I had two NDEs, one at age 7 and the other at age 14.
I remember more from the second one, as I was able to write down details and had more of an ability to analyze my experiences.
My first occurred in 1978. At the time, an unknown virus had struck a bunch of young children in my community (Pittsfield, MA). The symptoms included severe dehydration, nausea and vomiting, lethargy, inability to eat or drink, and others. My brother had a milder case of it, but I got one of the worst ones. There were dozens of children who had to be hospitalized for varying lengths of time, from 2 or 3 days to weeks. My brother had been able to go home after 4 days. The ones who were the worst off ended up in isolation tents, unable to be touched by or directly contact anyone from outside. Of those, seven were so severely dehydrated that they went into comas. I was one of the seven. During my coma, my breathing and heart stopped for close to five minutes. CPR was performed on me by hospital personnel, and they were able to bring me back. All of this, I later found out from my parents and grandmother, who had been there while all of this was going on.
My second NDE was at age 14, while away at camp in a small town in northeastern Massachusetts. My church had arranged this trip, and had the bunch of us staying in a giant old cabin, which had a walk-in attic with plenty of sleeping space.
For the 7 years prior to this, I had been bullied every day of school. I would continue to be bullied for an additional nearly 3 years, until my family moved from MA to NC in 1987. I sustained 15 head injuries, among many other injuries, during that span, all due to the bullying (12 concussions, 3 skull fractures).
At the camp one afternoon, a fellow camper started bullying me in this attic space, which had a slanted roof on both sides with horizontal wooden 12x12 beams for support. He shoved me backwards very hard into one of the slanted areas, in such a way that the back of my head--which had already sustained several injuries before this--struck one of the beams directly. From the hospital description, which I found out later, the blow had directly impacted my brain stem, which controls most basic functions, including breathing and heart rate. In a daze, I stumbled downstairs. Another kid tried to pick on me, but stopped when I collapsed on the floor. Camp counselors were immediately called, and one of them--thankfully--knew CPR. My breathing and heartbeat had stopped again.
He performed CPR for nearly 4 minutes, until the ambulance arrived, at which point the paramedics took over. They managed to revive me in the ambulance, but I was still unconscious. I arrived at the hospital that way, with my heart beating but irregularly, and my breathing shallow. The ER doctor worked on me for nearly 20 minutes before he was able to get a response out of me.
From my first NDE, I only remember vague images and concepts and some vivid images. However, my second one, I remember entirely, and once I was in it, I remembered that what I was experiencing was something I had experienced before, and that my second NDE had a lot of the same features as the first.
First of all, I definitely was aware that I had left my body, but when I glimpsed my ethereal body, I noticed the same physical features I was used to. I later learned that it was akin to a term used in the first Matrix movie: Residual self image. I expected to see the body I was used to, and so I did, to make me more comfortable.
Second, I felt like I was lifted away, though I never experienced a bright light or tunnel, or saw any dead relatives. To that point, I had not lost any relatives in my lifetime--the first familial death I experienced was my paternal grandfather in 1989. The first death I experienced of any kind was my best friend, who was killed by a drunk driver when I was 15 and she was 14.
Third, I experienced being in a place of some sort. Not a room, because it didn't feel closed-in or limited, but definitely a sensation of a physical place. I felt, rather than saw, beings around me, which comforted me and projected peaceful thoughts into my mind. In this realm, talking without speaking seemed perfectly natural to me, as if I'd always done it but was just now remembering how.
I experienced what some have termed a "life review." It wasn't like a movie or something, where I was outside of it. It was completely interactive and immersive. I got to see good and bad things I had done. I say good and bad, despite the fact that there was absolutely NO JUDGMENT there. It was more like these beings wanted to show me the path in life that I had chosen, and based on what I wanted to be, how my actions or words had either helped me along that path or hindered me. This review was not from my perspective, but rather from the perspective of those my words or actions had affected. I experienced how I made others feel, or think about me, as if I were them.
Let me stress here that there was none of the Heaven-or-Hell experience for me. No Jesus, or angels, or choirs in clouds. No judgment, no punishment, no fear. Also, no religious overtones at all. This, I will explain later.
