. Exhausted, I feel the deep sleep encroaching, and beg her to swallow me into her gut and keep me there, that I would never know this awful place again. She hears my pleas and quiets my conscious mind into the blackness, mercifully rendering me completely unaware.
The reprieve from the void seems short as I awaken again to this dreaded place; aching for even a sliver of light, anything to help me figure out where I am. It's not hell, of that I'm certain, but knowing that doesn't diminish my hopelessness. How long have I tarried in this unending abyss? Every moment here is a second and an eternity all at once. If the life I remember was real, and I'm ever able to return, I'll live differently. I'll embrace my days with passion and joy; not just let them slip by, as though each one wasn't a gift.
Each time I emerge from the sleeping quicksand, I ask the same questions. Where am I, and why am I here? Where has everyone gone? I puzzle, searching my mind, trying to make sense of my state. Maybe I should try to move...but how, and where? I struggle to make some forward motion, each vacillation a tremendous effort, as though I'm trying to move through thickening concrete. It feels like invisible forces are holding me in place. The work is so draining and so taxing that the deep sleep, in her compassion, takes me in her arms and gives me rest.
Finally, after what seems an eternity, something changes. I've moved through the void, and now find myself on one side of what seems like a barrier. Sensing that I'm floating, I near the divider and peer through. There, in a hospital bed, lies my physical body. How can I be there and here at the same time? The wall doesn't yield to me, but as I approach it, the scene on the other side becomes clearer. My body is hooked to wires and tubes.
Ah, I must be sick! The realization gives me hope...It wasn't a fantasy. I hadn't been dreaming it all! Squinting my eyes, I see my daughter standing beside my bed. To the right, a ventilator pumps and churns behind her. What's wrong with me? Why am I in ICU?
My adult child stands at her post in front of the life-sustaining machine, and a longing so deep and profound fills me. I need to touch her, to take her in my arms and make all of this go away. I feel and hear her thoughts and know that, despite her outward show of strength, she is frightened and worried. Instinctively, my hands reach for her, but are stopped by the cruel wall. I pound it with my fists, but it defies me, refusing to yield. What's going on? Why am I stuck in this place, outside my physical body, and why can't I get back into it? Then it occurs to me. I know what to do! My mind whirls with hope for the first time. I must try to wake my body! It was so simple; why hadn't I thought of it sooner?
Focusing all my energy on the me in the bed, I try to wake her, to will her eyes open... nothing, she lays there motionless, ignoring my efforts. Come on! Why isn't this working? Perhaps I need to start smaller, get her to move her finger. I focus my energy on her hand...Come on Penny, just a little twitch, you can do it! Damn! Still nothing. Why is this so difficult? Trying over and over yields no result; each desperate attempt lands flat against the stubborn wall.
All at once, my spirit is sucked backward with great force, as though all the winds of earth are pulling me away from the hospital room, away from my earthly body that lies like a stone only inches from my daughter. Thrashing and fighting to stay in the room proves useless; my struggle against the invisible vacuum is wasted effort. I'm sucked back...back...back into the heartless, dispassionate void.
Time passes unmarked. How long have I been here? A day? A week? The void shows no mercy as it holds me in its grip. I shut my eyes tightly, open them, and find myself again near the membrane between the void and the hospital room. The relief of being close to the physical world is profound. This time it's different though. The wall is pulsing, as if it's breathing. Moving closer, I pop through the airy wall and float over my physical body. She is motionless, attached to monitors and the ventilator, her body showing no more life than the blankets that cover it.
After only a few seconds, the scene in the hospital grows dim, and I'm forcefully sucked back into the darkness. The void feels heavier; the pressure on my chest makes it difficult to get air into my lungs. I remember I don't need to breathe; the ventilator is doing that. Still, something is pushing me to inhale and exhale, to reconnect my spirit with the me that lies in the hospital. The effort is exhausting, like trying to swim with cement blocks tied to my limbs. Pressing forward, I struggle to find the membrane. Why can't I go back to the life I remember? Watching my physical body from my helpless station in the upper corner isn't enough. I want to either wake up in my body, or stay in the deep sleep, never to know the void again. How long must this cycle continue?
