I began having an allergic reaction to something around noon on Good Friday. By evening my face and hands were swelling, so my parents took me to the emergency room where I was given Benadryl. I slept deeply that night. When I woke in the morning I could barely open my eyes. My whole body was swollen. I called my mother, and she and my father rushed me to our doctor's office. By the time we reached it, I was slipping in and out of consciousness. Later our doctor explained that my heart and brain were swelling along with the rest of my body.
While lying on the examination bed, I remember coming briefly to consciousness, though I wasn't able to open my eyes. I was in a significant amount of pain; it hurt to move. The next thing I recall was being above my body and looking down at it. I was completely free of all pain. In fact, I recall feeling wonderfully light and whole. I saw my parents sitting next to the examination bed holding each other. My mother was crying. I felt a deep compassion, but I knew in some way that they would be fine, even with my being gone.
The next thing I recall was being in a void or in space. It was as if I turned around and went from the physical world into some other reality. I had a vague sense of a tunnel, although that's not the right word. It was more of being pulled along a direction or path. I quickly became aware of someone, or some being, next to me. It was definitely feminine, and it seemed to embrace me with an inexplicably intense love. She seemed vaguely familiar, but full of comfort, peace and joy. We communicated in
some way that didn't require words; however, I have a sense that we had a long conversation. I remember almost nothing of it. I recall being shown stars and galaxies—the universe— and being told that any question I could ask would be known (I say "known" because it felt more like I had access to knowledge rather than someone or something giving me "answers.") I recall asking questions and coming to know so much. Of course, I don't recall what that knowledge was, but I still have the impression that during the experience, I knew more deeply than is possible in this life.
My final recollection of that experience was the pull toward a distant pinpoint of light. I felt myself beginning to move, with my companion next to me, and being filled with a sense of love and peace that is indescribable. I was whole and complete in ways that I could never have imagined, and conscious of being connected to everything and everyone. That's where it ended.
The next thing I knew I was coming back to consciousness in the doctor's office, feeling a lot of pain and very ill. I wanted to go back to where I'd just been. I found out later that our doctor had given me a sizable dose of antihistamines and adrenaline, that my heart and the rest of my organs were swelling and that I was on the verge of cardiac arrest. I stayed in the office for a long time (again, in and out of consciousness), and finally was allowed to go home.
Over the next several days I felt very weak and physically uncomfortable, but I recall feeling very peaceful and happy(though nowhere near to the feelings during my NDE). This lasted several days, but I found that if I wanted, I could close my eyes and call those feelings back. In the nearly forty years since that experience, the memory of my time out of body has hardly diminished. Even as I write this, the memories and feelings are vivid (and I'm one of those people who can't recall what he dreamed upon waking in the morning). The feelings of love, peace and joy are still accessible, and have given me more than a little comfort during difficult times in my life.
However, I think that having the experience at such a young age, and at a time when one couldn't discuss such things (I didn't even tell this story to my parents until years later), made it difficult to assimilate it into my life. After all, at 15 I was still trying to develop my sense of identity, and this was such a powerful, anomalous experience that I had no way to integrate it into my life. I can honestly say that I have struggled all my life with the feeling that there is "something more" that lies just beyond reach. I've been accused many times of being a hopeless idealist, of not being able to just settle down, and it's true. Although I began my adult years working as an electrical and mechanical technician, I eventually went to college to become an English teacher. Although I was born into a somewhat conservative family, I've gradually moved further and further left, becoming involved in peace and justice causes. Even now, in middle age, I find myself continuing to search for ways to express compassion and love for others because I know (not just believe, but know) that this is what life is meant to be about. I trace this all back to that experience.