I felt the presence of other souls nearby, those who--like me--had recently died and found themselves in this new reality. I know we conversed, but I couldn't tell you the substance of those conversations. In this place, conversation happened spontaneously and without verbalization. And since everything happened with the speed of thought, and everything seemed to work faster, it's difficult to put every concept into words, because it's like trying to capture a cloud with your hands.
Several of us went together on a tour of sorts. We flew at speeds beyond imagining through space and the universe. We were unbound by the laws of Physics or any limitation. If we thought about something, we were there, instantly. There was no passage of time that I could sense. This journey through space was, in a word, freeing. I felt exhilaration, excitement, wonder, awe, like a kid who just got to go to all of his favorite places in the world all at once. I never wanted it to end.
Colors were so much more vivid, blending together like Van Gogh's Starry Night painting. And mixed with the colors were sounds and music. Every star we passed had a specific frequency or vibration--the brighter the star, the higher the tone, and conversely, the darker the star the lower the tone. Globular clusters and groupings of young stars were like a stellar chorus. It was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced, bar none.
I felt connection to everything, all at once. There was no sense of separation, no division between here and there, between me and other beings. My awe was their awe, and their awe was mine.
Unfortunately, the journey came to an end. I was by myself again, but felt the comfort and overwhelming love of others all around me. Love was what everything was made of, came from, and returned to. All-encompassing, unconditional love. It enveloped me like a warm blanket on a chilly day, and I just wanted to stay inside that love for the rest of eternity.
While there were many voices speaking to me throughout this experience, there was one that seemed to stand out from the rest. I want to say it was a male voice, although there wasn't sex here, any more than race or religion or any other distinguishing characteristics. But it "felt" male to me, if that makes any sense. This voice told me that I had to go back. Upon hearing that, I felt cold and alone. The other voices tried to comfort me more, while still backing up this central voice. They told me that I would remember this experience, and that just recalling it would bring it all back to me. They also stressed to me that one day, my day would come, and that it would be no more than the blink of an eye there.
I didn't want to leave, but the more I tried to stay, the "heavier" I felt, like I was under water and being dragged down by an anchor. I could sense my body, somewhere else, but it felt like an alien to me. I couldn't imagine ever going back to being so limited again.
The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the emergency room. I felt pain from my head injury, and from falling when I went unconscious, but it was weird to me. I felt the pain, but in a disconnected sort of way, like it was happening to someone else, but I was feeling it with them. I was disoriented and confused, and nothing felt real to me. I didn't respond to the doctor at first, because I felt torn between what I had just experienced and this physical realm.
I don't recall anything from after my first NDE, as far as what I did afterwards. All of the details I have are from others who were there. My memory for events below the age of 12 is spotty at best, due to the multiple head injuries and dying twice. I feel more connected to the other realm than this one.
The things I heard about from my family about the differences between me before my first NDE and after were that my IQ dropped slightly, seemingly overnight. I had been in a gifted class beforehand, and had a zest for life and exploration and a curiosity about everything around me. However afterwards, I was lethargic, had almost no interest in school, and slept a lot more.
Between the constant bullying, my grades in school that were dropping off, and knowing that I was not where I wanted to be, I fell into a deep depression that lasted for years. I thought daily about taking my own life, because my life here seemed to be all about pain and suffering, and I knew there was a better place that I was now separated from.
When I was 16, not long after my family moved to North Carolina from Massachusetts, my depression came to a head. I had spent months fantasizing about ending my life. I had considered and discarded dozens of scenarios, because they were outside of my ability to make happen, or they would put other lives in danger, or they would hurt. After years of pain, the last thing I wanted was more of it at the end.
I settled on pills. Take enough of anything, and there's a good chance you might not survive. And it would be painless. But one night, in a heated argument with my mother, I let my frustration and anger spill out of me in a flood, and I told her everything. Spat it at her, was more accurate. She had the good sense to know that I was in a very bad place, and that I needed help.
After being checked in to an inpatient ward at a local hospital, I would spend the next four months getting that help, followed by 2 1/2 more months of outpatient therapy in a controlled setting. My parents always believed that the doctor saved me, or that the therapy helped...but it didn't. But something did: Time.
Out in the world, I felt constant pressure to be something to everyone, to do well in school, to do my chores, to fit in, to participate in activities, and so on. But all of this pressure never allowed me a moment's peace to deal with the depression that was eating me from the inside out.