Lamenting my situation, and aching for another chance at life, it dawns on me that the void is a place of my own making. A representation of my apathy; a symbol of the wall I'd spent a lifetime building. Its bricks were ones I'd stacked to keep people out and my feelings in. A barrier of my own construction, built brick-upon-brick with each hurt I'd suffered. My efforts to protect myself had made me less...less real, less vulnerable, less joyful, as impenetrable as the coma I lay in. My physical self in the ICU had no idea how close she was to losing it all.
When I finally realized, the void was a prison of my own design, it split open with a thunderous BOOM! A bright light shone before me. The darkness was still there, but now it was behind and beneath me, being pushed back and down by the brilliant light. I was being pulled, drawn, as if by a powerful magnet, into the arms of a glorious spirit. Am I finally being rescued from this terrible place? Oh, let it be so!
The spirit, bold and adorned in light, held me tightly to her breast. I feel her energy swirling around me, like a great funnel cloud, holding me effortlessly in the middle. Pulling me in closer with one arm, she thrusts out her other arm, her fist whooshes past me toward the darkness, and lands a blow on the soulless place. The void explodes and the fragments fly around us, trying to enter her whirlwind of energy but unable to penetrate it. Her light shines brighter as the shards collide with it, the radiant glow repelling them, sending them to a place I'm glad I know nothing of. The sickening pressure that I'd felt trickles off me like dew from a blade of grass; each droplet makes me lighter as it's consumed by the glorious rescuing spirit.
Looking up, I see the face of my champion; her features, soft and feminine, her eyes a brilliant green, returning my gaze and knowing me completely. Our spirits unite, like two rivers meeting and converging to the sea.
She's familiar to me, but when I try to recall how I know her, it falls away like a dream that hides in the curves of your brain, playfully evading discovery. I press further, consumed with a deep need to remember how this spirit is known to me. My eyes draw upward, to her hair...her brilliant red hair, like nothing I've seen before. To call it red is to describe it with a pitifully inept word, akin to calling the sun a flicker of light.
Her hair is like fire on her head. It has an energy that defines her, powerful and bold and...in an instant, I remember her. My maternal grandmother! Tears spring to my eyes, and my heart leaps in my chest. She was an amazing woman in life and clearly, that same spirit followed her to the place where she found me. Laughing and crying, my tears came in torrents, purging me of the grief of her loss that I wasn't aware I still harbored. She hadn't died! No, she's more alive here than she was in her body. The realization took my breath.
Her gaze, soft and sweet, relaxed me completely and I melted into her arms. For the first time in a long time, I felt safe. Ahh, safe! When had I last felt untouchable by harm? What a balm to my soul. Resting in her embrace, I allow my resonance to merge with hers, our energies entwining and encircling us; yet somehow, each spirit still identifiable as its own. How is it possible to feel such unity and still feel the uniqueness of all that's me? Her energy doesn't consume or diminish mine. In fact, as our forces dance around us, I can feel my energy, my wholeness, growing into something so powerful and profound that it escapes earthly definition.
Finally, she speaks to me, but not as we speak here, on the earthly plain. There's no sound, yet it is audible, there are words, but they don't move from her lips to my ears...she speaks them with her spirit, directly into mine. "Calm yourself, Dear One." My spirit embraces her instruction.
The energy in her words is digested, each syllable carrying the intended effect. I feel calm and fluid. The words "dear one" are broken down to their smallest components, yet not fractured or destroyed. They retain their full meaning in each tiny piece and course through me like blood through my veins. I feel the words, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In that moment, I know her and feel her words loving me, showing me that I truly am dear to her. It infuses me and makes me...more. Finally, I can see who I really am, and it's clear that I'm much more than I ever believed I could be.
