*** I posted descriptions of my near-death experience in other posts, but I thought it would create this page for those who want to read about the experience in one place. This is an except from my completed manuscript about my life and NDE.
The first moments outside my body felt exciting and electrifying, and my spirit danced a bit of a jig realizing that there is more to existence than the physical. I felt like a child again, happy to see what came next and glad that my spirit body retained the essence of who I am; though obviously I was a little concerned about the physical body on the operating table.
Soft rock music played on the radio, and my back had a long, bloody incision. Surgery appeared more brutal and gory than I had imagined, especially from that vantage point. My vision outside my body was 360-degrees, so I perceived the operating room differently than if I had been physically standing beside myself. I could see above the doctors and the entire operating room all at once without blinking or relying on my eyes. There, in that space with the doctors, nurses, surgical technicians and others, I felt incredible joy and awe as I realized all does not die with the body.
After rejoicing for a moment, I noticed two of the most intelligent beings I had ever encountered. They were very large, approximately eight or nine feet, androgynous with shoulder length hair, and composed more of light than solid form. I refer to them as angels only because I have no other terminology that befits what I saw. These angels were part of an enhanced reality and nothing like a dream or a hallucination.
I’ve experienced thousands of dreams, but this was more real than any waking moment in my lifetime. In dreams, the dreamer may be caught up in a scenario that feels real, but during the interval I existed outside of my body I felt like I was seeing the whole picture, or at least a vast intelligent connection that I had been missing while in form. In college, I dropped acid on a couple of different occasions and the hallucinations were minor, more shadowy; nothing like this vivid experience. I had a complete awareness that this vantage point was more real than any reality I had ever experienced in my physical life.
People always want to know more about what the angels looked like. They ask, “Did they have wings?” “Were they clothed?” “How did you know they were angels?”
I don’t know if these two beings were angels, in the traditional, Biblical sense. I only know that I immediately recognized them as unbelievably intelligent souls whose presence gave me indescribable peace. My own awareness of this new dimension seemed much more limited than theirs. Most of what I realized outside of my body in the operating room came through immediate impressions, the way a child sizes up whether an adult is trustworthy or not. The angels were trustworthy and there to help and comfort me, so I did not question their authority.
They sent me waves of intense light which transferred many messages all at once. A light emitted from the eyes of the angels and into my spirit body, allowing me to access information faster than the fastest possible broadband speed. Messages were given in the form of completed thoughts and feelings, not individual words. The knowledge they sent into my form not only calmed me but actually altered the way I viewed everything about my life.
The angels, or messengers, were not only able to interact with my spirit body; they were also able to interact with the doctors, and more importantly, through them. The doctors, most likely, did not realize this interaction. I understood that my awareness, my sense of the world, and my ability to experience joy were growing exponentially moment by moment. Just before the monitor started to beep signaling that my heart had stopped, the angels slowed down their communication, looked at me intently, and said with force, “Watch this!”
The same light that they beamed into my spirit body, they then sent through the backs of the doctors, through their hands, and into my physical body. My corporeal form was instantly altered and healed in ways that the doctors might not have been able to accomplish on their own. By observing this light, I knew that I would regain my ability to walk, that the fragments of bone would be picked out of my spine, and that I would feel healthy, alive and even run again at some point in the future. The angels turned back toward me, letting this knowledge sink in.
As the angels worked on my body, I realized that the surgeons were conduits of their energy and that the angels’ energy was an essential part of my healing. Perhaps the surgeons’ egos wouldn’t be able to hear that or perhaps they would be empowered to recognize that spirit worked through them. I only knew that I needed to remember this moment vividly. The angels wanted me to understand that they could work through me in the future.
While the angels and surgeons continued their efforts, my physical body shimmered with light and energy. Since it had technically died, I no longer felt any desire to observe my human form and sped through the walls of the hospital, pausing only because I caught sight of my stepdad James. My mom married him while I was in college, and I hadn’t really gotten the chance to get to know him. I did know he made her happy, so I was pleased that she had found him.
