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The Day I Died

2019-September-15

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We all have had thoughts about death; if not our own, then about the death of others. And I think once we brush off the fears, we are left with curiosity. What will it be like when our time comes? Do we just fade to black? Is there something more after this life?

The answers to those questions are usually shaped by our religion, spirituality, or lack thereof; and by our experiences and education, however limited or expansive they might be. But whatever we think happens after death, will only be a guess, until the day we die. After all, how could we know for sure?

I thought I had a pretty good idea about what happens after death…until the day I died.

 

The Experience of Dying

There was nothing special about the day I died. I felt an intensely sharp pain in my stomach, everything went black, and almost instantly I was floating above my body, just below the ceiling, as I watched my longtime boyfriend, Dan, frantically shake my body, shouting my name. The feelings I felt about seeing my collapsed body on the floor, were similar to how I might have felt had I taken off a coat and dropped it on the floor. My body looked like an old coat to me. It was not me, it was something I had worn and had now taken off. It was fascinating, intellectually, the fact that I was watching this and feeling this way. Equally fascinating to me was the fact that I was able to think and comment about it in my head, as I normally do about other things, while it was happening.

Somehow, I thought I would feel more emotional about seeing my lifeless body on the floor like an old coat or a discarded crumpled paper, instead, I felt disconnected from it. I wondered if I shouldn’t feel sad or scared or shocked. But, no, I was fascinated and curious. What is going on here? What happened to seeing my life flash before my eyes? I don’t think this is how it is supposed to go, I thought to myself, feeling a bit cheated out of the experience. At the same time, I could hear everything Dan was saying and I could see everything he was doing, as I hovered below the ceiling. He was shaking me and repeatedly shouting my name, trying to get me to wake up. He looked terrified. He listened for a heartbeat and then he took off to call someone, leaving my rag doll body on the floor. And, whoosh, I was no longer in the room.

The next thing I remember is instantly being in a space – I cannot call it a room, for I could see no walls – it was pure blackness all around, like a universe without stars, and before me there were three men clothed or bathed in robes of white light. I took it all in. Who are these guys? What’s going on? Where am I? The faces did not look familiar to me. Again, I thought, This is not how it is supposed to go. Am I not supposed to be greeted by a departed loved one or family member? But I could not think of any dearly departed loved ones, and figured that must be why I had three strangers there to greet me. All of these thoughts and so many others raced through my head in micro-seconds. And then one of the gentlemen began to speak.

The men communicated without moving their mouths. I was hearing their thoughts. I was fascinated by their ability to talk to me with their minds, I could hear them. It was amazing and distracting. I had a million questions, but before I could ask anything, one of them told me that I had to go. Go? Where? They looked to my right, just behind me, and I turned my head to find a very large, infinite, tunnel-shaped light. Not just any light, it was the whitest light I had ever seen, but it did not hurt my eyes. As I stared into the light, the answers to all the millions of questions I had ever asked in my life – and I am known for asking too many questions – were all answered. Included in this massive ocean of knowledge that washed over me were things I could never have imagined to ask, all pouring into my mind. It was as if in an instant I knew all there was to know about everything in the universe. I was thrilled and fascinated.

At the same time that I was intellectually blown away by the massive amount of knowledge pouring into my mind, I was mesmerized by the light, which felt like love, euphoric pure joy, a feeling beyond words. That feeling was drawing me in. I wanted to go in. It felt like nothing I had ever felt before. On some level, as I was receiving the secrets of the universe and being lured into the light by the overwhelmingly euphoric feeling, I knew that if I went in there I would not be coming out. And I felt that I was fighting with myself: I can’t go in, but I want to; I want to go in, but I can’t.

Off and on during this time that I am in this space with these three male entities, I can hear Dan shouting my name, barely audible, from far, far away. I told the men that I could not go because my family needed me. They were not moved by my plea; it was not my choice to make; I had to go into the light. At this moment, my innate stubbornness, my willingness to question authority, and my gut instincts all kicked in. I was not going.

“Can I talk to your…erm…manager?” I asked, as I stared into that glorious light, but elicited no response. The men seemed to ignore my question, insisting again, with a tinge of impatience, that I had to go into that light. All the while, I could faintly hear Dan still shouting my name, pulling me in the opposite direction. Something in me told me that I had to turn my head away from the light. The men seemed to hear my thoughts, because almost in response they sternly warned me not to look back. I didn’t care. I felt that if I turned my head in the direction of Dan’s voice, I might be able to get back. And in that moment, I realized nothing else mattered.