I understand in a deep way that is new to me. On a cellular level, I feel and know what it means to be dear to someone. Understanding this in such completeness overwhelms me and I weep in her arms. I weep for pain and sorrow and joy. I weep for all the suffering I'd known in life and all the suffering I'd seen and felt unable to change. I weep for the wall I'd built, the isolation I'd willfully imposed on myself, when I was in my body. I weep for those in the earthly realm, those who are without hope and believe that there's nothing but what they call the here and now. My heart dissolves in despair. What if they'd been right, and the void had been my eternal existence? Lying forever in a state of... nothingness? I cry out, trembling at the thought of being consumed by the deep sleep that I'd once considered a reprieve. "Shhh, Dear One, all is well." Her words pull me back from the awful memory of the deserted place that had, until recently, been my holding cell.
A question comes to mind as I rest in her arms, and I move to ask her, to speak the words, but as soon as the thought forms, the answer appears, from her consciousness to mine. "You are not dead, there is no death, except that the body becomes useless and is cast away. You are either alive in the body...in the earthly realm, or super-alive here...or a mixture of the two as you are now; part of you there, and part of you here on the side of the spirits. Your body lies near death in the hospital, and your spirit has left it, but not completely. A sort of...cord, binds you to it still. If it did not, you would be fully here."
Another question springs to mind, and as before, it is answered without my having to speak. "Your consciousness exists outside your body. It's not contained or housed in the brain. It's eternal and cannot be held inside anything. It exists whether your physical body does or not. You can access it with your brain, but it isn't kept there like some sort of component. Consciousness endures despite the body. You've heard it said, Dear one, that energy isn't created or destroyed, it simply changes forms. It's true on the earth plane and it's true here. It is law."
My consciousness is eternal? Not dictated by whether my body is alive or dead? I'd never imagined such a thing. I thought that when I died, I would still have some sort of physical structure that defined me. It's difficult to comprehend that my body isn't me. The information courses through me, billowing into fullness, and I realize that this...the way I am here...this is more real, more true, more accurately me, than the person being kept alive, in a hospital, on the other side.
Finally, I understand who I'm meant to be. I ponder the complexity and simplicity of it so deeply that I don't realize my grandmother has gone, leaving me floating alone in the bright white light.
An all-powerful energy shook me from my thoughts, and my internal dialogue stopped. It was strikingly foreign to have my mental voice stilled, and all musings sent away. My brain quit thinking and ceased its usual busywork. In that moment, I knew who I was with. Two words formed in my mind...
I was with the Spirit of God, and I knew Him. I knew Him in a sense that was physical, spiritual, and mental. He held no form; there was no embodiment, for what could hold Him? What could contain the eternal?
The white light of His penetrating energy was unstoppable. It couldn't be dimmed. It touched me and went deeper still, beneath my physical self, of whom only a perception remained. His vast, white presence, soaked into every part of me, diving deep into my core and stealing my breath, of which I had no need, because I was filled with His light. I lay myself bare to this energy, letting it fill every empty place inside me. It took up all those spaces without diminishing me in any way, for the white energy of God does not take from us, it only gives...filling us to overflowing.
His radiant light moved with powerful intent toward all parts of me, surrounding and infusing every cell, filling my body with intense warmth and vibration that was an indescribable joy to my ears, my skin, and my spirit. I remained intact, retaining what was of benefit to me; while that which wasn't of benefit seemed to never have been. I was unable to recall the pain, hurt and shame that were once my close companions, and I had no desire to try to bring them forth to my memory.
I saw my life before me, as though watching a movie. I saw people I'd loved, and people my love had affected, without my knowing it. The ripple effects of the good I'd done in my life played out on the screen and filled me with joy. Seeing all the deeds done by others, because of love I'd shown them, made me weep with joy. I had no idea such small acts resulted in such profound expressions and manifestations of love. God allowed me to linger and watch the scenes over and over again.
My focus was pulled back to the bright white light. It permeated me to my tiniest cell, wrapping me and filling me. I relaxed my head back, not wanting to feel burdened by the weight of it, and at that moment, the white light moved into my neck, with such warmth, that it caused me to curl myself inward to experience it even more.