I thought he was a health nut like her, so I was surprised when I saw him stopping at the vending machine to buy a candy bar. He pulled out a Snickers, always a favorite of mine. In high school, I skipped lunch on occasion just to have a Snickers bar. I thought about how I would probably miss certain foods in this new realm. I didn’t know why I spent time watching him, but later I would recognize this would be my verifiable instance outside of my body.
Though I realized I was leaving a lot of people behind, I felt free, happy, and more peaceful than I had ever felt in my body. Death wasn’t scary, but rather like international travel or childhood—a liberating, fun, new, freedom-filled reality. My spirit body sped quickly through the hospital and out into the night sky above Austin. I thought of the half-hearted prayer I had offered while being transported in the ambulance. I thought about how I was free and flying now, much like the bird I had seen before the door to the ambulance shut.
In this space of freedom, I experienced a quick life review, as if flipping through a book I’d read before, seeing only the beautiful highlights. The light didn’t want me to relive any pain others had caused me or I had caused myself. All self-harm, self-loathing, insecurity and confusion were forgiven by the most loving force I have ever encountered. Fear and worry became invisible, like a cloud that evaporates during the next bright day. These concepts were simply washed away.
After this brief analysis, I felt a growing understanding and oneness with everyone I had ever known. I had not been a particularly unkind person at the age of twenty-two. I was rather shy, insecure, and spent a lot of time reading and lost in my own thoughts and daydreams, opening up and connecting with others only after several drinks. I had disappointed a few people, but I had not hurt anyone very deeply.
I saw into the minds of a few of the people I waited tables with at Tres Amigos earlier that year. They wondered why I did not speak openly with them. I had thought that they were not particularly cool because they were single moms or married and older instead of a university student like me. Our only interactions happened around the margarita machine as we filled up 16-ounce Styrofoam cups disguised as soda and laughed about how the night became more bearable and the tips flowed more generously the more we and our customers drank.
I realized that I shunned people who were not like me, and that I had failed to notice a world of connection. Many times their beautiful hearts were concerned for me, wondering if I might be depressed or sad for reasons they couldn’t fully understand. Their kindness was a form of love. I saw that I had been missing out on, at the very least, a more pleasant working environment because of my cliquishness and pride. Many times, the loveliest people imaginable might be working or living right beside us and we ignore their struggles, their hopes, and their light because of our own insecurities or arrogance.
After experiencing this connection with a few of my co-workers and others, the light took me back to childhood. I was a sweet child (as most are) and deeply in tune with nature, even able to coax wild rabbits near me as I played in the bushes outside my house. The light showed me that everyone needs to spend more time in nature to heal and become more whole, more loving and joyful. I saw that most people disconnect from their souls and focus on survival instead of enjoyment and play. Nature can help people to reconnect with their sense of delight and wonder.
If I had to sum up the main lesson from this part of the near-death experience, I would say that God, or the light, is a loving force that doesn’t want people to harm each other and truly desires that we feel joy and happiness in our lives. Love and kindness are the greatest gifts we can give to one another. We are all a part of that light, but we often forget how to love because of fear.
We forget how to walk through this world as the light. We are all closer to God as children because in our innocence love comes more naturally for us. We are gleeful in our interactions with pets, watching a bird in the sky, or gazing into our parent’s eyes. We are in love with the world, and the world is in love with us. Most of us breathed easier as children; we lived with a more open and extended awareness, and therefore felt things more intensely.
After experiencing a greater sense of oneness and understanding with people, I then spent a few moments in childhood with my grandfather, Clyde. He was the only person close to me who had died before my NDE. A poor country man, he had nevertheless always spoiled me to the best of his ability. I hopped on the back of his blue Chevy truck and he drove us slowly towards the light of God. My feet dragged the ground through bright clover and grass, light-filled and greener and more intense than any grass I had ever encountered on earth.