The men insisted, quite authoritatively, that it was my time to go, that I had to go into the light, and warned me again not to look back. I have to admit, that the euphoria and knowledge that poured over me was enticing. Every fiber in my being wanted to go into that light, but I kept reminding myself that I needed to go back. And the instant I turned my head and looked back at the direction of Dan’s voice, I was whooshed into my body, which was lying on the floor in excruciating pain, surrounded by Dan, his stepdad, and a couple of paramedics.

 

Returning From Death

“I was worried. I couldn’t get a pulse. I thought you were dead,” Dan sighed out, as if he had been holding his breath. I was excited and euphoric, albeit in horrific pain, as I tried to tell Dan what had just happened to me, but he wasn’t listening. He dropped from a kneeling position to a sitting one on the floor, head in hand, like the weight of the world had just melted off. The paramedics, who seemed to have just arrived moments before I did, asked me a series of medical questions, and then told Dan that he should take me to the doctor immediately. Who cares, I thought, I have just had the most mind-blowing experience in the universe and I need to tell someone. I need to tell everyone.

It spewed out of me in fast staccato phrases, the excitement could not be contained, and the words could not come out fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. “The answers to every question I have ever asked or could ever ask, the knowledge and secrets of the universe, all of it was pouring into my brain instantly,” I tried to explain to Dan later that night. “Like what?” And then I realized that I could not repeat what I had learned. Not because I did not want to, but because I couldn’t. It was as if I could feel the knowledge in me, but I could not access it, like when you know a word or a fact, but in the moment you need it, it escapes you. What I could tell him was exactly what he did and what he said, moment-by-moment. His mouth opened, “How could you know that?” “I told you,” I repeated, “I was floating just below the ceiling watching you, listening to you.”

Dan, now, seemed more convinced or more interested. He kept trying to get me to remember what specific knowledge got poured into my head. But the only thing that I could remember, which sounded like a cliché or a song, was that love is the answer to everything. It felt as though that was the bit of knowledge I was allowed to remember. That was the one universal truth, which I was allowed to repeat: love is the answer to everything. I laughed, a bit embarrassed, when I told him because it sounded like such a spiritual, touchy-feely thing to say. I remember thinking, at the time that I was staring into that light, how painfully obvious the answers to some of these universal secrets were, and how so many of them were in plain sight all around us, in everyday things. I had hoped to remember some of the knowledge about the universe and science and the energy or the power that is God himself, but it was just out of my mind’s reach.

The strange thing about this whole experience – other than the whole experience itself – is the feeling that it was more real than reality. The way you wake up from a dream and qualitatively know that the feeling of reality is more real than a dream. In that same way, this experience was qualitatively more real than my life, my reality, my world. How is that hyper-reality possible? And how is it possible that part of me was thinking and analyzing the entire experience, like an observer watching some crazy movie, and part of me was experiencing it, while connected to Dan’s voice calling out to me?

Perhaps it was Dan’s voice that kept me tethered to my life, my world, my reality. Had he not been shouting my name, would I have been able to find my way back? And why was it that simply by turning around and looking away from that light, I was able to go back into my discarded coat of a body? And, the lingering question that has haunted me all these decades later, will I be in trouble for disobeying those men who sternly told me I had to go into the light because it was my time to go?

Since that time, I have read about people who claim to have died on the operating table, they can describe what was going on in the operating room when they died; and then they describe seeing a white light or tunnel, as they are greeted by their dearly departed; at some point they are told that it is not their time to go and they must go back. But I have never read about someone refusing to go into the light after being told that it is their time go and ordered to go into the light. I don’t know if my disobedience will come with some penance – although I am more spiritual than religious, I was raised Catholic and we are so good at the whole mea culpa atoning for our sins guilt-thing – but I hope, in the end of it all, God will understand.

 

Assuaging Fears About Dying

Nearly seven years after my experience with death, about a month before my grandmother died, my grandparents and I were talking. My grandmother confessed she was afraid of dying. I listened; her fear was real and palpable. I debated in my mind whether I should tell my grandparents about my experience the day that I believe I died. I had not shared my experience in any great detail with anyone else after I told Dan, because he warned me to never repeat it because it sounded crazy. But listening to my grandmother, and knowing that what I had experienced was very real, I felt that her fears might be assuaged by describing what happened to me. And so I took a deep breath and told my grandparents that I needed to share with them my experience the day I died.

They looked at each other, leaned forward, and did not say a word or look away. I took another deep breath, my heart was pounding, and I recounted everything I could remember, every detail, however crazy it might sound. They knew I was never one to exaggerate or make up stories or lie. So, my grandparents listened intently to every word I said and then we sat in silence for a very long moment. They had many questions, which I answered without exaggeration or any attempt to fill in what I could not remember. I answered the way a scientist might describe an experiment; after all, we cannot advance the understanding of something by distorting our experiences and observations about it. Unsure at first how my grandparents might react, I could see a calmness come over my grandmother. Her face changed. My grandfather smiled at me. We all sat around the table looking at each other in protracted moments of silence, absorbing the realization that death is not the end.