From my neck, it moved up through my jaw and into my mouth, lighting my tongue with the most pleasing of melodies. I wanted to keep my eyes closed, to try and contain the light so it couldn't escape, but that was in folly. My eyelids couldn't contain the power of the Creator. It shined straight through them to the outside, reflecting off the light that surrounded me and raced back in.
The white energy warmed my face and poured into my head, buzzing around my brain, lighting it with tingling sensations and creating a sense of floating and weightlessness. Then, the light proceeded to enter each curve of my brain, flowing through as though traveling an expansive winding river, sparking to life previously unused parts of my intellect and creating within me a knowing which made all things clear.
Situations that I'd found torment over, in the earthly realm, were brought to my memory. The dread and sadness that held me captive to the pain of those transgressions was vanquished. Each truth became peaceful and clear in my mind. No words were spoken, no explanations given, to erase the hurts and disappointments, just this deep internal understanding that the reality of those matters had not been what I believed it to be.
I'd tried for so long to fit those trials into some sort of framework, to help me understand them. I didn't know that the truth wouldn't come through my beliefs or ideas, but through the powerful energy of God that filled me on this side, the side of the spirits. The weight of each of those pains left me, replaced by His peace, like a tender hug from father to child, assuring all is well.
I surrendered myself completely to God. He held my entire existence. His light flooded out of me, exuding from my bones, pouring out from each strand of hair, even my eyelashes were aglow and tingling with His light and love.
God was drawing me back to His core, where I had belonged all along. I allowed myself to move closer and closer to His center. Then suddenly, it was no longer external, it was internal! The bright light's source dwelling at the deepest part of my being. God's spirit living inside me, residing in my heart, my spirit, my soul! For the first time, I understood that God was vast and personal, and at my invitation long ago, had taken up residence in my spirit. I felt as though I might burst with joy, and explode into light, the rays from the blast reaching the farthest expanses of the universe. I dove into the light, wanting never to return to the earthly realm.
Then suddenly I was stopped. I knew that I couldn't continue this path...not yet. I longed to stay, to make it to the spark of my existence, but it was not to be. The light grew dim and distant and I became fretful, crying out to God, "Please! Grant me at least the memory of this! I feel I will lose all hope if I cannot at least have that."
I woke in my hospital bed...the memory of my time on the other side held deeply within.
I've experienced significant changes since my NDE and now see life in a whole new way. The most important lesson learned since my experience, the message I need to share with the world, is that we are all connected. Life, at least in western culture, teaches us to be independent. From the moment we draw our first breath, we are cast into a society of separatism. We buld fences and walls, both literally and figuratively, to keep others out. As we grow into adulthood, those separations become battlefields, further dividing us...even from the God who created us.
This independence is confusing and contrary to what our spirits need and desire. It engages us in a lifelong struggle with our very essence, and becomes the source of all conflict. If we, as children of God, are ever to make a real difference, we must first come to the understanding that we are linked to each other by our Creator. I am connected in spirit with the criminal, the beggar, the infirm. It is by recognizing this truth that I realize I too could have gone the way of the thief, the impoverished or the afflicted.
I came back from my NDE with a truer understanding of the strength and power endowed in each by our Creator. We need not sit idly by, staring up at the sky, waiting for God to fix the problems here on earth. He is right here with us! Equipping us with His love, so we can work together and get the job of caring for each other done.
This knowledge has given me a sense of peace. Worry no longer makes sense, as I know that all things work together for good, if we choose the love of God. I'm slower to anger and not as easily hurt. Why should I be angry or hurt? When someone wrongs me, I feel compassion; understanding that I once lived a life consumed with self, and in that, hurt others. I walk taller and my smile is finally genuine, not just a mask I wear. I strive to remember God's love when I speak, and gauge my words, so that they don't bring pain to others.
Thank you, God, for my time in the void and in the light. I feel "real" now. I'm sprinting toward love, and rejecting fear. The walls have come crumbling down, and I stand upon the rubble...ready to fulfill God's great and glorious purpose in my life.