Grandpa was younger and healthier than when I knew him, and he leaned his head out the window to ask if I wanted to keep going. I nodded yes. The truck lifted off the ground, and I headed toward the light. At some point, I was no longer in the truck and my grandfather was not with me anymore. I was very close to a love I can’t describe with words. I have tried to write about this experience so many times, but I break down and can’t find the language.
I miss the love. I miss the light. A large part of me never wanted to leave the safety of that place. There I felt no stress and more love than I ever imagined possible. I felt more joy and contentment than even the brightest moments this life ever provided, and I didn’t really want to return to my body. If a soul could smile, then my soul smiled, and I drowsed comfortably without worry. I felt complete and utter trust in this experience, a full surrender.
As I got deeper into to the light, I actually felt the prayers of my mother, father, grandmothers, and a couple of my aunts. I especially experienced the prayer of a great-aunt who lost a daughter in a car wreck. I very clearly heard her pray and beg God that my mother not suffer the pain she had when she lost her daughter. This touched me, and I almost wished to return because of her sweet prayer. I found it amusing that I could not feel any prayers from the most pious and religious of my aunts, Aunt Jackie. I think what I felt more than prayers was their love. I knew who loved me and didn’t want me to leave the earth. I also knew who didn’t care if I died, but I didn’t judge this information. I understood the wholeness and completeness of experience.
One of the most important lessons transferred to me by the light is that love is all that matters. Though this seems like a hippie slogan or a paraphrase from the Beatles, the message saturated me on a deeper level. Every interaction is meaningless if love is not attached to it in some way. A prayer is meaningless without love. A sermon is meaningless without love. A religion is meaningless without love. Life is meaningless without love.
The prayers of those who loved me felt like a gentle wind, slowing down my progress towards the light. Though the love felt sweet and reminded me of my life on earth, their entreaties did not quell my desire to keep going deeper into the light. I’ve always been an adventurous soul, and this was the greatest adventure I’d ever been on.
As I journeyed more deeply into the most profoundly benevolent force imaginable, the light told me to look down and revealed a river. Next to the river were thousands of other lights that were somehow connected to me. I looked at my own spirit body and saw how large and light-filled it had become. I knew I had become someone different from the fearful, jaded young woman who entered the ER earlier that day.
The light then suggested that I should return to my body and work as a teacher. Actually, the light didn’t merely suggest that I might become a teacher, rather that there were no other options for me. I wanted to argue. Surely this light, a force that loved me this much, had to know how I hated growing up poor and wanted a career more lucrative than the teaching profession. Surely the divine light knew I was shy and petrified of public speaking. Surely the light understood I was a feminist and wanted to avoid all traditional careers for women. Though I hadn’t planned on law school immediately after graduation, I pictured myself going into tax or bankruptcy litigation, any type of law that wouldn’t require me to speak frequently in court.
I had so many questions about the reasons why the light needed me to return to my body and teach. However, this message would be my very last moment in the presence of God, and I wasn’t given a second more near a love that is greater than all comprehension. The idea of my life as a teacher was now etched deeply into my brain; it was a strangely joyful image, though I didn’t understand why at the time. The truth is, I would’ve preferred to stay on the other side, but I didn’t have a choice. The decision was made for me to return.
Re-entering my physical body was like being swallowed up by a dark wind. I had felt more alive while dead. Most of the magic, light, and beauty disappeared, and my body felt heavy, drugged, and painful. I didn’t want to be stuck in the limited experience of my corporeal form with my history, my stories, my powers of reasoning, my psychological and childhood wounds.
Outside of my body, I was both myself and greater than myself, connected to an incredible download of information. During that time, I knew much more than I could ever know living in this one, limited perspective. The experience of a more expansive and connected universe made my individual experience seem boring and inadequate. I had been inside the minds of so many others, and now I only had my mind to process life.