What happens when you die? This is a question many of us often consider. Hollywood has given us a cliché ideal of your life flashing before your eyes all of the important events throughout your lifetime and then walking towards a bright light while your angel wings appear. This however, is an unrealistic depiction according to many others’ near-death experiences. Individuals who have near-death experiences are often able to recall what occurred and share their experience. I was completely unaware of the enormous amount of near-death experiences (NDE’s) that have occurred. NDE’s range from small children to the elderly. Many people even record having experienced a NDE more than once in their lifetime. There are archives with thousands of people that have experienced NDE’s; http://www.nderf.org/ being one of the largest. There is no way to tell exactly how far back these experiences began because people have been experiencing events like this for as long as we have been able to be record them. A near-death experience is commonly known as something that takes place when an individual is on the brink of death and recounted by the individual after recovery. Individuals commonly refer to this as an “out of body” experience. According to Greyson, there are 16 elements to the scale of NDE’s (see figure 1).
Figure 1: Elements in Greyson’s NDE-scale
1. Time speeds up or slows down.
2. Thought-processes speed up.
3. A return of scenes from the past.
4. A sudden insight, or understanding.
5. A feeling of peace or pleasantness.
6. A feeling of happiness, or joy.
7. A sense of harmony or unity with the universe.
8. Confrontation with a brilliant light.
9. The senses feel more vivid.
10. An awareness of things going on elsewhere, as if by extrasensory perception (ESP).
11. Experiencing scenes from the future.
12. A feeling of being separated from the body.
13. Experiencing a different, unearthly world.
14. Encountering a mystical being or presence, or hearing an unidentifiable voice.
15. Seeing deceased or religious spirits.
16. Coming to a border, or point of no return.
TOP 3 OUT OF BODY EXPERIENCES
Through my research, I was able to come across an enormous amount of near-death experiences. The following are the top three accounts that were most astonishing.
1. Ben Breedlove
2. Howard Storm
Once a self-described “double atheist” and “know-it all college professor,” Howard Storm was leading a three-week European art tour with his students when he retired to his hotel room in France on the last day of the trip. Without warning, he suddenly screamed and dropped to the floor, prompting his wife to call for help. At the hospital, the news was grim: Howard had a perforated stomach that required surgery, and if he didn’t get it soon, he would die.
The wait for a doctor to arrive at the hospital was lengthy—so much so, that Howard turned to his wife at one point and said his final farewell to her, insisting that he was moments from death. That’s when he recalled finding himself standing next to his own body (which was still on the hospital bed) and feeling more alive than ever, with no more stomach pain. Soon after, he heard unfamiliar voices calling to him.
“Come with us,” they said. “Hurry up, let’s go. We’ve been waiting for you.”
After calling out to his wife and getting no response, he began to follow the voices, which led him out of the room and down a long, dark hallway. He followed them for so long, and became so increasingly terrified, that he told the voices he wasn’t going any further. Then they attacked him.
“We had a big fight and the fight turned into them annihilating me, which they did slowly and with much relish,” he says. “Mostly they were biting and tearing at me. This went on for a long time. They did other things to humiliate and violate me which I don’t talk about.”
Collapsed on the ground, Howard began reciting The Lord’s Prayer, after hearing a soft voice tell him to “Pray to God.” After saying a few other other prayers, he said that Jesus personally saved him from the demons, and sent him back to Earth, telling him to live his life differently. Storm’s book, My Descent Into Death, was published in 2000.
3. Colton Burpo
Colton Burpo wasn’t quite four years old when his appendix burst, landing him in a hospital for emergency surgery. And when he awoke two hours later, he had an amazing story to tell. He said he had been to heaven, where he met Jesus, John The Baptist, God, and even family members who had passed away previously—including a baby sister that his mother had lost due to a miscarriage. Neither of his parents had ever mentioned the miscarriage to him.
He also met an old man he called “Pop,” whom he had seen as a young man. Later, he was able to identify Pop in a family photograph as the man he had seen in heaven. It was his paternal grandfather. And while the surgery was taking place, Colton told his father that he had seen him in another room, where he had gone to pray.
His father, Todd Burpo, said, “We knew he wasn’t making it up, because he was able to tell us what we were doing in another part of the hospital. Not even Sonja had seen me in that little room, having my meltdown with God.”
Todd wrote a book called Heaven Is For Real that recounts the entire story of his son’s incredible experience in detail. Colton Burpo now travels the country with his parents, sharing his story with others.
Why are near-death experiences significant? Near-death experiences give us insight into the age old question of what is going to happen to us when we die. Some the NDI’s individuals have experienced have been life changing them, helping them to realize that they need to change their ways. The problem? This is extremely difficult to prove. It would be unethical as well as extremely difficult to study individuals that experience NDE’s. Scientists have had a hard time believing that NDI’s are something factual because of the lack of study and ability to study the area. They also try to explain the experience through a chemical reaction in the brain when near death. They claim that because when an individual dies they release chemicals and this is what explains the images individuals see and moments the individual experiences when they come close to death. Unfortunately, as of now, there is no way for us to know if there is truly life after death, what happens to us, and if these near-death experiences are real. Unless we are able to experience it for our self, we have to go off of other’s stories. Much like faith, there is much unknown and it is a personal preference of what you choose to believe and not believe.
I was astonished to find that it is believed that you may be able to experience a NDE without coming close to death. This Twitter account, Near-Death News, shows the following tweet:
— Near-Death News (@neardeath) November 17, 2013
This tweet provides a link to an article that provides insight to having a deeper appreciation for life. Although this is meant to help have a NDE without actually coming close to dying, the tips are things such as retreat, grace, and mindful meditation.