There is life after death.

 

Can Science Prove The Possibility of Life After Death?

Many religions, many faiths, many belief-systems teach it is so, that there is life after death, but to actually experience it, to know it and not just believe it, well, that was a paradigm shift for me.

There are some scientific links that we can bring to bear to the idea that there is life after death. The law of conservation, otherwise known as the First Law of Thermodynamics – one of the absolute truths in science upon which all science rests – states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it can only be moved or transformed. Consider the fact that mass and energy are two sides of the same coin or two different measures of the same thing, which is another scientific truth, and then we can begin to tie science to my experience that there is life after death. Mass can be converted to energy, but it cannot be destroyed. Keep that in my mind as I tell you about Dr. MacDougall.

In 1907, Dr. Duncan MacDougall and four other doctors published the results of an experiment they conducted to see if there was a gain or loss in the weight of a body after the moment of death. The theory was that if the soul had mass, once it departs the body, there should be a measurable loss in weight in the dead body. They found that the body, after the moment of death, instantly weighs between 0.6 and 0.8 ounces less, which is about 21 grams.

These five doctors conducted the experiments on four dying patients who were placed on specially made and highly sensitive Fairbanks weight scales just prior to their deaths. The weight of the body of the first patient who died was visually clear; and at the moment of death the scale visibly and audibly dipped down.
“Suddenly, coincident with death, the beam end dropped with an audible stroke hitting against the lower limiting bar and remaining there with no rebound. The loss was ascertained to be three-fourths of an ounce.” – Dr. Duncan MacDougall

The experiment was conducted on the remaining patients in imminent death with the same results; they each lost about 21 grams in mass. On March 11, 1907, the New York Times published an article about the extraordinary results of this historic experiment:
“The instant life ceased the opposite scale pan fell with a suddenness that was astonishing – as if something had been suddenly lifted from the body. Immediately all the usual deductions were made for physical loss of weight, and it was discovered that there was still a full ounce of weight unaccounted for.”

Each of the five doctors took their own measurements and promptly compared their results. They found that although the patients did not lose the same exact amount of weight, they all did lose weight, between 0.6 and 0.8 ounces, for which they could not account.

Science tells us that neither mass nor energy can be created nor destroyed; it can only be moved or transformed. And Dr. MacDougall’s experiments indicate that something that weighs about three-fourths of an ounce leaves the body at the moment of death. Is that mass loss being transformed into energy, the energy that we call our souls, and is it moving on? And if neither mass nor energy can be created, then how are we all here?

Perhaps science and religion are not so far apart; perhaps they are simply opposite sides of the same coin.

 

Post-Script

A few years ago, Dan took his own life. Although we had not stayed in regular touch, I was nonetheless deeply saddened to hear of his passing. I had known Dan for most of my life, since I was 13. For more than 20 years, he had often reached out to me during his difficult times, long after we were no longer together, perhaps because he knew I had always kept his secrets and had never used them against him, even through our breakups and contentious periods. And, so, it was painful to hear that he was alone when he died with no one to hold his discarded coat of a body; no one to shout out his name; no one to show him the way back. I felt sad for his family, having to bear the extra burden of losing Dan in that way, all the questions left unanswered, and all the what-ifs that follow. When I got the news from our adult son, I prayed that Dan had been greeted by a loved one and a euphoric light of love. And I hope, if he was afraid in his final moments, that the experience we shared decades before brought him some small measure of comfort and peace.



Martie Hevia © 2019 | All Rights Reserved | Updated: 2019-09-15



2 Comments leave one →
  1. Francisco Gomez permalink
    2019-September-16 8:26 AM

    Very interesting and revealing Martie. A colleague experienced the same out-of-body you went through, except she wasn’t greeted by three ‘men’. She was at a hospital in Columbia when she was pronounced clinically dead, and remembers floating above and hearing relatives speaking about her. I recall her stating with me the intense and joyful tunnel of light, wanting to go but don’t remember if she was revived or didn’t want to enter the ‘tunnel. But she felt overjoyed with love and serenity while she approached the light tunnel. I first heard of these people in 1975 when the psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Moody published a book of these people leaving their bodies and watching from above as their body was resuscitated. They all described passing by a dark tunnel and coming into a brilliant, warm and loving light.
    Your commentary on the First Law of Thermodynamics is most fascinating. I was not aware of this.

    • 2019-September-29 12:02 AM

      It was an experience I think of often and beyond words. It is a fascinating area of research, if only anecdotal. Thanks for reading, Frankie. I appreciate your comments.

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