And so, in the hospital, I hardly ever saw the doctor. Honestly, he was the worst at his job I have ever seen, before or since. But I had time to myself, to face my demons, and to decide whether I wanted to leave this world or fight for myself. I found a strength I never knew that I had in there, and I found that my demons could only beat me if I let them.
I came out with a much more focused mind, a deeper connection to the world around me, and a deep sense of justice and morality that has only gotten stronger in the years since. I became an activist and advocate, first against drunk driving after my best friend was killed by a drunk driver, then later against bullying because of my experiences with it. During my life, I have championed many social and political issues and causes, and continue to do so today.
But I also came out with a heightened sense of curiosity, especially about the universe, our connections to each other, and about NDEs. I have read and watched dozens of accounts of those who have had NDEs, including Miracles From Heaven, Heaven Is For Real, My Stroke Of Insight, Map Of Heaven, and others.
And now, to explain what I meant by the lack of religious overtones in my NDE. For the longest time, I doubted my own experiences, because every NDE I had heard about was the same--bright light, long tunnel, dead relatives, Jesus and angels and all of the religious things everyone ever talked about. I had none of these experiences, so what was wrong with me? Had I actually had an NDE? What had happened to me?
That was when my research turned up something that changed me forever, and gave me an insight into NDEs that made complete sense to me. Plus, it just FELT right.
Several accounts I read, like Map Of Heaven and My Stroke Of Insight, had a distinct absence of the religious overtones of those like Miracles From Heaven and Heaven Is For Real. As I looked into the backgrounds of those who had these experiences, I saw a correlation. Those with a strong religious background and faith had more religious experiences. Those who had a more scientific view, or for whom religion didn't play a large role in their lives, had a more metaphysical experience.
While I had been raised going to church, my parents always made it clear that I was free to make up my own mind with regards to religion. I never felt at home in church, even while I was going every Sunday for years. Later, I would stop going altogether, after an exhaustive but vain search for someplace that felt like the home I felt during my NDE.
So my experience was definitely more metaphysical than religious, and I finally knew that I was not alone in that regard. The more research I did, the more I realized that NDEs are as varied as those who experience them. And I believe that I know why.
As I already said before, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and acceptance, and a complete lack of fear or judgment. I was made to feel completely at ease and comfortable, to make the transition between the physical world and this other realm easier for me to both handle and accept.
Well, that's the same thing that happens with all of us. But what makes one person feel comforted and accepted might feel overbearing and stifling to another. So each of us is presented with a scenario that fits our mindset, a scenario that makes sense to us, doesn't scare us, and puts our minds at ease. Some want or feel the need for judgment, so they experience that, but only in a way that guides them back to the right path.
My life is far different now, so far removed from the one I lived before these two experiences. Yes, some of it was by my choices. But I know that these experiences have shaped the person that I have become more than any choices of mine. In fact, I believe wholeheartedly that many of my choices would never have been made without the influence of them.
I am passionate about a lot of things these days--activism, photography, reading, writing, astronomy, and so on. But for a long time, one of my passions--really, an obsession--remained mostly a secret. I felt like a freak, because no one I knew had had an NDE. My experience didn't match those I had heard about for so long, and I felt isolated because I was afraid of sharing mine.
But I'm not afraid anymore. I don't fear death, so why would I fear talking about this? So I've started sharing my experiences, first with close like-minded friends, then with a wider audience on Facebook. I want others to know that they're not alone, and that there's no such thing as a wrong experience. Mostly, I want those like me to see that there's nothing to fear.
I also want to let people who haven't had one of these experiences know that much of what drives them is based on a fear of the unknown. They don't know what comes after death, and so they fear it. But the one universal trait of those I have read about or spoken to with NDE stories is that none of them fear death any longer. That's not a coincidence.
For why should we fear that which we come from and return to? Our time on this Earth, no matter how long or short, is a blink of an eye compared to the rest of it. Whether you're devoutly religious, a once-in-a-blue-moon attendee, non-religious, or atheist, you won't live forever. Eventually, everyone has to face that moment at the end, whether you're ready or not, and as someone who has seen what comes after, first-hand, I promise there is nothing about it to fear.